Thursday, January 15, 2015

Manoj Bajpayee

“I keep struggling to be myself all the time.”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the January 10, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

As opposed to the complex characters he effortlessly essays on the silver screen, Manoj Bajpayee is a simple man for real. He admits to his strengths and weaknesses, and portrays himself off-screen with utmost honesty (a trait visible even in his performances). Just as his latest film ‘Tevar’ hits the marquee, the actor talks about his inclination towards grey characters, and reveals why he’s eccentric and moody…

You’ve been promoting ‘Tevar’ for a while now…how has it been, considering the fact that you’re not someone who does that often?
I don’t like to promote my films. That’s something which is against my nature – to go ahead and talk about my own films. I’m a bit old-school, and believe you should let your work talk about itself. But what I like about promotions is that you get to know your co-actors a lot better than just on the set. Everyone’s busy doing their own stuff on the set, but here you are interacting with each other more, and become friends. I’ve come to know Sonakshi and Arjun as people much more because of promotions.

You’re always inclined towards complex, layered characters, aren’t you? ‘Tevar’ of course being yet another testament to that.
My character in the film is not the regular negative guy. I just focused on one thing that he’s somebody who is in love, is betrayed and let down by the girl he loves. He’s not looking at the fact that she doesn’t love him. He takes it for granted that he loves a girl so she should get married to him. That’s the point which comes across in the film. Yes, you’re right. I look at characters which are complex and not the monotonous boring ones. You give me a positive guy and I will try to find negative traits in him. Give me a negative guy and I’ll try finding the positives in him. Human beings are faulted, and that’s the theory I have even with my films and characters.

In an earlier interview you’d told me you’re very instinctive while choosing a film. Was it the same this time around?
‘Tevar’ was not an instinctive decision. I have given so much thought before touching this film. ‘Satyagraha’ had released, it hadn’t done well and I wasn’t very happy with the whole film. I couldn’t find a lot of nuances in the character I played. I was a little frustrated and so somewhere I was apprehensive of taking another negative role. I took around two months before I said yes to the film. Once I realised that I’m just going to focus on being a lover in ‘Tevar’, I thought I’ll give my character a different all-together and jumped on to it.

You seem like one of those actors who get into a very serious preparation mode before a film goes on floors. 
Yes, I was quite prepared even for this film. I usually study my characters very hard and them keep 10-20 per cent room for spontaenity. What happens in front of the camera is a different energy all together. Sometimes, you come up with something very unique and the director loves it. But 80 percent is all studied and always prepared, and thought about. There’s a lot of work which goes into every film and I love the preparation part.

Having worked with some top-notch directors like Prakash Jha, Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Pandey, how was your chemistry with debutant director Amit Sharma?
I put Amit Sharma at a very high pedestal. Amit is a unique director who is in love with the middle-road cinema. He tries to find a balance between commerce and quality. That is something which I also believe in. In a country that we live, we cannot ignore the fact that there’s a large population who likes to be entertained only, and nothing else. If we can give them content with a lot of entertainment, it would be amazing. He’s struck the balance so well.

A while ago, you’d also told me that actors can get very moody and eccentric….
I’m very eccentric and I don’t deny that because my mood swings are huge. At all times, you’re playing a different person and it confuses you completely. That happens to most actors. Your own desire, your own love and hatred gets diluted. It becomes too much to handle sometimes and that somewhere damages you. I keep struggling to be myself all the time.

So, it must be getting difficult to zone out when certain characters make a huge impact on you?
It does! It has happened to me with ‘Shool’ and ‘Aks’. These characters took a lot of time to come out of me. But if you immediately start a next film, the process becomes simpler and you forget the last film you’ve done.

Tell me about your upcoming films.
I’m known for small films and those are my strengths. Films like ‘Tevar’ don’t happen to me very easily. If at all they happen, I think thousand times before tapping them because it’s not very often that I get a role like ‘Tevar’ in all the commercial films. I have ‘Saath Uchakkey’ and a film with Tabu apart from ‘Traffic’ and Hansal Mehta’s film.

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