Free Press Journal

“Box office is a sham”, says Manoj Bajpayee


His command over his craft is only for the immortals to judge. As for the mortals lambasting his line of work, he doesn’t give a tinker’s damn. Manoj Bajpayee tells Viraj Sawant why collections and reviews don’t matter to him.

Following Bollywood trends, any film analyst will tell you that it is the era of realistic films. Films based on real life dramas, biopics and actors portraying common people have been triumphant at the box office. On the other hand, asking Manoj Bajpayee about realistic films is nothing but a wrong question. From his first big film, Satya to his latest Budhia Singh: Born To Run, Manoj has always indulged in the other type of cinema. So much so that he’s also stereotyped as an actor of parallel cinema.

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Which film from your repertoire are you proudest of?
The kind of films I do are not the ones that pay me well. I know I will be getting money for it – it might not be an amazing amount but I am still getting it and it takes care of my life. I am very passionate about doing films and I keep doing them for the love of it. I feel very proud of all the films that I do and I won’t easily compromise on good films.

Aligarh is definitely one of the most important films of my career. Despite homosexuality being banned in our country, the film received great praises. That means a lot. There is Shool, Pinjar and 1971…there are too many films I am proud of. It has been a long career now (Laughs).

Budhia Singh: Born To Run is one of the most remarkable films of my career. It got a National award before it released. Whenever my better films will be talked about, Budhia Singh… will always be one of them.

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I’m sure a lot of films come your way but how do you pick out the diamonds from the lot?
See, even for Budhia Singh, I was tracking the story when it happened back then. I was pretty impressed by the coach’s role in moulding Budhia Singh into what he is. One fine day this script came on my table and I just had to do it.

So films are pure luck, I feel. I read one script every day. In fact just this morning, I read a script on the flight. I keep reading them but most of them don’t work for me. But then I get that one script in my hand and it clicks instantly. Just reading the script, I feel I should go all out and do as much as I can for the film. It compels you to get out of your comfort zone and perform something different. So I go all out for those films. Choosing films is very organic.

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This year seems to be a good year for you with a variety of films releasing.
Yes, it has been quite an eventful year for me…A good mix of short films and some meaningful cinema. Tandav came and did a little tandav, you can say. Aligarh, Traffic and Kriti received a lot of praise and did well. I also got into a controversy. I keep getting abuses from the other side of the border(Nepal). But finally we are happy – Kritri has come back on the internet. They had taken down both the films from the internet due to copyright issues.

Somewhere the whole situation angered me. The idea of this short film came from me. The film came to shape in front of me. So I felt quite agitated and quite disappointed. I really wish the other director all the best. But without showing proof they shouldn’t claim rights over anyone else’s property.

Do box office collections hamper your decision in choosing a film? Do you hesitate while taking up a project, thinking it may not do well at the box office?
Honestly, I don’t care about box office. Box office is not for me anyway, it’s for the producers to worry about. The films that I do, come with a long shelf life. They aren’t just about the few weeks they stay in the theatre. If you ask our producers, these films keep generating money from festivals and competitions for many years after they release. If you only go by the weekend then no film should be played because very few manage to get the weekend and even fewer films manage to stay for more than a week these days. To be honest, films are not losing so much money otherwise why do you think corporates would ever invest in a market that’s losing money? The whole box office thing is such a sham.