Without much thinking, the two-time National award winner Manoj Bajpayee – he won the Best Supporting Actor award for Satya(1998) and a Special Jury award for Pinjar(2003), admits that Hindi cinema has evolved a lot and is a much more exciting place than before.
Films of different genres and scales are being acknowledged in this scenario, the only one who’s being spoilt for choice are the actors. “It is a very exciting time for an actor like me,” he smiles, adding, “I’m fortunate to be able to juggle between genres. If you have observed four of my last five releases — Gangs Of Wasseypur, Special 26, Shootout At Wadala and Satyagraha — you would have noticed how different they are from each other. For me, the high is that I got to indulge myself as an actor in all of them. More importantly, I won the required notices.”
Manoj Bajpayee also admits that he gets to choose the right script from about a dozen of offers which lie on his table, he remarks on how an actor is still never satisfied.
“I don’t know if it is only me. Sometimes, I think it’s the problem with all good actors. We are a cursed lot. Even when the going is fantastic, we’re never satisfied. We’re always thirsting to do something more. Creativity always hungers for higher standards,” he says.
The actor, who recently won many accolades for his superb portrayal of a dirty-politician in Satyagraha, where he played the antagonist opposite Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devagan, says, “Another thing that required change is the thinking. According to me, a good actor or a good technician should not be judged by the box office.”
Manoj further adds, “How can you take away the laurels from an award-winning sound recordist if his film doesn’t do numbers? Likewise, an actor’s job is to deliver satisfaction. Yet, people judge you by the numbers your films make. Box office is often beyond anyone’s control.”
The Box office may be the way it is, but what the actor gets a high from is the kind of respect he has come to enjoy. Be it working with the Hindi film icon, Amitabh Bachchan (Satyagraha), or the Gen-Now sweetheart, Ranbir Kapoor (Raajneeti), Manoj has got tremendous respect from his co-stars.
Says , “Well, it’s a mutual give and take. It’s good when we work as a unit and respect each other’s strengths. On one level, ours is a cut-throat industry. But on another level, it gives you more than you have bargained for by way of admiration. It is important not to be judgemental. It’s also imperative to give you co-actors their space and in return secure your own space.”
Of the current assignments under his kitty, Neeraj Pandey’s Saat Ucchake and Rajesh Pillai’s Traffic, Bajpayee says that the only thing common about both the films is that both have a fairly new cast. He says, “And this again, is a luxury for an actor like me. Not only can I choose the genre I want, I’m also happy to work without fear in these varied set-ups. Frankly, just like it is enriching to be able to combine your talent with that of other stalwarts or superstars, it is equally exciting to be able to work with rank newcomers. The novelty they bring to the table is like that of the hidden card, which may help you turn the game in your favour.”