He has consciously stayed away from masala films and yet entertains us with his interesting choice of roles. In his upcoming film Traffic, the very versatile Manoj Bajpayee will don the hat of a police constable who plays a pivotal role in the film. In a chat with Pandolin, the multifaceted actor talks about his choice of roles, being part of content-driven cinema and more.

Manoj Bajpayee in Traffic

Manoj Bajpayee in Traffic

What drew you to this film?

The script, the story, the character and the director. These are four elements that are very important while signing a film. The director was new and he had already made the film in Malayalam. I didn’t know anything about the film and when I read about it I was completely taken aback by the narrative; the way he told the story of the city and the character was fantastic. I realized that I couldn’t think of anything different that I could do with the character and yet I decided to go ahead and be part of such a great film.

There are 4-5 characters in the film and they’re all equally important. I had a choice to let it go or be a part of the fantastic film. Today I’m happy with my decision because people are talking about this traffic constable though I don’t have any dialogues. I’m the person who’s driving the jeep and is the key person in taking the organ from one place to another. I always thought that very few people would talk about this role. But I was lucky that the director told the whole story through my eyes. So I become one of the most important characters in the film.


Its unfortunate that the director Rajesh Pillai is no more. How was your experience working with him?

It was great. I’ve been missing him every moment. It’s difficult to believe that he’s no more. He was only 40. He was somebody that I saw crying for not getting the right shot, just because the light was down and they couldn’t take the shot. And he felt that he had compromised his art. This is the kind of person that I was directed by and I feel lucky and fortunate about it. It’s sad that today he’s not there to talk about his perspective.

You’ve done several fantastic stories. Do you think that when you’re part of a film, it automatically raises the expectations from the film?

If it does then I’m very happy. It also keeps me on my toes and I should not be scared of it. Rather I take it as a compliment. I’m not a person who takes his choices very lightly. I try to put my best foot forward. Expectation is something that is bound to happen because I like to do different things all the time and that puts me under pressure to always choose something different. If my audience is getting a different experience every time, with every role that I do and every film that I choose, that is very good for me. And I will not take it for granted.

Is it a conscious decision to stay away from commercial films or would you like to be a part of them in the future?

My answer will always be no. I had too many opportunities to be a part of complete masala entertainers around 18 years back and I didn’t do it. Today we are making content-driven films.


At the trailer launch of Traffic

At the trailer launch of Traffic

You had mentioned that you would like to do one big film and 3-4 smaller projects that you believe in. Does it help in balancing your choices?

I’ve done films like Raajneeti and Aarakshan which were huge films. That is Mr.Prakash Jha’s way of making mainstream films. And it gives me market value for the distributors to be happy when they have to buy a small film of Manoj Bajpayee. It supports my films and makes an Aligarh possible. Otherwise we can’t make Aligarh with anybody and everybody. New filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap or Hansal Mehta think of taking Manoj Bajpayee. And I get a chance to work in content-driven and revolutionary films, which I love to be a part of.

Having done varied roles in your career, is there any specific role or genre that is still on your wish list?

Any actor should not stick to one specific kind of movie. Actors should not be morally judgemental about any kind of genre. I’ve always been rejecting masala films because there is nothing in them for an actor to be satisfied. It’s only meant to titillate the audience. Or entertain the audience in such a way that they feel that their money has come back to them. I’m not into that business. I’m into the business of storytelling. If you’re paying money to see a film, I am responsible to give you a unique kind of experience. My job is not to titillate you or give you sensational stuff. My job is to give you a good performance, tell you a great story and a new experience so that when you come out of the theatre, you feel satisfied.


You’ve worked with a plethora of great actors. Who are your favorite co-stars?

Tabu and Raveena Tandon are my favorite co-stars. Nawazuddin (Siddiqui, Actor) is a very dear friend of mine since theatre days. Rajkummar Rao is a fantastic human being and I enjoyed every bit of working with him in Aligarh.

Photo ofManoj Bajpai
Manoj Bajpai