'Common people have so much to battle every hour, but they still have a smile on their faces.'
'At times, they stumble and fall but they get up and continue their struggle.'
'Their resilience is what I love about them. That's what inspires me as an actor to keep moving.'
'They don't stop. Neither do I.'
Manoj Bajpayee's latest film Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai has got such positive reviews for the important story that it tells that in a never-been-seen-before reversal of sorts, the OTT movie will now release in theatres.
"When you do a real character, like I did in Aligarh and now in Sirf Ek Banda, people don't know them," Manoj tells Subhash K Jha. "So I have to show them the ideology of the person without mimicking him."
Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai has become more than a film. It is a movement towards justice for the oppressed. Do you agree?
Yes. We made the film with passion, conviction and love.
But at the end of the day, it is difficult to gauge how people will react to your effort.
Luckily for us, this film has hit home. They have welcomed the film with open arms.
We are so overwhelmed, we don't know how to respond to this.
The film has triggered off a kind of movement for justice towards the weak sections, especially children, who are assaulted.
When you were offered the film, did you sense its importance or was it just another interesting part?
I can't take the credit for the film's success.
We always thought we had a good story to tell and wanted to be a part of it.
Children's safety has always occupied my mind as an actor.
Even when I was doing theatre in my early days, I worked closely with several NGOs for children.
We wanted to make a significant film on child abuse, but we never thought it would become a revolution, not only in India but also in the Diaspora.
I am getting calls and messages from within and outside India. It is overwhelming.
People are saying you have an alternative career as a lawyer awaiting you.
(Laughs) Yes. I am getting tweets from people asking to take up their cases.
That is hilarious.
I am requesting them not to hire me, they will certainly lose their cases (laughs).
The response and love for my character Solanki is overwhelming.
After 30 years of acting, I still get moved when a performance is praised. But after so many years, one can't be jumping with enthusiasm.
Did you meet Solanki, the real-life lawyer, whom you play? As an actor, what do you feel about this common man's uncommon heroism?
Actually, I decided at the start not to meet Mr Solanki. The producers had the rights to his book.
I felt it won't be right to copy or imitate him.
It would defeat the purpose of the endeavour.
I had to create my own character based on the team's research.
I used my own imagination to create the character.
So you didn't meet the real Solanki at all?
I met the real Solanki two days before the shoot. Then I saw some things in his character that I tried to inculcate into mine at the last minute.
You may see many facets of the real Mr Solanki in me, but I tried not to make them obvious.
The idea of a courageous lawyer and good human being had to come across.
When you do a real character, like I did in Aligarh and now Sirf Ek Banda, people don't know them. So I have to show them the ideology of the person without mimicking him.
Do you like playing real heroes?
I love the idea of portraying common people, the ordinary heroes who are battling every day, if not in the courtroom then outside.
They have so much to battle every hour, but they still have a smile on their faces.
At times, they stumble and fall but they get up and continue their struggle.
Their resilience is what I love about them. That's what inspires me as an actor to keep moving.
They don't stop. Neither do I.
These are the superheroes without capes.