‘Aiyaari’ has finally got a release date, and our wait is almost over, but curiosity is high. SHUBARNA MUKERJI SHU sits down Manoj Bajpayee to know all that she can about the film and the man himself
He is the finest actor we have, each of his films are text books for aspiring actors and yet, he is not in any hurry to sit down and give sermons about how journey, he is just too glad he has reached where he has, and at the moment he is enjoying himself with the best of the lot – he is Manoj Bajpayee, the actor and the institution, speaking about his upcoming movies and the turmoil of being a diligent actor.
Your upcoming film, Aiyaary is a lot more into the commercial space, it is the first time you are working with Sidharth Malhotra, do share how different was the experience…
Aiyaary, is neither a Sidharth Malhotra film, not a Manoj Bajapayee film. Frankly, ‘Aiyaary’ is a Neeraj Pandey film. That, I believe, is in itself a statement. He is the kind of director that we need, he is one director who doesn’t need the actors, the actors need him. Neeraj Pandey has conjured a new genre altogether, his films are neither independent producers’ kind of a film, nor an out and out, commercial film. It is a Neeraj Pandey film. For me it was that high, that pulled me into the film and I won’t be wrong if I suggest, that Neeraj is totally gone beyond himself for this one. The pace of the film, the story telling is extremely engaging, there is not a moment where this film slackens. What more is that he is coming up with a subject or a conflict that people have never seen before.
For us, military films in Bollywood is usually a war-saga, Aiyaary is changing that completely.
There is a conflict in Aiyaary, but is not fought across the border. It is fought across generations between a mentor and a protégé: Their definition of life and principals. That involves a lot of identity change and drama, which brings us to the name of the film Aiyaary, a shape shifter of sorts.
How are you dealing with this metamorphosis of cinema, since the time you have come to today… the change is phenomenal, don’t you think?
Phenomenal? You cannot even recognise it, because the entire scenario has changed. Content is coming into commercial cinema, forget about independent cinema, the new concepts are coming in, directors are changing. These changes I think should be attributed to directors like Neeraj Pandey, Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, Dibaker Bannerjee, Anurag Kashyap… these are the minds that changed cinema. Though, we mustn’t for once forget the pioneers like Shekhar Kapur, Ram Gopal Varma and Mani Ratnam who made content driven cinema at a time when it was impossible to make it. Mani Ratnam with his Roja, Bombay made cinema which spoke to you and asked questions, people were trying to ignore. Shekar Kapur changed the grammar of cinema with the film called Bandit Queen, Satya changed the course of cinema for Bollywood. These are people who inspired the change. It is thanks to them that actors changed too.
True the directors helped changed the course, but the gamble was a lot more crucial for actors, don’t you suppose?
Of course, the actors are the face of it all. He is the first one to get the first brick on his face. So the choice should be well thought of, for me – I always stuck to what I wanted to do but suddenly the business changed and I fell ill. To keep my family and me afloat I took up some rather rubbish work, but I am grateful that never in the course of doing those films did I forget what I am actually here to do. There are some who make movies to make money, that’s their purpose. There are some who want more… for these actors who want more, the thirst is equally unquenchable.
If in the course of finding their own ground, they end up doing something wrong, it is alright. When the right film comes it will hit them right between the eye and they will make a grab for it. All because these are the actors who know what their intentions are, they know their reasons and they know their hunger. All this might sound very nice right now, but it is rather harsh living a life of this actor. It is hell. But you have to keep reminding yourself why are you here in the first place.
This reminder cannot be a one-person-job, it has to be a collective effort from friends and family chipping in to… who are those who worked to keep you focused?
There are times when I was doing a film, and we needed the money really badly. But my wife became completely insistent and she asked me not to do it. Your support system has to be made out of the same grain you are made up of. So if that conviction is there in your support system then the fight becomes a lot easier.
I am sure this coming year has a lot of films even your friends and family might be thrilled to see you a part of, can you tell us what we as audience should look forward to?
To begin with, I am definitely looking forward to Aiyaary. I am a fan of Neeraj Pandey’s work and very proud to have worked with him. Then there is Missing – which is a Neeraj Pandey production starring Tabu and me, it is a suspense thriller directed by Mukul Abhyankar.
What about Debashish Makhija’s Bhosale?
Bhosale is already in the post production phase but we are not going to release the film in India this year. The film will first do the rounds of the festival circuit and come out sometime next year. Currently, one other film of mine which is making the rounds of the festivals – Gali Guliyan which is going by the name of In The Shadows. It is one of the most difficult roles I have done in my career. It completely took a toll on me, so I am really looking forward to seeing this one because I don’t think I will ever be able to forget what it felt like playing that character. I had to live with the psychological turmoil of playing that part for a while. Frankly, I always get scared to take a plunge into such character’s mind.
Then how do you come out of these turmoil?
Earlier it used to be worse, I used to take help of some of my friends, end up still getting angry and restless, not knowing why I am behaving the way I am…. Sometimes even going to a psychiatrist but eventually you come out of that. See somewhere on the conscience level, there is the real Manoj Bajpayee still alive, and observing the fight, it is only a matter of time till he takes over. So yes, with maturity, I manage better now-a-days, tough I still get bruised.