New Delhi: It has been 10 years since 'Pinjar' and Manoj Bajpayee still recalls how the film brought out his vulnerable side. Or how even after almost 15 years, not winning a National Award for 'Shool' pinches even though he lost to Mohanlal, a titan of Indian cinema.
In the second part of his interview (Read the first part here) Bajpayee talks passionately about the milestones in his career and the roles that made him the man he is today. He lists personal reasons for each of the films. He also talks about the man who taught most directors the art of making edgy cinema - a man forgotten by most and to whom most of today's filmmakers owe a sea of debt - Ram Gopal Varma.
"If you ask me why Bandit Queen was special to me, I'd tell you that it impacted my whole mind which was still in the process of growing up at that time. It got released in 94-95 and impacted the minds of all the wannabe directors like Neeraj (Pandey), Dibakar (Banerjee), Vishal (Bharadwaj), Imtiaz Ali and Tigmanshu who was part of the Bandit Queen team," he says.
"In fact Ram Gopal Varma could not bear the fact, and I'm telling you according to his confession, that somebody (in this case Shekhar Kapoor) is better than him. He came up with 'Satya' because he was having sleepless nights after seeing Bandit Queen. And that itself created another milestone," Bajpayee says.
"Satya according to me and by sheer confessions of some of the filmmakers who are ruling today, is the door which opened to new talent, new ideas, new directors and new definitions of entertainment," he says.
Once revered as an avant-garde filmmaker, it's immaterial to Bajpayee that Varma's films have been on a slippery decline since and the filmmaker has taken to social media to hit back at detractors.
"Ramu would never ignore anyone taking potshots at him or stop making films just because someone has said something, he's a veteran, and most of these guys should be very, very grateful to him," Bajpayee fiercely defends Varma who he says gave him the chance to play Bhiku Mhatre in 'Satya' that made him a star overnight.
"I have worked with Ramu till even 10 years ago and today if he offers me a role, I'll take it. He was instrumental in my growth as an actor. I owe Ramu something more than gratitude. Bhiku Mhatre was the time of single screens when I was not getting roles from any quarters. I was doing 'Swabhimaan' (popular television serial), and itsy bitsy roles. I was thinking of leaving Bombay and at that time the man offered me this role simply because he noticed me in 'Bandit Queen' when the entire country didn't. In those days no one knew how to appreciate a silent role, so yes, I owe him a lot," Bajpayee says.
"I was dating my wife (Neha) then, we hadn't married, her 'Kareeb' had just released and my 'Kaun' happened right after 'Satya' went into production. Then 'Shool' happened. 'Shool' kind of changed the perception about me that this guy is a one-film wonder and suddenly there was so much positivity around me. See, what happens is, every person is in a competitive world where people celebrate someone else's failure," he says.
"Shool kind of shocked me also, I knew that if I didn't get into character and don't live the character I won't be able to pull it off. For many months after 'Shool' I was disturbed, tortured mentally and bore the bruises the character had. I had to unwind myself to come out of it," he says.
'Kaun' actually got me lot of great reviews. It still is a classic thriller. But I noticed there was some insecurity in some faces surrounding me also, I wouldn't want to name anyone. Everyone was speculating whether this guy would last or not.
'Swabhimaan' was a big thing for me at that time because every month I was getting 15000-20000 rupees. At that point of time it was taking care of my auto fare and room rent. I used to have parties every day with all the fukra bachelors in Bombay (laughs).
This was a film which has given me a lot of respect and I would place it among the great 50 films in last 50 years. I feel 'Aks' is very difficult to recreate. But doing that character needed a kind of thought process. I asked the director 'what am I playing?' He simply said 'evil'.
"That was the second National Award. I felt very bad I didn't get it for 'Shool'. But that year competition was very tough. It was between me and Mohanlal. Mohanlal came up with such a fantastic performance and the jury told me I lost by one vote. I feel very happy I lost to Mohanlal," Bajpayee reminisces.
Gangs of Wasseypur
"There is a reason why I put Sardar Khan ahead of all my work. You have to see the film closely - in every second or third scene I'm aging. There's not a hint of goodness in this man and you still come out of theatre loving Sardar Khan and you don't know why. That's the quality of the character. My challenge was to make the audience love Sardar Khan. Tigmanshu told me 'I could not help but love this guy' and that was the biggest achievement of Manoj Bajpayee."
"I was going through this complete messed up phase in my career with a messed up physical health. I did Madhur Bhandarkar's 'Jail' and that also that didn't work. So every day every choice was getting worse. 'Rajneeti' came at that time and it pumped up people's imagination. You have to be part of a successful film, it's really as simple as that. A successful film is not necessarily an acclaimed film. Nawaz wouldn't have happened had 'Wasseypur' not worked."
"Neeraj Pandey has already selected me for 'Special 26' even before 'Gangs of Wasseypur' happened," he says. Bajpayee played the role of an upright CBI officer Waseem Khan who gets hoodwinked by a gang of con artistes.
I believe in all my films without any bias. I have four to five films which are like black spots in my life. Whenever they are showing on TV I don't know where to look. But those mistakes will happen again.
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