He has done a variety of roles and aced every single one of them - be it as a gangster in Satya or a literature-loving professor in Aligarh, Manoj Bajpayee swiftly steps into every role and owns it. With the Taapsee Pannu-starrer Naam Shabana lined up as his next release, the actor talks about the film, his movie choices, Bollywood’s run-ins with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the recent attacks on the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati and much more during a candit chat with Hindustan Times.
Directed by Shivam Nair, Naam Shabana is a spin-off of Akshay Kumar-starrer Baby and is set to hit the theatres on March 31.
What is your role in Naam Shabana?
I play Ranvir Singh, the chief of intelligence and the person who spots Shabana. He brings her into the agency and helps her become a spy.
Is it similar to your role in Special 26?
No, this is entirely different. Waseem (Manoj’s character from Neeraj Pandey’s Special 26) thought he was the most intelligent man but actually he was the biggest fool. He was too touchy about his family and was flustered each time he saw his wife without the dupatta. Ranvir Singh does not have any family. He is an unemotional man who is all about his job. In Naam Shabana, you won’t see me emoting at all. I have more than hundred lines in the film and I delivered these in a very matter-of-fact way. He’s absolutely unemotional when it comes to dealing with an enemy or even for that matter his own field agents. He doesn’t do favours to anybody and even if he does, he wants something in return.
What is the USP of Naam Shabana?
The film’s USP is certainly its story. The kind of content Neeraj provides is amazing and I’d love to be a part of it. His characters are based on complete research. They are not created in the thin air. The kind of stories he writes, I wish I could be part of each of his projects. This is the first time that India will see the story of making of a spy.
The Central Board of Film Certification has been facing a lot of criticism recently for stalling releases.
The censor board has always been unfair. There is nothing new here. They have been unfair ever since the board was made and there has always been a fight between the filmmakers and them. Their job is to only certify the film and not to censor or ban anything.
The recent attack on Padmavati sets was widely condemned. What do you think leads to such events?
The attack was disturbing. And it is not just Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s sets, such incidents are happening too frequently. And that is scary. The film is yet to be made, how do these people know if it will hurt their sentiments? Not one person among the attackers would have even read the script, forget those, even the spotboys on the sets of the film would not have read the script. We live in a democracy for God’s sake! We need to be more tolerant towards each other’s views.
We are officially a democratic country. But do you think, in reality, we are one?
Yes, I believe that aspect of our culture will not die. Despite all the chaos around us, I still have my faith in the people. In fact, the friction is actually necessary to keep the spirit of democracy alive. If everyone is on the same side and holds the same view, it will not be such a diverse culture as it is right now. Of course, we need to ensure that such discords are sorted in a legal manner. If people have objections to a book or a film, they have every right to express but not in a violent manner.
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