Free Press Journal

“Commercial cinema doesn’t have meat to offer me, as an actor”, says Manoj Bajpayee


After more than 20 years in the industry, actor Manoj Bajpayee is in a comfortable space now, an expanse he has created for himself. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, alright, but he’s not concerned about missing out on the big banners or the Rs 100 crore pack. The actor is content doing his bit for independent cinema, even if it has a very small role. “When you have such great story, you want to be a part of it, irrespective of the type or the length of the role. This is my way of supporting this kind of cinema that I believe in. I wanted this film to be part of my filmography,” he says.

Why Rukh?

It was the uniqueness of the story. It talks about the day to day struggle of a middle class family. Moreover, you learn about this man’s journey from the eyes of his teenage son. The way the story unfolds is the USP of the film.

After so many years of experience in the industry, how comfortable are you not playing the lead role?

Sometimes you have to take a backseat. When you have such great story, you want to be a part of it, irrespective of the type or the length of the role. This is my way of supporting this kind of cinema that I believe in. I wanted this film to be part of my filmography. Also, the type of writer and director Atanu is, I wanted a chance to get to know is him. I want to part of all his films in the future.

You were one of the most experienced people on this film, did you ever have the urge to make some changes to a scene, in the way you felt was right?

No, I did not. I don’t have that interference quality. If I like the script I say yes, if I don’t then I reject it. I discuss my character with the director before the shoot, then I only concentrate on my work. Once I have the confidence in the ability of the director, then I have no business interfering in his work. I have always been right about the directors I have worked with; they have made some fantastic cinema. These new filmmakers have grown up watching world cinema, so who am I to interfere and question them.

Did you share your words of wisdom with them?

I stay always stay away from giving anyone any advice. I don’t even advise my six-year-old child, because each any everyone has their journey, and everybody perceives different things from their life experience. I personally keep giving suggestions that are completely open to the director, bearing in mind that it will be rejected.

What do you learn from the new talents working with you?

Oh…they are amazing, non-compromising and courageous. Their way of storytelling is very different from the yesteryears directors. They are simple, but yet very complex.

How are you feeling about your first international film, ‘In The Shadows’?

The film has been doing well at the major international film festivals, and the performances are being talked about, which is very good. The film is scheduled to release next year; this year we are only going to concentrate on festivals.

What is the film about?

It is about a man who is trapped in the by lanes of purani Delhi and in his mind. It is a very complex film. As far as I know, I think this is will be my best performance yet.

Both you and Irrfan Khan had to struggle for a while before making your mark in this field, while he has gone off and done well in Hollywood, you will be venturing into this space for the first time?

Just because Irrfan is getting work in Hollywood, doesn’t mean everyone is getting offers. It happens only by chance, just because Priyanka is part of that industry doesn’t mean all Bollywood actress are. Although that doesn’t determine that I am not happy not being offered roles from that market.

You won’t mind working in a Hollywood film even if it was a small role?

It depends on what small role. It has to make a difference.

You do very few commercial cinema, why is it?

It is just about enjoying all that you are doing. I don’t do commercial cinema as they don’t have meat to offer me, as an actor. That has always been with the hero’s. I am very choosy when it comes to masala cinema, the one I have signed recently is ‘Bhaagi 2’. And ‘Aiyaary’ is not commercial, it is a Neeraj Pandey film, and I wanted to work with him. He is a master of less masala and more drama. I have done it purely for my friendship with Ahmed Khan and Mukesh Chabra. They were after me and chased me long enough. I am amazed by Tiger’s (Shroff) skill. I am not trained to do things like Tiger. He wanted to be in that space so he is enjoying it and good for him. But I am focused on doing films that can utilize my skills as an actor.

Will you be playing a villain in ‘Bhaagi 2’?

No, it is not a villain but it is a very important character. I am not playing a complete baddie but it is not a grey character as well. But I can’t reveal anything right now.

How was it working with Sidharth Malhotrain ‘Aiyaary’?

If you think he is cute, he is an even better person. He is a pakka Delhi ka munda. He is very passionate about his work, and wants to do well in this industry. All credit goes to the fact that, being an outsider he has managed to make a space for himself. We enjoyed shooting together so much so that, it has become the most memorable shoot for me.

Now-a-days, parallel cinema and commercial cinema are coming together to give the audience good content entertainment. What are your views on this amalgamation?

Films like Newton are very brave and uncompromising, this is the type of cinema I would like ‘Aligarh’ was. These are the films which are giving us hope that tomorrow is looking brighter, we have a growing space for independent films. Now the effort should be to consolidate your space here.

So many years in the industry, do you view anyone as your competition or have you moved on?

I never get into such issues. I only worry about money and my work.

How do you view your journey?

Quite a roller-coaster ride but also like a dream. I can’t believe that so many years have gone by I am still getting so many offers. At the end of the day, you want to be a part of all the great and fantastic films, want to be directed by all the amazing directors of different ages. This is what we love to do and if we are getting a chance and an opportunity to do it, then it makes you feel happy and pleasant.

Anybody left to cross off your bucket list?

I never had a bucket list, anyone who has a great role for me is on my list. The only actor I want to work with is Naseeruddin Shah as I look up to him.