Recipient of two National Film Awards, Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpayee is unfazed by the business of his movies. He just believes in doing his job well and moving on to the next projects. Last seen in a washout film called Missing (2018), the talented actor is now gearing up for his next Satyamev Jayate. Also starring John Abraham and debutante Aisha Sharma, the action entertainer enters screens on 15th August. Recently, our Mumbai correspondent, Mohnish Singh, met the maverick actor for a candid conversation on his new film, failure of his much-publicized espionage drama Aiyaary (2018) and much more.
How was it working with John Abraham in Satyamev Jayate?
John Abraham is a really good guy. We get along very well. It’s a nice thing when you have a great tuning with your co-stars as it makes the working experience all the better. Then you look forward to working with each other every day when you are shooting. Shooting is a tough task. If we are not getting along well, then it becomes quite torturous. But I have been quite lucky that most of the co-actors I worked with, we had a good time shooting with one other. Though with John, it was special because he comes from a very humble background. He is so rooted, so real. It makes the whole experience quite memorable.
In the last few films of yours, we have mostly seen you as an officer. Is it intentional?
You are not playing a uniform, you are playing the character. All of you are journalists, but your characters are not the same. All of you are different. All of you have something unique. I try to find the person. I try to find the character interesting. If it is interesting, what does uniform have to do with it? It is always about the character you are playing, which has to be interesting.
You usually play grey characters in films. Do they attract you more?
See, I personally feel that no human is a hero or a villain. All of us have our grey sides and that is why grey interests me because it’s more human, more life-like. Nobody is a hero and nobody is a villain. If there is a good guy, there is some kind of grey area which can always be questioned and this is what I try to look for in any character. This is what I have been trying all of these years. It is a difficult choice but at the end of the day, if you are making one character very positive, that means you are doing complete injustice to that character and if you are making one character too dark, too villainous that means you are not doing justice to the character.
What film in your career is the most memorable to you?
None of my films has given me the recognition that Satya (1998) had given me. After Satya, my only focus is the kind of films I want to do and not be tempted by the money that I was offered. I am so happy that later on because of my choices, space was created for many actors and they were recognized for their works.
Many tried to recreate films like Satya, but no one could ever do so. Why do you think they failed?
The film that has happened, it has happened. If you ask me, nobody can make Deewaar (1975). Deewaar is Deewaar. The film that has gained cult status, you can only copy it. You cannot create the same magic. You can’t create the same magic because when that original was made, the situation was completely different. When Satya was made, people couldn’t imagine that these types of characters will be written or performances can happen this way. So, those films, all the actors, that storytelling, the music, everything is something that was not happening during that time.
Would you ever like to do a biopic film again?
I would like to do a biopic of Aligarh (2016) kind or Budhia Singh (2016) kind, you know, talking about common people because they are my heroes. They go through the struggle and grind and they go through it every day. They are managing their lives. They are educating their children, surviving this difficult world. I would love to associate myself with those kinds of people.
Is there any kind of character that you would want to play or you have been wanting to play?
No there is nothing like that. What I thought, it happened. I did it all. Right now, I am looking for new directors, new kind of storytelling, and a script that hasn’t yet been made in India. That is something only a new director can bring. The old directors could not do that. A new director which has a hunger in him can do it. He will have a one of a kind script and I am looking for that.
Aiyaary did not do so well at the box office, but your acting was praised in all the reviews. How does that make you feel?
Aiyaary has been mistreated. Aiyaary is a great film and I am very proud of that film and it is one of the best performances of my life and one of the best works I took up. I think it is a superlative film and I am very happy with my performance in it. Whether a film doing well or not doing well is concerned, you are talking to an actor whose most of the films are flops and after 24 years, I am still here talking to you about my next film. So, my existence in this industry, my career proves that you just have to focus on your work and do a good job and you will be here whether your films make ₹100 crore or not, it does not matter.
Do you think as an actor the freedom of speech and expression has been hindered by the politics in filmmaking?
There is no politics. Politicians are only encouraged by these fringe communities. Like, an organisation has been made and to make it famous and themselves famous either I can do some good work and let the society know about what we can help with or I’ll start throwing stones at anybody who is passing by or at anything which is already famous like a celebrity. When a stone is thrown at somebody or something which is already celebrated, people will talk about it, an easy way to stardom. Then the politicians use that to gain popularity. It’s a chain, they feed off each other and we are the victims. Creativity is something that has always been hampered. It has always faced obstacles and yet creativity moves over and keeps moving on.