Truly, I just have to say something, anything ABC or XYZ and he lion-roars with laughter. Which means either I am wretchedly clownish (ulp, don’t let any A or B hear that) or he has a super sense of humour.
I’ve known the natural-born actor Manoj Bajpai for over 10 years. Incidentally, he just completed a decade of his Bhikhu Mhatre role in Satya but didn’t party to bring in that sweet, Modak moment. Instead he was jetting between Mumbai Lokhandwala and Chennai to South Africa and Bangkok. And he’s back on the posters-promos-hoardings for the upcoming Jugaad.
Meanwhile, I can see that if there’s one couple which is made for each other as sea waves are to a shore, it’s Mr Manoj Bajpai and biwi Shabana Raza urf Neha. I haven’t been to their lovingly appointed home yet.. simply because it takes longer nowadays to travel to the ‘burbs than to catch up with bhoole bisre saathi.. suddenly of all places in Cape Town.
He laughs heartedly on seeing me shuffle into his suite, “YOU HERE!” he ha-has. Get serious, buds, I scowl, I have this quiver of questions for you.
But seriously. Neither of us laughs — we laugh helluva lot in the course of this q and ha ha (most of it off-record, statements which I shall reserve for my Bollywood Busted book one fine day). Till then here are neither veg nor non-veg.. but eggetarian eggcerpts:
Oi Manoj saab, this is a shaandar suite.. big hero ban gaya kya?
Hahhhhahhha. You shouldn’t be asking me such a question. I’ve always got hero roles.. but those of a strong character actor since the beginning. Now if the film industry hasn’t done justice to its character actors — Motilal, Balraj Sahni,
Sanjeev Kumar, Naseer saab, Om Puri and Paresh (Rawal) what can I say? These are actors who are at par with the best talent in the world.
I started off as a supporting actor in Tamanna and then Bandit Queen and then there was Satya which doesn’t happen to an actor every day. Kaun, Shool, Zubeidaa, Aks, 1971, Swami followed.. now Jugaad should release soon. I did them on my own terms.. why are you looking funnily at me like that? Ha ha!
I’m not, it’s just my face. Okay tell me about a film you didn’t do on your own terms?
Bewafaa, I was told something and something else happened.
You didn’t want to bash up its
director Dharmesh Darshan?
Ha, ha, no, I didn’t get physical, I just distanced myself from the film. I had been promised a good amount of money by the producer (Boney Kapoor).. so I’m partly to blame for taking it on. Once you’ve completed your job they don’t give a damn.
Then there was Depak Tijori’s Fareb which could have been
handled better. And 1971, which I’m really proud about, wasn’t released properly.
Makrand Deshpande’s Hannan has been ready since three years. Rajiv Virani’s Whisperers, a
psychological thriller, with Rahul Bose and Return to Rajapur by
Nanda Anand still have to come around. All this makes me very
restless.. anyway I’ve been like that since my childhood.
Do you see any other restless acting talent around you today?
So many. Like Kumud Mishra. And Vivek Mishra and Manav Kaul who are also writers.
Now you’re in Acid Factory which means you’ve leapt over from one Factory to another.
Pleeeeeease Khhaaaaalid bhai. I was out of the earlier Factory by the time it was formed. (Pause) Yes I can read your eyes, I didn’t want to become a slave to a master
(Ram Gopal Varma).
There was a time when I would have done anything for that man.. but because of the sick manner in which he started talking to me, nine years of knowing him went down the toilet.
Would you ever say hello to this slave master?
How much were you paid for Satya?
Mr Varma never ever paid me or anyone well. With him, it’s always give, give, give.
Ouch that sounds so Antara Mali-Nisha Kothari types.
Noooooooooooooooo, don’t even say that. Please, ha ha ha ha ha.
Tell me what on earth were you doing in Money Hai to Honey Hai?
Whatever you may say, I loved the experience. Initially, Ganesh Acharya was apprehensive that I could pull off the role.
Was your role cut?
Six of my scenes were cut —
I only hear such things, I can’t verify them. I had a great time working with him. You know what Khalid bhai.. I’ve done a collection of films I can be proud of. Now, I feel I deserve some money.. hopefully still without making any compromises.
Hmmm, I heard that David Dhawan might cast you.
Why the hmmm? He met me
recently but hasn’t got back. I’ll be fantastic in his movie, I know that. See, it all depends on your perceptions. I think I’m the best-looking man in the world.. in my eyes. After all, who is to give me the definition of good looking?
Not me, not me..
Really why should Lord Ram be
portrayed as muscular? We think of Lord Krishna and him the way they are portrayed in calendars and TV serials. They could be portrayed as more real. In fact, I have dubbed for the voice of Lord Ram in an
animation movie called Maya. They said my voice had the therav.
Does losing out on Rang de Basanti still rankle?
Now I’ll go hmmmmm. Maybe yes, I was to do Aamir Khan’s role, I was even involved at the scriptwriting stage but when UTV stepped in as producers everything changed. I only wish Rakeysh Mehra had had the courtesy to inform me.. chalo theekh hai. Similarly Mr Varma got Nana Patekar into Ab Tak Chhapan even without informing me over the phone. It just takes a rupee or two to make a phone call.
On landline. I believe several of your scenes in Aks were also cut?
Khhhhalid, ha ha tu bhi.. jaane bhi de. All that matters is that my
performance is still remembered.
How come Yash Raj has never repeated you after Veer-Zaara?
You ring up Yashji and ask him.
I don’t have a clue.
And finally, would you recommend marriage?
Yes, yes, yes. Hundred per cent. If it weren’t for Shabana, I would have still been drifting around. I wouldn’t have had a house to call my own. I would have just been living out of half a room. Bachelors don’t know what they’re missing.. (ha ha ha.. doubling over), present company excluded. Khalid bhai, you should get married..
To whom? Nisha Kothari?
Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! (Calling out to a faraway room)
Shabana, did you hear what he said?