Celebrity Interview: Manoj Bajpai


By Avanti Dixit,

Climbing the Bollywood ladder has been quite a bumpy journey for this talented actor. Manoj Bajpai was thrice rejected by the National School of Drama and gained his acting credentials through theatre. The actor who is better known for his intense performances didn’t have a great start and went almost unnoticed in films like Bandit Queen and Pooja Bhatt’s Tamanna. Then came the jackpot Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya in which his character of Bhiku Mhatre, still remembered as one of his best performances, left everyone awestruck.

But even with a highly acclaimed film like Satya the actor faced a lean period for a while. Now he is back to woo the audiences with his stunning performances again. Recently seen in a war epic 1971, he left critics mesmerized with his performance. Still on a high about the appreciation he says “It feels great. It was a complete team effort. It was one of the best films that I was a part of.” But even with rave reviews for his role in the film, the film as whole did not strike a chord with the audience. Was it because the film wasn’t promoted well or the war genre doesn’t work anymore? Manoj has the answers “The film was badly promoted and marketed. Also it was released during the World Cup. People weren’t even aware of the release. Till they don’t see it, they can’t say if they like it or not. But eventually the DVD sales had broken all records. But it’s sad that the release was poorly planned.”

After playing a prisoner of war in 1971 Manoj will be seen playing a Maharashtrian husband in choreographer turned director Ganesh Acharya’s film titled Swami. So what is it that the actor is experimenting with this time around? “He is a simple village guy who works in a jewellery shop. He is madly in love with his wife. His family starts with his wife and ends with her. He is somebody who doesn’t have any dreams or ambition. Whatever are his wife’s dreams are his dreams too.” Knowing that Ganesh is one of the finest choreographers we have today does this simple village guy get to shake a leg in the film “Not really. On the contrary he chose to make Swami where he doesn’t fall back on item songs that he is known for. There is music but it is mostly in the background. The music flows very well with the story. Nothing is put without any reason.” Probably not in this film but has the actor had an opportunity of dancing to the tunes of this renowned choreographer “Definitely! He has directed me for one or two songs. We have known each other from before. But I never thought that he would make such a fantastic film and he would cast his career as a director and not depend on the kind of things he is known for.” The film which also stars one of the finest actresses today Juhi Chawla will be seen playing Manoj’s wife. “She is very passionate about acting. She always wants to do her job well. And this kind of passion is really admirable.”

His next in the pipeline is one of the ten films from Sanjay Gupta’s Dus Kahaniyaan. His episode is titled Zahir and also stars Dia Mirza. “The film is directed by Sanjay Gupta. I can’t talk much about the film as it is a 15 minute film. If I tell you anything then I will give out the whole film. But my experience was great. We shot the film in 5-6 days.”

The actor is soon to be seen in an English film titled The Whisperers. This would be the actor’s first English film. So how difficult or easy was it to do an English film “It will be my first English film which will be released. I have already worked in one English film earlier called Return to Rajapur but it never got released. The director and producers were NRI and I didn’t get to hear much from them after completing the movie. For me language is not a problem at all. What is difficult is to act.” Now that he has cleared the facts, what is The Whisperers all about? “The film has won two awards at the Houston Film festival. The film is a psychological thriller. My character is of a rich person and his fall from the top. The film is directed by Rajiv Virani and stars Rahul Bose, Tara Sharma and Kim Sharma.”

Somehow we still don’t get to see the actor in a lot of out and out commercial Bollywood films. So is he quite choosy about the films that come his way? “Ask them to offer me a new kind of story. Till they don’t do it you will not find me in any of those mindless games.”

Satya was a film which brought Manoj into limelight. But somehow his relations with director Ram Gopal Varma got strained after a personal issue and he refused to work with the director anymore. His last film with Ramu being Road, does he ever plan to get back with the director. He is quick to answer “Not at all.”

What is happening to his long delayed film Paanchi “Paanchi is forgotten. It was seven years back. They kept running into some financial problems. I am through with that film.”

And finally after a lot of up and downs in his acting career does the actor plan to turn director someday “I don’t see it happening in the near future.”