As the monsoon clouds started gathering in the background to provide the city its first shower of the season, this tabloid’s photographer grew apprehensive about the declining light. However, Manoj Bajpai remained unperturbed and leaned on his beanbag – posing.
Click! Click! Click! The photographer’s job is done and our interview begins. By his body language, it’s quite evident that Manoj Bajpai is always comfortable in front of a camera. He later confides that he believes in cinema more than anything else. And being an artiste, he is never satisfied with his performance.
Perhaps that’s why this Bihar-born actor who said, “Given a chance, I’ll happily settle in my village,” keeps pushing himself and is today a name to reckon with in an industry filled with stars.
In a candid chat, he reveals his thoughts on changes in Bollywood, fatherhood, Ram Gopal Varma and more…
Question: First of all, is it a conscious decision on your part to play rustic roles?
Manoj Bajpai: When offers come my way, I just choose the best. I don’t look at it through the narrow prism of rural or urban. I’m glad that these stories are being told today. They weren’t welcome in the ’80s and ’90s. And anyway, if I don’t, who else will? (smiles)
Question: …and what’s the story behind preferring negative roles?
Manoj Bajpai: Well, things are usually grey. Unfortunately, it’s only in Indian cinema where the line between positive and negative is stark. That’s also the reason why my fellow actors shy away from essaying ‘negative’ roles.
Question: Tell me something about your character in your upcoming film?
Manoj Bajpai: This guy has no sense of morality and is unabashedly selfish. He is violent, lecherous and gets beaten by his wives. Despite all these flaws, he’s adorable.
Question: Are you satisfied with your performance in the film?
Manoj Bajpai: I could have done better. You see, I’m never satisfied with my work — be it Man Singh of Bandit Queen, Rashid of Pinjar or Bhiku Mhatre of Satya.
Question: Speaking of Satya, you started with a bang. Do you think that has worked against you?
Manoj Bajpai: Nope. If you can’t negate Satya, you can’t negate the other characters I’ve played so far. I can’t just rest on my laurels saying I did an awesome job in Satya. Wouldn’t that kill me as a screen artist?
Question: Anurag Kashyap was the writer of Satya, and now he’s directing you. Is there any difference between the two?
Manoj Bajpai: Earlier, he used to be vulnerable, volatile, emotional and desperate to make his mark. Now he feels confident, in control, and wise. We were friends during Satya. Now I look up to him.
Question: And has Bollywood changed over the years?
Manoj Bajpai: Though the Hindi film industry hasn’t used even 20 per cent of my potential, I’m currently doing the kind of work I was waiting for earlier.
Question: Has fatherhood changed you as a person?
Manoj Bajpai: I’m much more patient but when it comes to my daughter, I’m always in rush to go back home just to be with her. I’m missing her right now while I’m talking to you. This hasn’t happened even when I was in love with my wife. (laughs)
Question: Finally, what’s your take on the recent criticism directed towards your mentor Ram Gopal Varma?
Manoj Bajpai: I haven’t seen his films of late but from what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure that once things start rolling for him, he’ll bounce back and make his detractors shut up. Ramu’s like this stubborn child who when hit once, will do the same thing again and again just to annoy you! But he knows what he’s doing.Anurag Kashyap Bandit Queen Interviews Manoj Bajpai Pinjar Ram Gopal Varma Satya