‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012) almost did a ‘Satya’ for Manoj Bajpai. Not that there were any doubts about his powerhouse talent. It was just that his menacing, almost lovable, rogue Sardar Khan, once again put him back on track with the big group. He later followed it with ‘Special Chabbis’. Prakash Jha’s multi-starrer, ‘Satyagraha’ is his latest featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Arjun Rampal and Kareena Kapoor. This is his fourth outing with Jha, once again seeing him as a baddie. “I play an evil politician who provides comic relief too. Usually villains are one-shaded, mine comes with a lot of layers. I am happy to do something different every time. I have played my share of good guys.” Who can forget his sauve, crafty modern day Duryodhana in ‘Rajneeti’ (2011), the greedy Mithilesh Singh who propagates commercialisation of education in ‘Aarakshan’ (2012) or the Maoist leader in ‘Chakravyuh’ (2012)?
Me and Jha
The actor and Jha seem to share an on and off relationship. Reports suggested, he was miffed with his director for sidelining him from the promos of ‘Satyagraha’. Manoj rubbishes the rumours, adding, “We gel as we don’t get into each other’s business. He has faith in me, at times I deliver way beyond his expectations. It is as simple as that.” They also seem to share similar ideologies, having been part of so many socio-political dramas. He doesn’t deny it - “It’s obvious as I come from such a background. I have been attached to various aspects of society in some capacity, so I tend to lean towards such films.” The actor, by his own admission, is a recluse, and is happiest talking about cinema with his old Delhi theatre pals and shopping with his family. In fact, though he tweets regularly, seldom are they about his movies, but mostly about his lunches, long drives and everyday incidents. Currently shooting for the Hindi remake of the Malayalam ‘Traffic’ (essays Sreenivasan’s role), Manoj is a content actor, more than happy to experiment with genres and taking on roles that challenge the “bad guy” in him.
Big on multi-starrers
He seems to have found his space among ensemble films. Be it ‘Shootout at Wadala’ or ‘Satyagraha’, he’s managed to hold his own among the big names.
So what’s the best thing about being part of a multi-starrer? “I think it’s the easiest thing for an actor. The weight of the film is not on my shoulders and I have my space and time to explore and understand my character. You don’t need to worry about inside politics,” he laughs. However, what irks the actor of late is the “character actor” tag allotted to him.
“That is something that completely bewilders me. What the hell do you mean by character actor? You mean the rest don’t have character? (laughs).
I have played everything from a hero to a villain so why this tag? That’s like treating me as a second class citizen and is totally unacceptable. Maybe they are judging me by the colour of my skin and think I can’t be called a hero.”
He is wary of the current trend of movie marketing and confesses to finding it tough to go around saying “I am good” adding, “you look at the Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam actors, they don’t really do any promotion yet their films are big hits.” Though he made inroads in Telugu cinema (Kumaram Puli, Vedi), he is still hesitant about going all out with other languages. “I know Hindi, Bengali and a bit of Marathi but Telugu really scares me. You can’t get into the character unless you give your voice to it. ”