Manoj Bajpayee was awarded the Padma Shri in this list of this year’s Republic Day honours. Because he has mostly got, or chose to do, unconventional films, Bajpayee has not won as many awards as he deserved to, but still has many memorable films to his credit. The actor, who was rejected by the National School of Drama, nevertheless, climbed the career ladder from theatre to TV and finally films, where he now can get a pick of roles.
Here’s a list of just five of his great, national or international award-winning roles:
Satya (1998): This Ram Gopal Varma film was the breakthrough that Bajpayee needed as he floundered in movies with insignificant bit parts. His played gangster Bhiku Mhatre, who becomes mentor to the film’s eponymous protagonist, but made the character his own—the cheerful but dangerous man drunk on his own power and invincibility, who famously asked, “Mumbai ka king kaun? And knew the answer was Bhiku Mhatre.
Shool (1999): This realistic cop drama was produced by Ram Gopal Varma and directed by E.Niwas. Set in lawless Bihar, the film had Bajpayee play a cop, the angry young Samar Pratap Singh, an honest man in a system that is rotten to the core. Even though he believes in upholding the law, he is forced to break it to punish an evil gangster-politician (Sayajee Shinde).
Pinjar (2003): In this Chandraprakash Dwivedi film based on an Amrita Pritam novel, Bajpayee plays Rashid, who kidnaps Puro (Urmila Matondkar) during the Partition, over a feud with her family. But genuinely loves her, so that when Puro gets a chance to return to India with her family, she chooses to stay in Pakistan as Hamida, with the kindly man she has come to love.
Aligarh (2015): In one of the finest performances by any actor in Indian cinema, in this Hansal Mehta film, Bajpayee played Professor Ramchandra Siras, whose life is blown apart by a callous sting operation that reveals his homosexuality. He is humiliated and suspended from his job as the university. He digs his heels in and fights in court for his dignity and the revocation of his suspension. He gets the support of a sympathetic reporter (Rajkummar Rao) who gives his story media attention.
Gali Guleiyan (2018): In Dipesh Jain’s film, Bajpayee played Khuddoos, a man trapped by his own fears, in the maze-like Chandni Chowk in old Delhi, and was a brilliant portrayal of a man’s mind slowly unraveling, unable to tell the difference between reality, illusion and memory.