Manoj Bajpayee: No more negative roles for me
Despite having many acclaimed roles to his credit, Manoj Bajpayee feels that the film industry has yet to tap his potential.
“The industry has not utilised even 20 per cent of my potential,” claims the actor, who started the year with an amazing performance in Special Chabbis.
The 44-year-old actor, who will be seen in a negative role in Prakash Jha’s film Satyagraha, says he is done with negative roles for a while.
In the interview with Sonil Dedhia, Bajpayee confesses that money is a priority while signing films and that it’s difficult to stay away from his toddler daughter because of work commitments.
This is the fourth time you are working with Prakash Jha (Rajneeti, Aarakshan, Chakravyuh and Satyagraha). Do you take things for granted when you are shooting because you are comfortable with him?
I don’t take anything for granted from any director. I am just a slave of my director.
In fact, I am a hired slave (laughs). I hear the director, understand his vision and try to enhance it.
You are pitted opposite Amitabh Bachchan for the third time (Aks, Aarakshan and Satyagraha). How does it feel playing his antithesis each time?
In an Amitabh Bachchan film, there’s no other role that is better than his. In such a situation, it’s only the negative role that is as good as his so it’s best to go for the negative!
But jokes apart, these roles were written very carefully be it in Aks, Aarakshan or even for that matter Satyagraha.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Satyagraha
'My ultimate motive is to surprise my director'
You had a very small role in Shootout At Wadala and you mentioned that you did it for Sanjay Gupta. Is it the same with Prakash Jha?
I think this is the last. I told Prakashji that no more negative or politician role for me. I think even he is sick and tired of political films!
Now whenever I do a film with Prakash Jha, it will be a positive role.
But the journey has been fantastic and the association very fruitful. My job is to interpret my character and try to give it my own nuances.
My ultimate motive is to surprise my director. If that expression comes on his face I think I have done my job.
But does it become difficult to refuse offers from your friends in the industry?
I’ve had very few relations in the film industry. Sanjay Gupta is a very dear friend. He went through his bad phase while I went through mine so we related to each other.
We have seen the downside together. He made a comeback to direction with Shootout At Wadala after six years so it became my responsibility to support him in his time of crisis. He came out of it because his film was successful.
If he takes me in his next film, I’ll thank him again but definitely now I’ll choose roles more carefully, and he knows it.
A friend is someone you understands your needs. I understood his when I had to. I need a proper role now, one which drives me crazy, pushes me to go to the sets.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Shootout At Wadala
'I am nothing in front of a superstar'
Did you take inspiration from any politician for this role?
I won’t tell you else they will ruin my entire family! (Laughs) This is a lethal combination of two-three politicians, but I will not tell you who!
What are the challenges of making a multi-starrer? We have seen it time and again that the credit or success goes to the biggest actor in the film.
I don’t care if I am doing a multi-starrer film or a solo hero film. Every actor knows his place as everyone knows what kind of character they are going to portray.
Talking about the credit going to the biggest actor of the film, I feel it’s a good thing. Ultimately, the film will be appreciated and even my price will be increased.
And how important is your price?
At this point of time, money is the most important factor for me. I am at a stage where I can tell people that if you have the money then only take me in your film. It’s high time that filmmakers stop tempting me with good roles and don’t pay me.
This change in priority is because I have completed two decades in this industry and have done enough to prove myself. I have a family to support. When I came into the industry, money didn’t matter to me. I was passionate about being an actor.
One thing other than my family which makes me complete is my job. I don't claim to be a big star. I think I am nothing in front of a superstar.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Satyagraha
'My wife keeps complaining that I don't give them enough time'
You are promoting Satyagraha, and at the same time shooting for two more films (remake of Malayalam film Traffic and an untitled film with Neeraj Pandey). How are you managing your personal life?
It’s very difficult. Although I do get time to spend with my daughter, my wife keeps complaining that I don’t give them enough time.
Yes, I don’t have as much time as I had earlier when I was down and out. That was the time when I would change my daughter’s diapers, feed her milk... but now the work has increased. It’s a difficult thing.
Your wife Shabana (formerly known as Neha)’s career has taken a backseat…
Motherhood is a difficult thing. My daughter is too small. But when she grows up and becomes independent, she will start doing her own thing. I want her to start having her own life but we both are struggling with it.
We haven’t taken the support of a maid to raise our daughter. So it will take a couple of years, but we will do something soon.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee with his wife Shabana and daughter Ava Nayla
'Starting a production house isn't a money making business for me'
You are starting your own production house. Actors often do this because they don’t get the kind of roles they want to do otherwise. Is that the same with you?
I am getting into it because I want to promote good cinema. Whenever there is a good script looking out for a producer, I’ll go ahead and produce it.
Starting a production house isn’t a money making business for me. I will be working for low profit. I’ve waited all my life to see this time and now I am sick and tired of waiting at home for things to happen.
Right now I am spoilt for choices so there’s no time for my own production house, but we are working on one film right now.
Do you resent the industry that took 20 years to understand you as an actor?
I have no resentment but at the same time I would say that the industry has not utilised even 20 per cent of my potential.
I like to work with like-minded people and right now I am enjoying what I am doing. I am in a very happy space.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Gangs Of Wasseypur
'Ram Gopal Varma will bounce back and surprise everyone'
Ram Gopal Varma is making Satya 2. Did you have a word with him recently?
Yes, I met him at his daughter’s pre-wedding bash but didn’t talk films. He will make a fantastic film in Satya 2. I am simply blinded by his genius. I am what I am because of him.
I don’t have any reason to doubt his capability. I know he is going through a lean phase but everybody sees that phase.
Don’t single him out for he will bounce back and surprise you and then you will have to eat your own words! He is going to come back.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee in Satya