Most Bollywood actors are politically correct during interviews. But Manoj Bajpayee, Aditi Sharma and Kay Kay Menon’s upfront style is refreshing. The actors exclusively talk to HT Café about their new film, Saat Uchakkey. While Manoj speaks about the existing divide between commercial and parallel cinema, a witty Kay Kay makes us laugh with his take on the same issue.
Manoj and Kay Kay, both of you garnered a huge fan following after Satya (1998) and Sarkar (2005), respectively. But that craze petered out. Why?
Kay Kay: I think it was our surnames…
Manoj: Apart from having those surnames, we have been working against the odds. Parallel cinema is still fighting to coexist in India. A large section of the audience goes to the theatres because of the hype [surrounding commercial films], and yet, they disapprove of such movies.
The media, too, is interested in writing about films that make Rs 100 crore- Rs 200 crore. We are not interested [in such projects]. Yes, at times, we are part of those movies because when we turn them down, we are offered a lot of money. But these are not films we believe in or relate to as actors. We don’t look down upon them either. We want to coexist.
Manoj, your movies Satya and Shool (1999), fell under both parallel and commercial cinema. The audience used to accept those movies. Do you think that has stopped now?
I don’t think the audience accepted such films. The audience have increased in numbers today, but the change is slow, and at times, discouraging.
Kay Kay, would you have a point of view on this?
We believe that peaceful coexistence isn’t a big thing to achieve in this country. As far as the so-called ‘change’ (that parallel cinema is being accepted by audiences) goes, we (Manoj and he) have been in the industry for over 20 years now. This change always threatened to come, but it never arrived. Now, we don’t want a pat on the back. We would rather get rewards than awards for it.
Manoj, while you were growing up, who did you admire as an actor?
Amitabh Bachchan. No one can beat him. Mr Bachchan has inspired me and so many of us when we were growing up. We could not think of cinema without him. If you ask me, he’s the only example of a “star-actor”.
Kay Kay, your close-up scene in Sarkar was amazing…
After that scene, Mr Bachchan called me, and said, “KK, it is the best close-up I have ever seen. I told him, “I have got my reward.” I hold him in great regard.
Aditi, how was the experience of working with seasoned actors such as Manoj and Kay Kay?
It was fantastic. When people began asking me if I wanted to work with Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, it was these two who I actually wanted to work with. As an audience member, I like the kind of cinema they are part of.
What’s your opinion on the ban of Pakistani artistes working in India?
Kay Kay: In these times, it is essential for every citizen to be with the government, and help them. The government has taken a policy of isolation. So, we should make it easier for them. It is not that we feel negatively for the artistes from Pakistan. But these are different times, and whatever love and respect we have for them, we shall keep it in a fixed deposit box for the time being. Once things are settled, we will give back [the love] to them, with interest.
But, at the moment, let us be one as countrymen and not squabble about these issues. Secondly, to those people who say artistes or sportspersons should not express their opinion about the controversy, fir bachaa kaun (then who is left), the soldier? That soldier is not my servant. It’s because of them that I am able to express my art. Let us not devalue their contribution to our own existence.
Are you open to working in Hollywood?
Manoj: Hollywood was never part of my dream. If a good role comes my way, I am open to doing it.
Kay Kay: I can speak all kinds of English. And I think I look universal as well. So, for me to go to Hollywood and play a Pakistani or a Sri Lankan doesn’t matter. I don’t know why we are always taken in as apologies everywhere.
Your next film is a humorous thriller, which can be a tricky genre to pull off…
Kay Kay: Unfortunately, Manoj and I are blessed. We find ourselves in such tricky situations, and we deliver. Not that we get enough accolades for doing such movies, or enough audiences for it.