Manoj Bajpayee’s filmography is a good indicator of his unconventional and diverse choice of cinema. We caught up with the actor to debate over mainstream versus offbeat films, and talk about why his next is a commercial film.
You were once the face of offbeat cinema in India. Now, there’s certainly competition from Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Do you agree?
It’s great to have that kind of competition. They, like me, have struggled to cement their standing in this industry. They have waited for long to get that one good role to leave a mark. Our success, as well as younger actors like Rajkummar Rao’s performances, have given a boost to offbeat films. We have mutual admiration, and it’s a great time for good actors.
But unlike them, you have not played a lead role of late. Why is that the case?
I can only get the second best role in mainstream films. They (makers) always give the lead role to stars for obvious reasons. There should be more gutsy and confident directors to cast actors like me as protagonists in mainstream cinema. As for my kind of films, I will be playing the lead in more than five of my upcoming films.
Several offbeat films offer great content, but they don’t make much money. What can be done to change this?
I think more multiplexes and theatres should encourage offbeat films. Audiences are dying to watch good content and performances. Also, unfortunately, people have got used to extensive promotions, which small-budget films cannot afford. Social media is helpful for such films to create awareness.
At this phase of your career, are you interested in exploring more mainstream cinema?
I had never been and will never be interested in doing meaningless films. I always try to reinvent myself as an actor, and concept-based films give me that chance. I just can’t be part of regular, commercial films.
What interested you in a mainstream film like Tevar?
The script is realistic. The film has been shot in real locations. This is the kind of mainstream cinema I would love to do, where scenes unfold in a very realistic manner. I always look for a good story in a film and this one offered it.
How was your experience of working with your young co-stars Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha?
Sonakshi is a star in her own right. Arjun is also doing well. They understand the film-making process since they have a film background. I was not as confident when I entered the industry.