For an actor of his calibre, awards only add more feathers to his already glittering cap. Such is the aura of the four-time National Award winning actor, Manoj Bajpayee. Manoj, however, feels he is someone who can never be put in a box. Acting for him is more about the character than the uniform he is wearing for the role, no matter how repetitive they get. He will be next seen in Zee5 original film, Silence, with Prachi Desai and Arjun Mathur where he is going to be seen playing a cop on a quest for justice. The film, directed by Aban Bharucha Deohans, streams on the platform from March 26. Excerpts from the interview:
How does it feel to win a National Award for Best Actor again?
I am extremely thankful to all my producers who believed in me and invested their money in me, my directors, my co-stars and the unit. This is team work. It is not just my win, it is also their win. I can only feel happy and grateful for the opportunities that I have received in my career. With winning this award, my journey as an actor has come a full circle.
Tell us about your character in Silence...
Silence is a whodunnit, a murder mystery. I play the role of ACP Avinash Verma, an extremely restless person and always in a hurry. He is also a divorcee, living away from his only daughter and is lonely. In fact, to get over his loneliness he throws himself into his job.
Do you feel you are getting typecast in hot-headed cop roles?
Me being typecast? Not at all! In fact, let me assure you, if I like the script, I will be doing more cop roles. No one could ever typecast me even in the past 26 years. I will keep playing roles of cops, lawyers and gangsters in future. It is never about the profession but the character that you are playing. It is never about the uniform, but the character who is wearing the uniform!
There is also a bad side to policing. Police atrocities have led to several uprisings globally, like ‘Black Lives Matter’. What is your take since you are playing the role of a cop here?
Every department in administration has to face challenges and cops have committed atrocities across the world. Yes, people have rightly protested as well. However, the good work that cops have done and their contribution to society at large cannot be disputed at all. Can you name any department that has never been in the middle of controversies? One cannot question the entire department for the fault of a few people. You have to look at both sides of the situation.
What is your take on the government’s intentions of censoring OTT content?
I don’t think the government has censored any content. Rather, it has asked these OTT platforms to be self-aware and vigilant of its content and keep a scheme in place for themselves. I just hope that the OTT platforms don’t regulate a lot on the basis of mere assumptions. They should look into the matter and tread carefully. All of us must understand that OTT will only retain its beauty if it is not regulated too heavily in terms of content.
The government guidelines also say that we need to have more family-oriented content on OTT...
You know when it comes to family-oriented shows, my 10-year-old daughter finds there are too many options to choose from. We don’t need any more family-oriented shows. We already have enough of those. I also feel that the parents are the biggest censors that one can have in the family. Parents are like hawks, always trying to influence the choice of their children. They don’t allow children to have too much of screen time and only allow them to watch what they approve. So yes, I believe that there are more than enough shows for families. We have to venture out and find out what suits us best!
Will OTT platforms end up like Indian TV, with the 'saas-bahu' soaps dominating?
I don’t think OTT will ever end up like anything else! There is an unnecessary fear psychosis that you have put into this question. OTT will have its identity like theatre and cinema. These platforms are unique in their ways and will continue to remain that way. They will, of course, face corresponding challenges and eventually tide over them in due course of time. They have their individual advantages and disadvantages.
You have been recently diagnosed with Covid-19. How has that impacted you?
Being infected with Covid-19 does not affect one's creativity, it just kind of halted my shoot. It was very frustrating since I was shooting back to back schedules. If shooting worth 10-15 days is halted for a project, it will affect all other projects that I am to be part of in future. We now have to reschedule each project I am doing. The struggle lies somewhere else when you are infected. It is physically exhausting and completely unpredictable. Each hour is like riding a high tide. I am on the 12th day of my quarantine while recording this interview and I feel quite weak, physically.
As actors, you work in close proximity with your co-stars and you also can’t wear a mask during the shoot. That must be a scary situation. Is it not?
It is difficult for actors to stay safe on the sets because we are not wearing masks while giving shots. One cannot act with masks on. Therefore, it is all the more important for all the other unit members, including the director and cameramen to wear masks. One has to ensure safe environment so that actors and others don’t fall sick. This is everyone's responsibility and rules have to be maintained well. So, in future we just have to be a lot more careful because once we are infected, all of us learn a lesson!