Thursday, March 28, 2013

Manoj Bajpayee

“I’m very instinctive”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the February 9, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Manoj Bajpayee, for real, is a far cry from the characters he plays on reel. The actor who is known to play slightly grey, serious, or intense characters on-screen is extremely cool and calm off it. Yet, he manages to essay each of these characters, seeming effortless. Undoubtedly, Manoj Bajpayee is one of the finest actors that we have, who’s given several memorable performances in films like ‘Shool’, ‘Satya’, ‘Pinjar’, and ‘Raajneeti’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Chakravyuh’ in recent times. Of course, last year we saw him steal all the accolades for his stellar act as Sardar Khan in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. Lately, he has been busy promoting the Neeraj Pandey directed ‘Special 26’ that stars him along with Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Jimmy Shergill. In this chat, let’s try and get to know Manoj Bajpayee, the person, behind Manoj Bajpayee, the actor. Here we have the national-award winning actor in a candid mode…

You’ve been promoting ‘Special 26’ in a huge way along with the whole cast…promotions seem to have become as important as making the film, isn’t it? 
Promoting this film has been quite an experience, going to different cities with the entire cast. I’ve been promoting so many films but travelling to various cities, promoting ‘Special 26’ has been a completely unique experience. When a person of Akshay’s stature travels to these small cities, it’s truly amazing to see people react. And not many people know this but it was actually me who started with this whole ‘city tours’ concept. I started that with ‘Shool’. I travelled to Hydrabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Patna, when the film was to release. And then we had Rakesh Roshan who did it during ‘Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai’. Since then, this has become a trend and now it’s a necessity. Promoting a film in this manner has become extremely essential now because the audience also has gotten used to it. So, big films with a big budget, that can spend on promotions, for them it’s great. But the problem is, because of these heavy promotions, small-budget films are left behind. A small-budget film, despite being extremely good, will be thought of as a bad film by the audience because it’s not promoted well. So, for some people it’s a great thing, but for some others it’s not good.

How was it working with co-actors like Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher for ‘Special 26’? 
Akshay is a lovely guy. He’s somebody who’s so easy in his skin, and there’s so much pleasantness that he brings on the sets. It’s been quite an experience working with him and Anupam Kher. And when you have actors like these as co-stars, there’s a lot of understanding because they’ve been in the industry for so long. It gets much simpler.

Today, what is your criterion while choosing a film? 
I go by my instinct. I’m very instinctive, so if I hear a script and it attracts me, I immediately say yes, whether it’s a big budget film or a small budget film. If I’m offered a character that makes me want to jump on it, I say yes to the film. But if I think I want time to decide, then I don’t do it. If I’m offered to play a police officer in like 4-5 films, I wouldn’t mind doing it, if all the characters are completely different from each other even though the profession is the same. Each character comes with a graph, and if that graph challenges you, and attracts you, you just say yes. A character just needs to excite me.

Is the director a priority when you sign a film? You’ve worked with directors whose films are quite complex…be it Ram Gopal Varma, Prakash Jha, Anurag Kashyap or Neeraj Pandey… 
All these directors have some quality, and they’re all extremely different from each other. They belong to different kinds of cinema. And for me, I always want to learn something from every director I work with. Each director comes from a certain background, and has a certain vision. So, you try and learn something from his vision, and also form a great relationship with each other. I’ve utmost respect for all the directors that I’ve worked with. And I share a great rapport with them.

And, how has it been working with Neeraj Pandey for ‘Special 26’? 
I think Neeraj Pandey is one of the best directors of our time. I’ve been lucky to be directed by him. And we’ve had a great time working together.

When you’re offered a film and a character, what’s your approach like? Are you spontaneous? Or are you a method actor who likes to prepare? 
You know, I wouldn’t be able to clearly say that I have this kind of approach. I read the script, and at times it is spontaneous, sometimes it needs a lot of preparation, depending on the script. It also depends on what the director wants from me. I like to be spontaneous sometimes, but I’ve had to actually prepare quite a bit for most of my characters.

So, if you had to choose, which character so far, has been the most challenging and has required a lot of preparation? 
Actually, not just one but I had to prepare extensively for most of my characters. ‘Bandit Queen’, ‘Satya’, ‘Shool’, ‘Pinjar’, ‘Aks’; actually for most of my films I had to prepare.

Being someone who’s been an actor for several years, and played different characters… sometimes do you tend to become like any of your character? 
No, not really. But yes, actors become extremely moody at times, because we’re constantly moving from one character to another. Hence, most serious actors are extremely moody and eccentric. But apart from that, Manoj Bajpayee is not like any of his characters.

So, then how is Manoj Bajpayee? 
Manoj Bajpayee is the most normal guy. He’s not really ambitious; he loves to stay at home. He’s too lazy. If given a choice, I’d not like to even move to get a glass of water (laughs). But he’s someone who respects the dignity of labour, and tries to be a good father, good husband and good son. Apart from that, I don’t really have a friend circle, I don’t like to party. I’m just happy being at home.

Over the years, how has your journey been? How do you see yourself? 
I’ve never treated my job as anything special. I’ve always been this normal person who believes in destiny and God. And I’m just happy to be here, because this is what I have always wanted to do. I’ve been extremely independent right from childhood, so I’ve always been this very serious guy who knows his responsibility and all that. It’s only now that I’ve become much easier as a person.

Tell us about your upcoming films… 
This year I have two releases after ‘Special 26’ – ‘Shootout At Wadala’ and ‘Satyagraha’. Last year, all the films were slightly niche be it ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Chittagong’ or ‘Chakravyuh’ and this year, all of them are huge films.


  1. This is some amazing peace of journalism, who is this guy, would love to meet him.

  2. It's written by Ankita Kanabar, who's not a guy. She's a girl. It's written by me! Hehe