Q. Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW) hit a new benchmark by going to the Cannes Film Festival…
A The selection of GOW for the Cannes Film Festival is a matter of pride for all. Usually, our mentality is that of a frog in the well. We release our films in a few towns of America or in Toronto and make a big deal about it. GOW has broken new ground and created a fresh market for other Indian films.
Q. A lot of cuss words were used in the film. Were you comfortable with it?
A I’ve no problems with cuss words. All of us use them. Those who say they don’t, are lying. People can tolerate English cuss words but find the Hindi ones a bit revolting. I wasn’t ashamed of taking a bath near the well in just a loin cloth. I am a shy person but equally shameless in front of the camera. I leave my morals at home when I go for a shoot.
Q. How did you prepare to play Sardar Khan in GOW?
A Sardar Khan is a character with so many negative traits that it’s difficult to find one redeeming point in him. It was tough to make him likeable. That was the challenge. We did a workshop for 8-10 days. Before beginning the shoot, I shut myself away from the world for 10-15 days. Till I had the confidence that I had a grip over Sardar Khan, I did nothing else.
Q. Despite reported differences between Anurag Kashyap and you how did this film materialise?
A Anurag had some misunderstanding about me which I was not aware of. I can understand it now because Anurag had to undergo a great amount of struggle. His debut film Paanch never released. He had to go through hell to release Black Friday. He might have had expectations from me which I was unable to fulfill. Hence he was angry and upset. But I always tried reaching out. And then one fine day he called me to ask if I’d work with him. And I said yes.
Q. What’s unique about his direction?
A He is endowed with a superb personality. He gets into the soul of an actor and understands the artiste within. He gives freedom to his actors to work in their own way; he doesn’t judge them. No other director works as hard as he does.
Q. Was there a misunderstanding with Ram Gopal Varma also?
A Both Ramu and I are like children. We end up doing childish things. I’m not childish anymore but I don’t know how childish Ramu still is. We’d get upset with each other about petty things. I don’t exactly remember what our tiff was about. Whenever he brings a script to me, I work with him. I owe him my career and house.
Q. After his recent debacles do you think he’s lost his track?
A Ramu got experimental but didn’t meet with much success. His recent films may not have done well. But I do believe that RGV is a director you can never ignore. He can surprise you any day with a spectacular film.
Q. How much do your characters affect you?
A My characters don’t dominate me any longer. Now I can draw a line between my personal and my professional life. Yes, it did bother me a lot during Shool (played an honest cop). I went into depression. I had imbibed the pain and suffering of the character so much. I couldn’t sleep peacefully.
Q. Do you think the industry hasn’t given you your due?
A I don’t hesitate to say that the industry has not utilised even 20% of my potential. I’m not talking about directors who have worked with me. Between 1994 and today, I’ve hardly worked in 50 films beginning with Bandit Queen. It’s not my fault so I needn’t be ashamed of it.
Q. Many a time you may have refused an offer too…
A But it has never happened that a film I refused went on to become a super duper hit. I’ve never regretted my choices.
Q. Would you want to be part of a Rs 100 crore film?
A I don’t think like that because I’m an actor. I am not a star. My face is not the kind that 50,000 people will faint just looking at it. I want to do good cinema and want people to watch it. GOW has done well. The figure would touch Rs 50-55 crore. It will also give confidence to Viacom 18 to buy more such films. Subsequently, directors like Anurag Kashyap will come to the fore and actors like me will get work. The first part of GOW has recovered the money for both its parts. If the sequel makes even one rupee, we’ll begin making a profit.
Q. How do you define Manoj Bajpayee?
A I am a family man. The only difference between me and others is that while they work in corporate offices, I am an actor. I too like to go back home after work. I don’t mind stopping to pick up groceries. On a holiday, Shabana (wife/actor, earlier known as Neha) and I visit malls to shop for our daughter. If my driver doesn’t turn up I go and buy tomatoes. I enjoy all this. But I don’t like going to parties. After returning home, I exercise, perform pooja and catch up on my reading or sleep.
Q. Do you hold any resentment towards the industry?
A I socialise with only those I work with. If those people are what you call the industry, then I have no resentment towards them. If we talk about the hardcore commercial industry, then they don’t work with me and I have nothing to do with them. So I cannot say that I hold any bitterness towards them. Manoj Bajpayee is a husband, a father and an actor. He doesn’t see his life beyond that.
Q. Any bad experiences in the indsutry?
A Life is full of good and bad experiences. I came here before the multiplexes. I had to face criticism at that time. I refused to do the villain’s role when most films were about the heroes and villains those days. Ram Gopal Varma was the only director who made my kind of films. Whenever I appeared in a film, people were ready to run it down. Today I’m going through a good phase but I’ve suffered a lot for it. Whenever I said no to a film, I had to suffer animosity.
Q. What change did marriage bring in you?
A My wife has made me responsible. My daughter Ava Nayla has made me patient. I used to get angry easily, not today. Being with a child is a test of your personality.
Q. Does your wife feel insecure when you do intimate scenes?
A Shabana is broadminded and self-confident. Those who are confident are never insecure. Secondly, she knows the kind of person she has married. Thirdly, she herself is an actor and understands the nature of our work.
Q. How does she react to your films?
A Shabana rarely praises me. She’s my sharpest critic. She’ll give her reactions on GOW only after she has watched it twice.
Q. How did it feel when you first held your daughter Ava in your arms?
A I felt I had the world’s most precious thing in my hands. I felt I was looking at my wife. Ava looks exactly like Shabana. But at that time I was more worried about Shabana than her.
Q. What all do you do for your daughter?
A Whatever a father does – feeding her, changing her clothes, her diapers. We are only two and half people at home – Shabana, Ava and I. When my wife’s busy, I handle Ava. For some time after she was born, I didn’t go out of town. I had tears in my eyes when I had to go out of Mumbai for Aarakshan.
Q. Which habits would you like to change?
A I’ve become lazy. A decade ago I wasn’t like that. Nowadays, I don’t feel like stepping out of my home. I love being with my daughter and wife. I should go out more often.
Q. Something we don’t know about you…
A I don’t like to drive. I am scared of flying. I hate spending money. I’d like everything to be free. I made money after a long struggle, so I’m quite stingy. I’ve never been to London and will be visiting it soon.