A man known for his realistic acting and an interesting filmography, Manoj Bajpayee, has yet another brilliant film in queue. He will soon be seen playing a gay professor in Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh that is based on a true story. The film has already left people spellbound and we couldn’t wait to know more about the actor’s take on it. In a chat with Pandolin, Manoj talks about his choice of roles and how acting is a matter of life and death for him.

Manoj Bajpayee

Manoj Bajpayee

Your film received a great reception at the 17th Jio MAMI Film Festival. How did you feel about it?

It’s always a feeling of happiness when your film is appreciated in all the festivals be it in India or abroad. It was appreciated at MAMI also and the response to all the screenings has been quite amazing and overwhelming for a film like Aligarh.  We wanted to give it all, because we knew we were making something completely out of the box. And it was a daring move on part of our director (Hansal Mehta) to decide to make this film. I completely believed in this subject and the character. And a film like this gives you a lot more conviction to go ahead and do more such films. It’s such a small film but has become big because of the people and the media.


How was your experience of working with Director Hansal Mehta?

He’s been my friends for the last 21 years. We started with a serial called ‘Kalakaar’. He has also done his first film, Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!!, with Tabu and me around 16-17 years back. So we have teamed up after a long time and I’m very thankful to him for giving me this role and thankful to Mukesh Chhabra (Casting Director) for suggesting my name.


When you first got the script of the film, did you take some time to think about it or instantly agree to be part of it?

I immediately wanted to do it. There was no second thought about it.

What was the kind of homework that you had to do for your role in Aligarh?

I worked with the assistant director, Asmit, for around 10-15 days. He’s a passionate theatre and  Marathi literature person and guided me a lot on Marathi literature and poetry. I wanted to know all of it. It took me around 15-20 days to slip into the character. I have done my own workshop with the assistant director and regularly keep attending workshops because that’s a part of my life.

With Director Hansal Mehta

With Director Hansal Mehta

And what was the most challenging part of this role?

The challenging part was to show the loneliness of an old, fragile man without saying the dialogues; through the body, in the eyes, in the walk and to show the pain of somebody who’s been deeply ostracized by society.

These days there seems to be a trend of biopics. Is that why you agreed to be part of this film?

No, not at all. I don’t believe that there is any such trend. It just happens that people have some stories and they sometimes happen at the same time. This film happened because the news (of the Professor) touched the director. Durontos story was lying with the director since a long time, but just recently found a producer. So he started working on it. So it’s all just a coincidence.


How was the experience of working with your co-actor Rajkummar Rao and the rest of the cast & crew?

Rajkummar is a fantastic person. He’s a very generous guy and that shows in his performance also. He’s always there to support you and that shows that he’s a very good actor. He’s going to go a long way because he has clarity about what he wants to do and what he wants to be known as. He wants to be known as a fine actor,  wants to have a great filmography and he is gradually moving in that direction. And Hansal Mehta is a friend of mine and has grown into such a fine, daring director and we need more directors like him. Apurva Asrani is the writer and editor who had edited Satya when he was 21. And now he has written this film. So in a way we have grown together in this industry. I have seen him becoming a man from a young boy and he’s become such a well – informed person and a fantastic writer.


And how much time did you’ll take to complete this movie?   

It’s a small film, so 40-45 days is what it takes to make a film like this.  It’s not a big budget film where it takes a lot of time to mount the film.

With Rajkummar Rao in a still from Aligarh

With Rajkummar Rao in a still from Aligarh

Tell us about response that you’ve received from people who have seen the film?

Everybody gets shaken up. They don’t talk immediately because they are still so much into the film. They are unable to respond as if something has hit them very badly. And that’s so good because the film stays with them and disturbs them for that long. So it makes people think about the character, the situation, the country that we’re living in, and the audience feel responsible for his (character’s) death.

What are the kind of roles/movies that generally interest you?

The kind of story that Aligarh has and the films that I have done, are the kind of films I like doing. They touch me and shake me and enthrall and excite me. They throw so many challenges at me as an actor. And these are the kind of stories I’d like to do.


Is there a message that you would like to give the audience about Aligarh?

All I would say is that don’t complain that good movies are not being made. They are getting made and there is Aligarh, which is waiting for you to come to the theatre and watch it and show it to your children. This is not only a great film that is made with a lot of passion but it’s a very important film for your children too, to be good citizens of this country.

We have always seen you in versatile and challenging roles. What upcoming roles can we expect?

There is Missing, which is a Neeraj Pandey production, starring Tabu and me. Then there is Saath Uchakkey, which is a humorous film but realistically made. The other film that is very close to me is Duronto. It is based the true story of a 5-year-old boy from Orissa who ran the marathon and his relationship with his coach.

– Dhruvanka Medhekar. Transcribed by Kiran Dave

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Manoj Bajpayee
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