“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….

Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY -

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.

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