Be it the caring husband in Pinjar, a villainous character in Aks or the slighted heir in Rajneeti, Manoj Bajpayee never fails to impact the film’s plot with his portrayal of characters with grey shades. Sandeep Hattangadi speaks to the earthy actor about his newest role in Aarakshan.
What is your character all about?
I play Professor Mithilesh Singh, who represents the rampant commercialization of our education process. He is an out and out dark character unlike ‘Rajneeti’. The film focuses on the clash of ideology between mine and Amitabh Bachchan’s character (a well meaning college principle) who espouses equal opportunities for all.
What is your take on the dark side of human nature?
There is evil in everybody, negativity makes life interesting. If everything was hunky dory, wouldn’t life be boring? I have been very lucky to get to essay different shades of dark i.e. ‘Aks’ and now ‘Aarakshan’.
How was the experience of working with Amitabh again after Aks?
I am much more relaxed in his presence now, we have met many times after Ak’s release. The credit goes to him as he makes you comfortable. We would rehearse a scene as many as 10 times to simply get it right. Mr Bachchan made my day when he called me a natural actor during a recent press interaction.
Can you describe your character’s looks?
I sport slightly grey hair and have an arrogant smile. This look of mid-forties old character was specially tested by Prakash ji( Producer-director Prakash Jha). He was adamant about the same. I have no clue, if it is based on some real life person. He apparently has announced a crore rupee reward for anybody who can find out the truth about the same.
Has the success of ‘Rajneeti’ changed things for you?
I will continue to do good films. I sincerely believe that one cannot rest on past laurels for nobody will remember it, not even your own family. I have given best here and hope the audience likes it once more.
But ‘Dus Tolah’ flopped?
It was my best film till date but sadly it did not get the required support of distributors and marketing machinery.
What else do you have in the pipeline?
I have Bedabrato Paine’s directed ‘Chittagong’, which is based on the famous Chittagong conspiracy case. Then there is Anurag Kashyap's coal mafia film, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. This film is in two parts and I am mostly in the first part. And lastly there’s Vikram Bhatt's untitled film. I can’t say much about it, except that I have a grey character in the film.
But ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se’, also based on the Chittagong armoury raid had flopped at the Box Office?
I can only comment about my film, Chittagong is a master piece and I hope it is distributed properly so that more people get a chance to watch it. As for success for failure, let’s face it what works and what does not at the BO (Box Office) is a secret which even industry biggies have not been able to decipher.
How is fatherhood treating you?
It’s been six months since Ava Nayla came into mine and Neha’s life. I am thoroughly enjoying parenthood in life, it makes you much more grounded and focused on work as you work towards giving your child a more secure future. Nowadays, I even try to wrap my work early so I can spend more time with family.
Is ‘Aarakshan’ pro or anti reservation?
Why don’t you wait for 12th August (release date) to find out for yourself? All I will say is that it is a completely entertaining issue based film.
What’s your personal take on the crisis in the education sector?
I believe that capitation fees and private institutes can charges obscene amounts of money because there is a demand for it. Hence, I have tried to make my character as human as possible as he represents a truth which does exist.
Can films lead to a social revolution?
No, at best they can help create a powerful debate about various pressing issues.