I’m a modern-day Duryodhan in Raajneeti: Manoj Bajpai | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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I’m a modern-day Duryodhan in Raajneeti: Manoj Bajpai

Creativity has no deadline and for me filmmaking is serious business.

entertainment Updated: Apr 12, 2010 18:59 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Actor Manoj Bajpai talks about the character he is playing in Raajneeti. He says, he is a suave, sophisticated guy from a rich, powerful, feudal family who is politically ambitious.

Manoj BajpaiBuzz is that you’re all set to produce and direct your own films?

I’m surprised and amused at how one stray comment can incite a flood of congratulatory phone calls. All I said was that apart from acting, if there is something I’d like to do, then, it would be to make the kind of movies I’d want to make. But for that I need a big moneybag. I’m on the lookout for a financier who shares my vision of cinema.

I have no idea when I’ll stumble upon him, but I’m in no hurry. Creativity has no deadline and for me filmmaking is serious business. It is not just about making a fast buck, but about your passion. Inshallah (God willing), some day I’ll make my movie! But till then, I have three films to look forward to.

One of them would definitely be Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti, right?
Right. Already my ‘look’ in it, is drawing plenty of appreciation. Prakashji (director Prakash Jha) and I discussed it over six-seven meetings before finally fixing it. The film is a family saga with no heroes or villains. They are just ordinary people with shades of grey.

The character I’m playing is a suave, sophisticated guy from a rich, powerful, feudal family who is politically ambitious. He’s somewhat larger-than-life, yet believable. That explains the hairstyle, the somewhat menacing eyes and the thakur mouchi(moustache). (Smiles) That moustache is partly my own and partly done up. I’ve been told it works well.

In this modern-day Mahabharat your character would be…
Duryodhan. People believe him to be the bad guy and the reason for the epic battle. But that’s not true. Everyone fought for what they believed was their Dhrama… the truth. So did Duryodhan. It is only because Krishna was on the side of the Pandavas, that we equate them with what was right, and the Kauravas, with all that went wrong.

Is there a vastraharan scene too?
(Chuckles) No, there isn’t.

What are the other two films?
There’s the political drama called Chittagong Uprising, in which I play Surya Sen and a small, humourous film, Dus Tola, in which you’ll see me as a goldsmith at work for the first time on screen.You’re still best remembered as Bhiku Mhatre. In the 12 years since, there hasn’t been another role that has matched Satya.

That’s unfair! A year after Satya (1998) I made Shool (1999) and it was one of Hindi cinema’s best cop films. There was also Kaun?(1999), Road (2002), Aks (2001) and Pinjar (2003). May be some of them, like Kaun? that was shot entirely in one house, didn’t work commercially in the era of single screen theatres. But in the years since, they have been accepted as milestones too.

Pinjar that bagged me my second National Award, is in the class 100 list. Zubeida (2001) proved that Bhiku Mhatre could make a suave and romantic prince too.But I’ll always be grateful to Satya that gave me life and with its screenplay, direction and performances, changed the course of Indian cinema. How many actors can claim to have even one cult film in their filmography?

‘I’ve been offered big money to join political rallies’

Every time there is an election, one or the other political party has offered me a ticket. I’ve also been offered big money to join rallies. But so far, I’ve never campaigned for anyone, lured neither by friendship nor monetary incentive. Politics demands a different mind set. I’m not Prakash Jha. In the four months between the first and second schedule of Raajneeti, he went and contested the elections from Bihar as an independent candidate, then came back and continued with the film without a break.

Whoa!I see my country slowly taking a leap forward. I see some encouraging improvements in my home state since Nitish Kumar took over as Chief Minister. But there’s still a lot to be done in Bihar in terms of infrastructure, tourism and the basic day-to-day safety of its people. To borrow a line from James Bond, “Never say never” so I’m not completely dismissing the prospect of joining politics. But for the moment, I’m just praying that my on-screen Raajneeti works so I get more great roles.

‘I had to put on about eight kilos for Dus Tola'

To play the character of the goldsmith with chubby cheeks in Dus Tola, I had to put on about eight kgs. Just before I signed the film, I had lost weight with much difficulty and then I had to pile on the kilos again. Not just my body, but my body language was also changed to bring to life this lovable simpleton in this light-hearted comedy. I’m definitely happy that the film gave a new dimension to my ability as an actor, but I’m unhappy about all the extra flab that has resulted me in having to go on a diet again.

Chittagong Uprising vs Khele Hum Jee Jaan Sey

For one, I’m told their film is based on a book (Manini Chatterjee’s Do Or Die) while our film directed by Los Angeles based filmamker Bedabrta Pain, is inspired by a memoir. We worked with a limited budget and despite having many unit members from LA, it can in no way match up to Ashutosh’s magnum opus.

In fact, even as an actor, I doubt I can match up to the magnetism and patriotism of the great Masterda who lead the ChittagongUprising. All I can hope to do is bring on the screen, Surya Sen’s passion to make India a free country. For once, I didn’t have to work on a get-up. The director wanted me to look exactly the way I am. Guess, there is some similarity after all.