Interview

Manoj Bajpayee: Despite giving just 5 hits in 22 years, I am still working and gaining respect


The Aligarh actor gets candid about his career, his working style, his upcoming film, and some other issues.

Keyur Seta

Manoj Bajpayee is not known to mince words during media interactions. And the actor continued in the same vein while having a friendly chat with Cinestaan.com. In the course of the interview, he spoke about his upcoming film, Budhia Singh – Born To Run, his career, and a few other aspects of films and life. Excerpts from the conversation:

Tell us about your character in Budhia Singh – Born To Run.
I play Biranchi Das, who was Budhia’s coach. He was known for spotting talent among underprivileged and slum kids and giving them a platform and helping them to earn a living. He came across Budhia and after noticing his talent, he worked towards fostering it. But society and the authorities questioned him and snatched Budhia from him.

What kind of research did you undertake to play the character?
There is a lot of research being done on this story. Too many news channels have covered the story. There are 5-6 documentaries as well, which I have seen. In today’s era, you don’t need to visit Biranchi Das’s place to carry out research. Everything is available on the internet. 

Did you undergo any physical training since you are playing an athletics coach?
I have not developed six-pack abs. Neither did Biranchi Das have six packs. So, there was no rigorous training involved. Most of my preparation happens at the mental level, which is more difficult and can take months. I do run 8-10 kilometres daily. I have undergone training in judo. I don’t know judo though. 

How challenging was it to work with a kid?
There were no problems since he [Mayur Patole, who plays Budhia Singh in the film] is disciplined. I also took a workshop with him and lead actors. He was trained well. He is from the slum area in Pune. He became well-versed with the process of shooting and remembering lines. As he wasn’t from the middle class, he wasn’t aware how to be adamant to achieve something. He was grateful for whatever he got.

You are one actor who does not check his scene on the monitor after it is shot. Any reason?
Because there is a director out there. If he okays a scene, it is okay. The film belongs to him. Will the director okay a shot to mess up your work? If I keep looking at the monitor, I will be able to do just one scene per day because I am never satisfied with my work.

You have never been comfortable reading a Hindi script in English. 
Yes, I can read Hindi only in Hindi. I can’t understand Hindi [written] in English. I can never understand Hindi in Roman alphabets because I have studied in the Hindi medium. So, I am well-versed with reading and writing in Hindi. 

It was reported that you always used to behave like a coach in front of Mayur, even off camera.
Yes, I used to speak less in front of him. He is a kid, so he will copy your off-screen behaviour in front of the camera. 

Your films are coming on a regular basis this year.
No, no. It’s because Saat Uchakke was stuck with the CBFC [Central Board of Film Certification] and Traffic was delayed for some reason. So, these two films are releasing this year. Because of this, I am not able to start working on a new film as I am committed to promote these films. This year I haven’t signed any new film. Ideally, I am happy doing one or two films a year so that I can concentrate on them and give time for their promotions.

As you just said, you are not able to sign new films as you are busy with promotions. How do you look at this changing scenario? Do you like the previous era where there was hardly any promotion?
It is not about liking or disliking. Media is huge in today’s times. As media has increased, so have its demands with actors and producers. And we need to satisfy the media since it is only through them that we can make people aware about our films. So, it’s important to give importance and respect to the media.

As an actor, how do you look at hits and flops?
If you look at my 22-year career, there have hardly been five hits. I am an actor of flop films, not hit films. But I am still surviving and talking to you, which means I must have done something right. Most of my films are acclaimed films and acclaimed films are not hit films (laughs). 

Isn’t that sad?
Regardless of it being sad or not, I am still working. I am still doing films I wish to do. I have gained a lot of respect in the industry because of my work. It has never been sad for me.

A couple of films were recently leaked on the internet before their theatrical release. Do such things scare you?
We are scared during every stage – editing, sound recording, certification and promotions. We always fear someone might leak our hard work.

Do you generally give importance to fitness?
I have been running since 8-9 years. But these days I am not able to since I am not well at all. I miss running in the morning. Along with fitness, I also control my diet.

What happened to your health?
I have viral fever. It’s monsoon. Viral fever is spreading. Now you people end the interview else you guys will catch it too (laughs).