Manoj Bajpayee: Never been so busy in my entire career
He may not have broken into Bollywood's top league of actors but Manoj Bajpayee sure has come a long way. After an illustrious start with films like Satya, Shool, Zubeida and Pinjar, Bajpayee's career hit the rough weather.
Critics wrote him off after a string of failures including Bewafaa, Fareb, Swami and Acid Factory. To make things worse, the 43-year-old actor suffered a serious shoulder problem, which forced him to sit at home, jobless and almost broke.
The turning point came with Rajneeti (2010) where he delivered a stellar performance. It redefined Bajpayee and gave his career a phenomenal boost.
The actor will be next seen in Anurag Kashyap's much anticipated film Gangs Of Wasseypur, which releases this Friday.
In conversation with Sonil Dedhia, Bajapyee speaks about the new wave in his career, how he dealt with his injury and the difficulties he faced during the making of Gangs Of Wasseyupur.
This is an interesting phase in your career. You have worked in five films (Gangs Of Wasseypur, Chittagong, Special Chabbis, Chakravyuh and Shootout at Wadala) in a row.
I have never been so busy in my entire career.
Actually, this style of working doesn't suit me. I work at my own pace and I work really well when I am not running around.
I like to do one film at a time but things are changing. Till today I have never promoted a film and worked on another film at the same time. I don't mind the change, but I hope I can get back to my old ways of working.
Is it difficult to juggle so many films?
It's very difficult. I can't multitask but I am trying to do as much as possible.
Things have changed so much. Some of my earlier films were'nt promoted because the producers didn't have enough funds or the marketing team was not efficient, always some thig or the other.
I have become more conscious about promoting my films.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Gangs Of Wasseypur
'Nawazuddin (Siddiqui) will get his due with this film'
You recently went to the Cannes Film Festival with Gangs Of Wasseypur. How was the experience?
Cannes is just amazing. The feedback for the film and my role was quite exhilarating. I was surprised when I saw the French and people from other continents who couldn't understand the language give a standing ovation to the film.
The place is buzzing all the time. I curse myself for not being there earlier but from next year I'll make sure even if my film is not there I go there for a holiday with my family during the film festival.
After a long time in your career, you've got a leading role in a highly-anticipated and feted film.
The first part of the film rests on the character that I play. The second part rests on the three sons that I have in the film, mainly Nawazuddin Siddiqui's character. I am really happy for Nawaz. I want him to get his due and I am sure he is going to get it with this film.
But after Shool, isn't this your first author-backed role?
I don't look at a film from that perspective. I guess 1971 was the last film where I got an author-backed role.
With Gangs... it is completely different. You did not see me playing the lead role because not many filmmakers were making films with one actor. Multi-starrers were a huge hit and I guess the trend is still there.
Also, at the end of the day, I am an actor so I wouldn't reject a film like Rajneeti just because I was not the solo lead in the film.
The positive side is that it is very encouraging when you are a part of an ensemble cast and your performance is still raved about.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Gangs Of Wasseypur
'A lot of people told me not to take up Gangs Of Wasseypur
What was it about Gangs Of Wasseypur that appealed to you?
It's a film where I have completely changed as an actor. I have changed my approach to acting. I have unlearned things as an actor and it was very difficult for me to do that.
I was risking a lot of things with this film. My whole approach to my role was completely different. I didn't want anyone to know that this is the Manoj Bajpayee they have seen earlier.
A lot of people told me not to take up this role but I stood by my decision.
Also, I felt that I was in the safe hands of Anurag Kashyap who gave me an opportunity to re-define myself as an actor.
You have earlier played characters with grey shades but your character in Gangs Of Wasseypur looks quite unusual.
Well, you will have to pay for the ticket and watch me on the screen (laughs).
On a serious note, there is nothing right about my character Sardar Khan. This is why this role is so interesting.
He has no sense of right and wrong, he has no sense of morality. He loves sex and he doesn't mind killing people. He leches at a girl, forces her to sleep with him and the very next day he goes and kills someone who is harassing a girl.
He lives for the moment and what he does at that time is right for him. In spite of him having so many flaws and vices, I had to make my character look adorable, which was very tough.
Image: Reema Sen and Manoj Bajpayee in Gangs Of Wasseypur
'Gangs of Wasseypur is the toughest performance of my career'
Most of your films have been set in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the same region where you come from. Does acting in such films come naturally to you?
Nothing comes naturally to me. I reject the idea that if the story is set in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar it will come naturally to me.
Accent doesn't make you an actor. It is the approach and the performance of an actor that count. Performance doesn't come naturally just because you come from a particular region.
Getting into the skin of this character was quite a gruelling task. I think it's the toughest performance of my career.
Do you think you have lived up to the challenge that you had set for yourself?
I think I have succeeded in doing it.
When my co-stars Nawaz, Richa Chadda, Huma Qureshi and others pay me a compliment, I know that I have done my job and have done it really well.
You weren't on talking terms with Anurag Kashyap before Gangs Of Wasseypur. How did the whole situation change?
Let bygones be bygones. I can say it was us just being childish.
We have worked together in three significant films (Satya, Kaun and Shool -- Anurag was the writer of all three).
I am happy that we are now working together and that too in a film like Gangs of Wasseypur where his approach has been totally different from his earlier films.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Gangs of Wasseypur
'Prakash Jha offered me Rajneeti when I needed work the most'
You have worked with Anurag as a writer. How was he as a director?
Anurag is a very easy director.
He gives complete freedom and makes things very easy for his actors. He understands the suffering and insecurities of an actor.
He's one of those rare directors who can relate to their actors. That is the reason you see fantastic performances in all his films.
He has evolved a lot as a filmmaker.
There was a lull in your career before Rajneeti.
Not many people know that I was not well. My shoulder was in bad shape. I couldn't even move my hand. For two years I had to lie low and listen to and read all the false reports that were written by the media.
I lost a lot of projects that I had in hand. But, yes, I am here promoting my film today and I am also busy with my other films (smiles).
How did you deal with the situation?
I was unfazed by it. My priority was to get myself fit. I missed out on a lot of films, which I would have loved to be a part of.
I suffered a lot. I was without work and money. I was spending everything that I had saved.
It was the most challenging phase of my life. At the same time, some people came out in support. Prakash Jha offered me Rajneeti and subsequently Aarkshan when I needed it the most.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Rajneeti
'I never set any standards for myself'
When you look back on your career, do you think filmmakers have not been able to use the potential that you have as an actor?
I think not even 25 per cent of my potential has been utilised.
I still have the same passion and the hunger that I had when I started my career.
I am in search for great roles all the time.
I hope things will get back to normal and directors will keep coming to me, give me challenging roles and keep putting my talent to good use (smiles).
Satya was a big high in your career, and it continued for some time. After 2005, the films you started doing weren't of the same calibre.
I think my performances in Shool, Zubeida, Pinjar, Aks and others were fantastic and were celebrated when they were released.
I don't think they were of any less calibre than Satya. It's just that the audience that you see today was not present at that time because of lack of multiplexes.
Satya became a success because people could relate to the story and the characters in the film.
But your fans and the audience were expecting a lot from you.
Yes, I guess people had set high standards for me after Satya. People wanted to see me in all the hit films, which they couldn't get.
I never set any standards for myself. I was, I am, and I always will be hell-bent on doing what I want to do.
Hits or flops cannot guarantee anything and wouldn't affect my thinking.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Satya
'My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me'
How has life changed after you became a father?
I think it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I miss my daughter Ava Nayla all the time. I do not like the fact that I am away promoting my film (smiles).
How is your equation with Ram Gopal Varma?My equation will Ram Gopal Varma will never change. I will always be indebted to him. Whatever I am today is because of him and I don't think that my equation with him will ever change.
You are shooting for Prakash Jha's Chakravyuh. How is it shaping up?
I recently finished shooting for it. Working with Prakash Jha is always a memorable experience. He treats me like a younger brother. It's always an honour to work with him. I am now gearing up for Sanajay Gupta's Shootout At Wadala which releases next year.
Image: Movie poster of Gangs Of Wasseypur