“Our Craft Can’t Be Explained” says Manoj Bajpai
‘All roles are my favourite. I am very choosy about the kind of roles I do. That’s why I have made very few mistakes in my career and that too in the beginning. I have played each character with my full conviction’, asserts veteran actor Manoj Bajpai, the two times National Award winner, on choosing his favourite role for his films. Every role that he has done be it of Veerendra Pratap in ‘Rajneeti’, Rashid in ‘Pinjar’, Raghavan Ghatge in ‘Aks’, Sardar Khan in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ or Wasim Khan in ‘Special 26’, Manoj Bajpai cherishes them all. His last year release, Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur I & II’ won him accolades from audiences spread all across the world and even a National Award for the best actor. In a candid chit-chat with Pandolin, the actor gives his take on the awards, his films and philosophies.
Your role of Wasim Khan in ‘Special 26’ was liked by the audience. What was your instant reaction when you were offered the role by Neeraj Pandey?
I was completely blown seeing the way the script was written. No actor in his own rights could have said no to this role.
How was working with Neeraj Pandey? How did you prepare for the role?
I knew him from our struggling days. After ‘A Wednesday’, I got in touch with him again, asking for work. Three years later, he gave me this role.
As of preparations, Neeraj Pandey had done all the required research for the role in advance. So, we spent two – three days together discussing about the character. No workshop was involved. All the actors used to spend time with the director whenever they wanted. I also did my readings with Akshay Kumar.
What creative process do you follow to get into the skin of the character?
This can’t be explained in words. My life has been a journey, in which I have met many people and seen many lives. All my experiences are registered in my memory. So to prepare, I just need to pick out one or more characters from the memory fed in my brain’s hard disk and use that to create a new character. We are trained to do this. Out craft can’t be explained. You only know it by doing.
Are there any criteria you look for before signing a film?
It has to be a great role and a great script. A challenging role excites me. Of course, I also like to work with fantastic directors. Now, I want to work with Dibaker Banerjee, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Bhardwaj. They all are my friends and I keep calling them for work.
How do you perceive your journey?
I believe it has not started yet. I am yet to begin. Don’t know when it will happen. I feel very hungry for many more interesting roles. Not satisfied yet!
Is there any actor you look up to?
I only look up to their performances. Performances by Naseeruddin shah, Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro really inspire me. I was in awe of Amitabh Bachchan . I used to watch his movies countless times.
The fact that I can play so many different roles and convince the audience completely that I am that person.! I also enjoy the love and respect that we get for our work from our audiences.
How significant are the awards for you?
Awards mean a lot to me but I don’t take them seriously. I believe awards do not create actors but actors create awards. I am into acting because it’s my passion. Whether I get an award or not, I would never stop acting. I agree with Ethan Hawke’s quote that says ‘Awards create competition. They take away the creativity from your work.’ Today awards give more importance to only competitions that sap the healthy atmosphere out of our awards ceremony. And in India, on what basis these awards are given, nobody understands. Our awards should first work on their credibility because each award that is been given is questioned by the entire population including National award. Yet I would say it’s far more credible than the other existing awards.
It’s been 20 years since you have been a part of the Indian film industry. How do you think the film industry has evolved over these years?
Industry has changed drastically! During the era when ‘Bandit Queen’ was made, only Masala films existed. ‘Bandit Queen’ inspired Ram Gopal Verma to make ‘Satya’. ‘Satya’ gave new talents an inspiration and excited so many other directors like Anurag Kashyap and Dibarkar Banerjee to make films on different subjects. Now the new directors are making good movies in their own way and they are commercially successful too. When a film becomes a commercial success, producers start showing interest to invest money on a director’s vision. Multiplexes have also played a major role in the growth of the industry. Initially, people from the middle class did not go to the theaters but now they enjoy movies there. So yes, in these 20 years, everything has changed for better!
You started your career from television. How open are you to get back to the medium you started with?
Give me a good concept and good money; I am ready to do television. I am also planning to work with theaters I don’t know when it will happen but hopefully very soon. I am looking for a director and a script to do theater.