“Akshay Kumar And I Are No Great Friends. ”
An actor par excellence, the one and only Manoj Bajpayee talks to Twinkle Dedhia about controversies with Akshay Kumar, his films Satyamev Jayate and Gali Guliyan, his private life and more….
You always have a knack of choosing content rich scripts. What made you choose SatyamevJayate? It is a commercial project full of dialogues and masala. I don’t usually get associated with such a genre because I feel uncomfortable working in a mainstream shooting environment, even if I have no barriers formed against it. Here, things were driven towards dramatic …and had an energetic plot with interesting characters. Nikhil Advani (producer) is a very old friend of mine. We had been trying to work with each other since a very long time. I did say ‘no’ to many of his projects but this time, I didn’t have any reason to put down this project.Though the whole genre of masala was not provocative enough to make me go for it instantly but Advani had sheer faith in me. The overwhelming encouragement and strong instincts were enough for me to agree for my part in Satyamev Jayate and indeed, I take pride in how the final product turned out to be.
How was your experience working with director Milap Zaveri?
Well, he is a renowned script writer revered for his dialogues and commercial movies. He has written one of my films Shootout At Wadala and that’s how I got acquainted with him. Now our equation obviously evolved and we know each other very well because of direction. He was quite convinced about this piece that he has created. In his mind to its scripting to transitioning the whole process on screen, he knew exactly what he wanted. We just believed in him and delivered what he was willing to represent. As a director, he was crystal clear what he needed from his cast and team which made our jobs easier. He’s young, enthusiastic and very commercial in his approach which works for his projects. This is different from how I function usually but it makes sense for his vision. So in conclusion, the experience was good in a peculiar way.
You play complex characters almost always. Why? Do you have a bias against commercial cinema? What’s your process of choosing and then preparing for those characters?
Diversity intrigues me. I don’t involve myself in just provoking psychological thrillers intentionally. Aligarh, Zubeidaa and Pinjar are not psychological thrillers but yes, I have done roles which are completely contradictory to each other. I have explored various genres, uncommon characters and complex plots when aren’t touched upon often in our cinema. When I started doing it a long back, it was quite infrequent but now it has become popular with other actors too. Commercial films make me feel a bit uneasy and confined because I find them predictable. If things are too predictable then they don’t interest me. So, that is why I am very determined towards art developed in exclusion of commercial cinema. I did Baaghi 2 solely because of my old friend, Ahmed Khan otherwise I steer clear of such genres. Satyamev Jayate’s character choice was based partly because of its engaging role, convincing drama, true dedicated persuasion of Advani …and I didn’t have any solid reason to put it down. Preparation is expected when I do independent films where the characters are very deep. They demand intense physical, emotional, mental and psychological composition and certain skill set for the performance. Satyamev Jayate is mostly about building the character with the dialogues and the right attitude …and my
Commercial films make me feel a bit uneasy and confined because I find them predictable.
job was to just make it believable while doing it. GaliGuliyan (In the shadows) was very difficult. It’s the most intricate performance I gave onscreen till now and I don’t think any actors have come across this kind of unique role. This is indeed a phenomenon and I feel good that I was able to pull this off in my own way. GaliGuliyan demanded so much out of me internally and externally as a person that it was exhausting. Losing weight, growing hair and constantly keeping in mind the shabby look of the character was somehow manageable but what shook me was the internal depth which required skillsets. GaliGuliya tested all of my skills that I picked in this field throughout the years. By the end of the shoot during the last 3-4 days, I was requesting my director Dipesh Jain to finish my portion because I was mentally exhausted. I was on the edge of a mental breakdown due to consistent travel down the darkest alleys of emotional lanes and frequent isolation. It became overwhelming after a point. For me, acting is a never-ending experience. You learn from other’s work and also relearn everyday with your own experiences. Satyamev Jayate and GaliGuliyan are poles apart in terms of their characterization and plots but I feel satisfied with both of them.
What was your reaction when some people claimed that SatyamevJayate posters have a very Aiyaary feel to it, more so as you are an integral part of both films?
Honestly, I am uncertain why they would compare both the film posters as they belong to different topics altogether. The only similarity I find in both films is my moustache. The direction of moustache differed though. In Aiyaary, the moustache was all upwards and this one is bent downwards. There is still a slight difference. I think people express a lot of opinions and I don’t like to think about them a lot. It’s unnecessary to always address whatever comes into their mind.
There have been a few controversies regarding SatyamevJayate like some people filing cases. Do you have a take on this?
This is becoming a trend and this country is known for it. Communities here are filled with intricate sentiments which are sensitive to that extent that a film or a film song can hurt them. Their religious beliefs are so fragile that anybody can disturb them. When I left my village at the mere age of 17, many people laughed at me. Their laughter was based on their perception of my ambition and how naive I was about it. They continued laughing at me because my English was all twisted. I didn’t know anything. Those days I was judged even for my Hindi pronunciations. Many people laughed at me for silly things. I would always be anxious since it was visible I came from a small village. People laughing at me never hurt me. Rather I always felt that those people were idiots because my resolve was very strong. My core and determination was indestructible. I didn’t let criticism discourage me or affect me negatively. I worked on my disadvantages. And by God’s grace, here I am done with 64 films! I am not patting my back. I am only trying to say an individual’s spiritual or religious core shouldn’t be as fragile as one that can be hurt by any meaningless
When I left my village at the mere age of 17, many people laughed at me.”
external stimulus. I listen to all the criticism to add up to my wisdom or otherwise, anything meaninglessly bothersome is neglected. Nowadays, however people try to pretend that they are hurt. In my opinion, some do this so that they can be famous. They want attention for their false beliefs so they can be called on TV channels and TV channels have nothing better to do than calling these people! In fact, TV and news channels have done a favor to the entire country so much so that most of the countrymen now keep their TV switched off. Nobody wants to see TV because there is a circus going on every channel!
Your films have unique concepts. What is your process of selecting a particular project?
It’s very organic. When I take GaliGuliyan, the script writing and the character sketch in itself just blew my mind. It felt like that is something that’s never been done before. The story is extremely engaging and so unique that you want t let it happen and jump into it despite being challenging. With Satyamev Jayate, the concept was quite bold and interesting than the other mainstream movie offers. So I don’t plan it strategically, I choose based on the depth of character, engaging plots and my instincts when it comes to work.
According to you, what is the definition of a perfect actor?
Clearly the industry is distinguished within two segments: One is the pure actors are clearly dependent on their skills and acting. The others are these glamorous stars who depend on their charisma and luck whereas acting stars depend clearly on their script and skills. This is the only country where skill sets are not given a real encouragement. It’s always stardom, box office collections and elite lifestyle which is majorly focused upon and written about. It’s quite sad but we are quite famous for letting real raw talent take a backseat. For me, acting isn’t something you can ever master entirely but it’s an ever evolving process.
Your wife Neha is a good actress. Why has she taken a backseat? Will she get back on the big screen soon?
Actually, since our daughter’s birth, she’s just taken the whole responsibility of raising her upon herself. In the past two years, she’s been getting offers but she rejected them. She got offered some good parts in some amazing films which went on to become blockbusters. At that point of time, she felt that our daughter was her top priority. Now, though she might come back in a short film. We are still looking for a nice subject for her comeback.
Would you like to elaborate on any memorable onset anecdotes while shooting your current films?
Gali Guliyan was a difficult shoot in the internal parts of Delhi, isolated from the crowd or any commotion. Yet, I remember this one time when one boy came and slapped me on my back. He just wanted to touch me and he knew that the security guards won’t let him do that. He crossed a huge length, came up and slapped my back randomly. This kind of incidences happen and often with people who won’t get an opportunity to shake hands with me feel entitled to abusing me from a distance for my attention. This is the best they can do to get to me. In Satyamev Jayate, we shot a lot at night. One night, Zaveri made me deliver a scene with more than 250 lines and that was fun, but it was a very exhausting process. It’s actually different when you have to deliver lines at night. It needs a lot of alertness as visibility is low in the dark and this made me apply a lot of my instincts into it since it had action
This is the only country where skill sets are not given a real encouragement.”
in it. Milap comes across as a fun person to chill out with but he is very serious when it comes to his work. He exactly knows how to shoot a scene and engage his audience in a genre which he is very fond of.
Who inspires you?
Life and acting. I’m always in love with what I do. I’m in love with my own craft. This romance is inspiring. For me, it isn’t my job or something I have a hard time waking up to. It’s like dating a new girl. I have been just like that since a long time.
Your recent film Kriti faced controversy regarding copyright issues. Would you like to clarify what exactly happened?
It was completely foolish. I am skeptical about the controversial accusations from the opposition. I was a witness that it wasn’t extracted from anywhere else. It was the baby of Shirish Kunder. I would say in that case, Shirish was a very unlucky guy that somebody from nowhere just got up and dragged him into such a nasty controversy. However, go and see the viewership... it’s amazing. The work in itself spoke its worth because Kriti is one of the most viewed short films.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I can manage my schedule and home without any difficulty. It’s very simple and easy for me. My daughter and my wife demand my time so they make sure I’m home when I’m not working. Also I’m not a party animal. I don’t drink mostly or smoke so that leaves me with no reason to get out in the evenings.
What is your opinion on the National Awards. Do you think they put pressure on an actor or encourage them to do better?
National awards are always dipping in controversy about who’s achieved it, each and every year. It has caused many to put question marks on its credibility. They better pull up their socks before they lose their glorious significance. It used to have so much importance back in the days as even I have bagged them twice. My deal with awards is that if you give it to me, I will accept it and If I don’t receive it then I don’t care. The National Award Committee has a great job in their hands. They have to focus more on getting their credibility back.
National awards are always dipping in controversy about who’s achieved it, each and every year. ”
Consistency in lessons and dynamic experiences is the beauty of this profession.”
Your equation with fellow actor Akshay Kumar has been questioned since the National awards crisis and now your films are competing at the Box office. Enlighten us about your opinion on it.
I have worked with Akshay in the past. We are no great friends, you know. We just worked in two films altogether. We had recently done one film which was Special 26 together. Other one was Bewafaa which I had done long back but we didn’t have any common scenes. We hardly know each other. Yeah in Special 26, we had one scene together. We haven’t met each other apart from the promotional time. He’s a big star! I don’t think he’s affected by Manoj Bajpai. So I don’t think there is no common ground of competition between us. Akshay Kumar is a big name where as I’m simply a small actor. I have nothing to say to this. For me, the National awards crisis ended when I didn’t get it. I moved on. That’s all. I came into this profession and I fell in love with this craft so irrevocably because of myself. Not because of or for anybody or anything else. When I’m happy with my performance, I enjoy lights, camera and action! This is me and that matters to me, nothing else. Who wouldn’t mind achievements, awards and appreciation but I tend to be more determined on my emotions towards the whole ordeal.
If you could recreate any of your roles, which one would it be and why?
Why should I pick any? I’m one of the luckiest ones to be able to have acted in over 63-64 films with very complex roles. So, many of my performances and films from the past are considered as cult. Those films have paved the way changing the whole perspective and expectations of people from cinema. Those experiences will be cherished and remembered forever. I will tell you a secret which is I don’t watch my films because I always end up feeling right after that I could have done it differently. As you grow as a professional, everyday provides more knowledge and experience. You look at your own work feeling that you could have done them better. I have understood this is a process that will go on forever. Consistency in lessons and dynamic experiences is the beauty of this profession. I can recreate all of them but in a complete different manner. Satya, Bandit Queen, Kaun etc. I would like to love to do Kaun again for sure. Shool? Oh yes (smiles). There are so many that I would like to recreate my whole career but I don’t want to go back. I am happy and satisfied with the journey I have had. I’m grateful to God who blessed me with this journey. I have done things in the times when they were too complicated for the Indian audience.
What are your future plans?
To look out for talented directors (smiles) like Dipesh Shah and do scripts that have never been done before. To be a part of stories which evoke unpredictable possibilities and portray unique roles. This has always been my inspiration and will continue to be.