Monday 17 January 2022
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Manoj Bajpayee finds fellow Bihari Pankaj Tripathi inspiring

In the year 2021 Manoj Bajpayee, who while mourning the loss of his beloved father, ruled the digital space with his brilliant performances, saw a lot of ups and downs through which he drew inspiration from another brilliant actor who hails from a backward area of Bihar, Pankaj Tripathi.

In an interview, the three-time National -winning actor, where Manoj Bajpayee — the actor from Bettiah, West Champaran, Bihar — shared moments of balancing his personal life amid his hectic work life, his newfound brand image, his contemporaries and more, was published recently in ETimes. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Manoj Bajpayee is one of the finest actors we have in Bollywood. But very little is known about his personal life. How is he as a husband and as a father – as a ‘family man’?

I try to be a sincere husband and a good father. I don’t know how much justice I am doing it with my hectic work schedule. But yet I try to make myself available. I try to meet the expectations of my wife and my child. I love them the most. There is no effort to strike a balance because they are very understanding. Most of the time it is they who adjust according to my work schedule and I feel blessed about it.

“Besides acting, what do you love and enjoy doing?” Manoj Bajpayee was asked. “I enjoy going out to different places with my family. I love just lazing around and watching great content on OTT. I enjoy reading sometimes. I also like chatting with my family over a hot cup of tea. I love going on vacations abroad and roaming around like a commoner is what I enjoy the most. These are simple things I enjoy doing. I love going to my village and meeting people and eating food that I am always nostalgic about,” he said.

After all these years, do scripts still manage to surprise Manoj Bajpayee? “Yes, they do surprise me. If you see my upcoming films, you will be surprised with the originality of the scripts, the kind of efforts the directors have made to break all my limitations. They have helped me come out with something new. I feel blessed. With eagerness and happiness, I am looking forward to all the work that I have been for. They surprised me, right from the script to the director’s ability and to my co-actors’ magnificence in front of the camera,” he said.

With content gaining more importance in films and with the growing emergence of OTT platforms, does Manoj Bajpayee think it is the end of star power in Bollywood? “Content is indeed getting a lot of importance on OTT now. I will be very happy if the content becomes the focus of the films that are opting for theatrical releases. I feel that every creative person in the filmmaking process will be happy,” the actor from Bihar said.

“As far as stars are concerned,” the actor said, “more than people, it is the media who want stars. They want somebody to make a headline on. Superstars are always going to be there but the nature of the superstars is going to be very different from the early ones. There are going to be way too many of them now with one in cinemas, one on OTT, one on YouTube, social media superstars and so on. It is great to see that people have the appetite to consume the contents that are being offered to them every hour.”

Further in the course of the interview, Manoj Bajpayee said his work has never been affected by a typecast “because I have made it very clear with my choices of films that I am going to do, what I want to do as an actor.”

“I have taken up work that attracts me and pushes me to do well. My audience also expects me to be that way. My brand image as such has never been affected. In fact, this is my brand image now where people know that they cannot put me in any box. I am very happy with that kind of expectation,” the actor said.

Dealing with the issues of stress, depression and the anxiety of success and apprehension of failure, Manoj Bajpayee said, “I have always been taking extra care of myself. I have been in this industry for so many years that I have realised you have to be fit, physically and mentally. You have to do the right things. You have to find the right people who can guide you in the right direction. You have to stop taking yourself or the outcome of your good work very seriously. It is stupidity. Earlier, every Friday there were new releases. Now, there is a new release every hour on OTT. You really cannot afford to take yourself and your work so seriously. You should just enjoy your work. That is the key to all happiness.”

On his learning experience while working for Telugu films like Happy, Prem Katha, Vedam and Puli, the actor said he had had a great time working in Telugu films and “I look back with a lot of fondness”.

“Be it Prem Katha with Ram Gopal Varma, or Happy with Allu Arjun and Genelia D’Souza or Puli with Pawan Kalyan or for that matter, I was also fortunate to be part of Vedam. I consider it to be my best in Telugu.
Learning the language has always been very difficult for me. I lack the knack for learning a new language and that is why I stayed away from all the offers. I believe if I am working in a regional language film, I should know the language, at least a little bit to express myself correctly,” Manoj Bajpayee said.

Then he dealt with fellow actors where he said, “I feel blessed that I worked in the times of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kay Kay Menon, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao and Vicky Kaushal. Nawaz is a superlative actor. I have been learning so much just by watching the fantastic work that he has been doing over the years. I have been very fond of Kay Kay. He has really worked hard on his craft. Whenever I watch his performances, there is always an eye looking at the things that he is doing with his craft. I love him as a person too.”

“Pankaj Tripathi’s emergence has given me a lot of happiness. I know where he comes from. Our state, language and family culture is the same. I relate to him quite a lot. His success and rise have only given me happiness. His journey has been inspiring,” Manoj Bajpayee said.

How do you look back at your glorious journey from Bandit Queen to The Family Man?

If I look at my journey from Bandit Queen till here, it has not been smooth. It has been a rollercoaster ride. I would never want any actor to be in my shoes. It has been a journey filled with mixed emotions. It has been a journey that has taught me about my profession, my craft and also a lot about life.

It is going to be a hell of a journey by the time I call it quits. I have seen so much in life, of the industry, of the society, of my own self. I have evolved with each failure and success. There is no regret, only a lot of learning.

Now that the euphoria of theatres is back, do you think the renewed focus on content and acting will fade away or it is an irreversible change?

The renewed focus on content and acting will never go away. It will only grow stronger. All genres and media of entertainment will co-exist. There will be a time when we will be out of this pandemic and that time theatres will do very well and so will OTT. OTT has become a habit, an addiction for people. They also know that there is a world out there which they can explore. OTT suits the audience both economically and creatively. But at the same time, getting out and catching up on a movie in a theatre, it has its charm. I feel that all the mediums will be impacting each other and influencing each other to do better. The focus on content I feel will never go away.

When was the first time you saw yourself on the silver screen? How was your experience?

The first time I saw myself on the silver screen was at a private screening of ‘Bandit Queen’. When that happened, I was mesmerised by the genius of Mr Shekhar Kapur. All the moments that I spent working in that film, it is all still etched in my memories. I was very happy to watch myself on the big screen, not as a person but for me as a character. I always try to find fault in my performance and recognise the places where I could have done better.

With the theatres back in business, is there any you are planning to go to and watch with your family?

There are quite a few films I have planned to watch and that include Hollywood films too. Whenever I get a break from my schedule, I will take my daughter with me for a movie. I have watched the trailer of Kabir Khan’s 83, I think I will go and watch that in the theatre.

What projects are you working on currently, what your audience can expect next?

I have been for Raam Reddy’s next. I am also doing a project for my favourite director, Abhishek Chaubey. Once I finish all of these, I will be getting into a by Rahul Chitlengya, who is an assistant to Mira Nair. I also have another film with Devashish Makhija. I have a choc-o-bloc schedule planned and there is hardly any time to breathe. But I am happy. It is quite challenging but I am really enjoying this part.

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