Samantha's transformation for 'The Family Man' is mind-blowing
Manoj Bajpayee has been winning hearts with his performance as Srikant Tiwari, a senior officer with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India. ‘The Family Man’ was renewed for a second season and fans are showering love on the espionage thriller which marks the debut of South sensation Samantha Akkineni in a digital show as well. In an exclusive interaction with ETimes, Manoj Bajpayee spills the beans on his much-loved character from ‘The Family Man Season 2’, shares his experience of working with Samantha and talks about a new wave of success on OTT. Excerpts:
What sort of similarities do you share with the character of Srikant? It seems like you fit into the skin of your character with ease.
I don't know why everyone is so curious about it, but I know I am an actor. My job is not just to get myself into it, it is not necessary that an actor has to be the character. Yes, I derive some references from my life, but mostly the portrayal comes from all the experiences or the people that you've known or the books that you've read. Also many times, you get your imagination into it and you get your interpretation from that. So Srikant Tiwari is a mix, his persona stems from many of my friends, he has a little bit of me, he has a little bit of my imagination and mostly, the interpretation of how I wanted him to look and behave. Some part of that portrayal also comes from the director’s vision.
How was the experience of working with Samantha?
She's so amazing and it is for everyone to see. When you watch the show, you can see the dedication and sincerity of an actor who has completely thrown herself into the role, with that much intensity. It was challenging for her physically and she's really gone through an extreme training for the role. By the time we reached
Chennai for the shoot, she was all there. She was being trained by Yannick (Ben), a French guy. The videos that they showed me of her training, it was mind-blowing. She's been going through that preparation and the physical process of a transformation, that completely threw me off as to how dedicated and how sincere she is as an actor. She is a thorough professional.
Srikant Tiwari has become a mainstream influence, there are memes, videos, blogs dedicated to his quirks and reactions. If you were to pick one good and one bad quality about him, what would that be?
Srikant is somebody who gets very unhappy when his wife is unhappy. He wants to be a good father, a good husband, but it is another thing that he always fails in his efforts. But he never stops trying to be a good family man. One bad thing I would say is that he lies.
But he lied to strike a balance between the family and the job,
which he is unable to pull off. The lying is something that comes from the job and he can't help, but at the same time, he is a harmless liar
You have been part of an iconic OTT series now, but as a viewer, which is your favorite web series? Has there been any character in another show that you felt you could have pulled off better?
Fargo is my all time favorite. From Indian titles, I liked ‘Made In Heaven’, ‘Pataal Lok’ and there are many others too. And for the characters, I don't watch any of the characters with that perspective because, I'm not a person who's watching it and thinking that I would have done it better. I watch it like a viewer and truly, if I like a performance or a show I always pick up the phone and call the actors.
OTT as a platform does not have the measure of box-office, how do you view the success when no numbers are involved?
There is no such thing as box office success. Just because a film has made 100-200 crores, it doesn't mean that it has become successful. You have to compare the investment with the profit, we don't do that. We get really happy when a film makes 100 crore and above. But in actuality, the people who go and watch these films in numbers, if they feel that they are let down by the content, then they won't spread a positive word about it. So, if a show or a web film is being talked about so much that people are watching it, that means the audience has spread good word-ofmouth. That should be the true measure of success. The money that the audience is paying to OTT for the subscription, is also an earning for the OTT, right? And OTT is paying it forward to the producers, so why can't this be a measurement of success? Best part is, this positive feedback is not based on just 2-3 days of initial reaction, but rather signifies our capability to deliver good quality and compelling content.
If not for films, Manoj Bajpayee has been winning hearts with his presence on OTT. An enthusiastic entertainer, Manoj has made a smooth transition and charmed the audience with his varied performances in projects like ‘The Family Man’, ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’, and ‘Silence... Can You Hear It?’ in the past few months. In an exclusive interaction, the seasoned star opens up on his tryst with streaming platforms and the euphoria of theatrical releases. Excerpts:
How much are you enjoying your popularity on OTT?
It’s quite humbling. It’s been quite an amazing journey, starting with ‘The Family Man’ to ‘Silence...'-all of the projects that I have been a part of, have been enjoying massive success. And you know, it not only leaves me speechless and overwhelmed but also with a lot of thankfulness for the audience and for the directors who chose me for these parts.
How has OTT, as a medium, changed you as an actor?
I am still the same actor that I have always been. I still work on the script and character. Preparation is something that I completely focus on. There’s no compromise. I am still the same actor who always follows the vision of the director. I am still the same person who always feels lucky and grateful that he is still here and is still so relevant. People are watching my projects and watching my work so you know, I am still the same actor, the same person. Nothing has changed. I don’t think anything will change about me as a person or as an actor.
What is your take on censorship on
Well, there’s a policy that OTT will self-regulate, which, I think, is much better than having somebody to sensor creative projects which they might be completely unaware about. It will be better if there is some kind of an understanding between the OTT and creative people, as then, eventually, they will be able to find a common ground to agree on. I am completely in favour of giving 18+ or 16+ or 7+ ratings to categorising films rather than having censorship. With OTT having its own regulatory body, it will not harm a creative product much. That’s what I think at this point in time unless OTT becomes completely nervous about all the products that they are putting on their platform.
Do you miss the euphoria of theatres?
Definitely. You can’t replace the collective viewing that only theatres provide. My film, ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’, was the first to have been released in theatres with 50 per cent capacity. All of us were very much concerned but if we won't go ahead and release, then who else would? We decided we’ll do it. And ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ ran for more than 100 days. The exhibitors were quite excited about keeping a film there. Yes, the footfall was not too big but it started picking up and the same people came in and enjoyed the film. Then the film went on OTT and has done remarkably well. People are still watching it. I am personally sad and disappointed that because of the resurgence we have come back to square one. But once the situation of the pandemic gets better, I know that people will be going back to theatres. It’s a different experience altogether from watching it on a big television.