Take Manoj Bajpayee’s name and prolific performances in films such as Satya (1998), Pinjar (2003) and Raajneeti (2010), among others, instantly come to mind. More recently, even though his last release, Tevar, failed to set the cash registers ringing, there was no dearth of praise for the actor.
The National Award winner talks to us about his wishes, regrets and resolves.
You were appreciated for your performance in Tevar.
Yes, my work was appreciated. I’m a little sad as the film didn’t do well. But nonetheless, I have been bombarded with calls. I worked very hard on the performance and it is paying off. Many have said that it is my best performance till date. I feel grateful to my director, Amit Sharma, who insisted on me being part of the film and waited for two months for my nod.
Awards season is on presently. Do you believe in these awards?
I don’t like the way they are done. I don’t agree with their winners. I attend awards shows because I get a chance to wear a suit. I look at them as a celebration of films. I go only when I’m nominated.
Do you enjoy playing negative characters?
You give me a positive role, and I will find something negative in it; you give me something negative, and I will find something positive in it. For me, no character is completely black or white.
You are considered an actor, but did you ever dream of becoming a star?
I’m not a huge star, and I’m not paid exorbitant amounts of money. So, my job as an actor, is to experiment with roles that are offered to me. I was here to do the kinds of films I have done…Becoming a star means becoming powerful. The kind of films I have done, I wanted those films to be my power. I want the power of a star, power to make projects happen, sell my film, get my films to release, and get the kind of publicity I want. But I could never see myself as a mainstream hero. So, whatever I have done is what I’m capable of. I never went for action or dance, so how could I think of becoming a hero?
Have you ever done a film purely for financial reasons?
I have done a few, and I have regretted doing them. I used to have sleepless nights thinking about how I could do those movies, but when there is a financial crunch, many things need to be taken care of. Now I have made a resolve; if I ever have to do that (sign films for financial reasons) again, I won’t regret doing them. Till then, let me enjoy the luxury of being able to choose films… as it is, money is not coming in huge numbers. If the budget of the film is good, I charge money and if the makers don’t give me what I charge, then I don’t do the film.
Is your wife, Shabana, going to make a comeback to films?
Yes, once an actor, always an actor. So, as and when she feels that I can take care of our kid, she will do a film.