Manoj Bajpayee has mainly worked in films with strong scripts and is known for his nuanced acting. He was recently named the HT Most Stylish Man of Substance, and when asked about the award, he laughs, “Suddenly, I felt too intelligent.” On a more serious note, he says, “The endeavour is to gain knowledge and try to be worthy of the honour. You shouldn’t get weighed down by awards. You should try to live up to expectations; [meet] your own [expectations] more than anyone else’s.”
Ask Manoj if he has ever been enticed by the money being offered for a project even when he was not entirely satisfied with the content, and he says, “Money has never been my reason for choosing a film. It is important when I am offered a mainstream film by people who have the budget to pay me. If they don’t agree to pay me then I steer clear.
I’ve made a few mistakes, but those were not because of greed for money. They were either my own shortcomings, or I thought the film would work out, but somehow the directors or the circumstance didn’t seem right.”
When asked if the reach or the trappings of commercial films ever lured him, Manoj says, “If I’ve done two or three really bad films, I didn’t do them for money. I had done them for [the sake of] relations. If I have to do a mainstream film and I am convinced with the script, they have to pay me, because they have the budget. But if they have to pay me the same amount that the low-budget films are offering, I’d rather do the small films that are great in content.”
Lately, there has been talk about nepotism in B-Town. Has Manoj ever come across it? “I don’t accept any kind of nepotism. I mind my own business. I don’t think anyone would dare to do that. Maybe [the look on] my face says ‘he will not take any bull***t’. Nepotism exists in every sphere of society,” he says.
Manoj Bajpayee was recently seen on screen in the movie, Naam Shabana. Talking about his association with the film’s writer and producer Neeraj Pandey, he says, “I have immense respect for his knowledge, and the way he writes (screenplays). We admire each other. As a director and writer, he manages to find a unique genre which is neither art-house nor commercial. It is somewhere in between, where the content is the king, and the characters are amazingly etched out and based on research. His films have a wide reach because they have drama and pace. These are the things that have always fascinated me,” says Manoj.
He further adds, “Neeraj is younger to me, but I have learnt a lot of things from him such as how to balance your life. He is very meticulous and professional in his work. He expects the same kind of professionalism from others.”
The actor will next be seen in Sarkar 3, and Love Sonia.