Manoj Bajpayee, who has portrayed several memorable characters on screen over the years, tells us he has no desire to be a mainstream Bollywood hero. He loves playing negative roles, and wants to give small films a decent platform. The actor also hints at wife Shabana Raza (whose screen name is Neha) waiting for a good script to make her comeback on the big screen.
Your negative roles have won you the most acclaim. Have you ever tried to break that image and be a conventional Bollywood hero?
I don’t think there’s anything great about doing all positive characters. I am focusing on the unique characters we meet in our life. We don’t notice them, but when we put them on the big screen, they become intriguing. If you have fallen in love with Victor in Zubeidaa (2001), you have also loved Virendra Pratap Singh of Raajneeti (2010); and my characters from Special 26 (2013) or Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012). For me, this is an achievement. I find humans very endearing with all their positive and negative traits.
Do you think cinema, as an art, is suffering because of commercialism?
Yes, commercialism has badly affected cinema. Nonsense is accepted if it is promoted well, and good work is neglected because it is not promoted as extensively. Attracting an audience towards a film costs a lot of money, and small film-makers can’t afford this. So, with commerce being the driving factor, it’s very difficult for independent cinema to compete with mainstream films. The biggest example is the Mumbai Film Festival. It’s disheartening to see that such a big festival found it difficult to get sponsors for the recent edition.
What is the solution?
Independent cinema can only survive by sheer perseverance. We have to keep doing films with whatever little money is available — be it one, two or three crores. We have to keep trying to release the films in whatever capacity is possible. That’s what I’ve been doing all these years, and that’s what our next generation has to do as well.
Do you regret that you are still not positioned at par with the ‘stars’ of the film industry?
This has always been the case. When Dilip Kumar was there, Motilal was ignored. When Shammi Kapoor was there, Balraj Sahani was finding it hard to break through. When Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna were there, Nasseruddin Shah and Om Puri were having a tough time. I enjoy this struggle to make an impact at a time that I know is not conducive for an actor like me. I love the fight for survival.
Several actors are getting into production and direction. Have you ever thought on those lines?
I have just co-produced a film with Dinesh Pandey. It stars Tabu and me, and Annu Kapoor also has a pivotal role in the film. I am taking baby steps into production. But I can’t take up direction as I can’t stay awake at night (laughs).
Many actors are making their comebacks. Is your wife Shabana Raza (Neha) planning one as well?
Our child has become her priority. She keeps getting offers, but she is waiting for the right script to get motivated enough to leave Ava Nayla (daughter) behind and get into acting again.