MANOJ BAJPAYEE TALKS ABOUT HIS DEBUT WEB SERIES AND HOW HE CHOOSES SCRIPTS
by ASJAD NAZIR
ACCLAIMED actor Manoj Bajpayee has lit up the big screen with unforgettable performances that have received universal acclaim and now the versatile movie star has stepped into a whole new space with a starring role in web series The Family Man.
He plays the lead role in the 10-part drama about a top-secret agent trying to balance home life with an all-action career he has to hide from his family.
Directed by filmmaking duo Raj & DK, the series recently premiered on Amazon Prime and looks like being one of the most unique series produced in India.
Eastern Eye caught up with Manoj to find out more.
You are very much in demand, is there one thing you look for when selecting a project?
I don’t think any actor can put their finger on one theory or principle by which they select a script or role. There are so many things attached to it; when you are reading a script it has to engage you as an audience first, but also as a creative person who knows their craft of performance or filmmaking. On top of everything, it has to be very organic when selecting a project.
What do you mean?
What happens is that when I have finished reading only, let’s say the first 30 or 40 pages, I know that I am going to do this script, provided it doesn’t let you down in the second half, which rarely happens when the opening is that good. There are other times when I read a script for 20-25 pages and just put it down. I don’t waste my time or energy on reading ahead because I can sense it is not working. So it is a mix of things; it’s practical, organic and everything coming together when selecting a script.
What did you like about the new Amazon series The Family Man?
It is a new space for me and one that I was apprehensive about getting into because of the clutter, which I could see on every web platform, so somewhere I felt that if I am getting into it, it has to be unique. It has to be something that has not been done before or available on any other platform. So from the 20-25 minute synopsis (directors) Raj & DK had given to me, I decided I am going to be part of it. They are credible directors and proved their mettle. So it has that uniqueness and how relatable it was.
Tell us more about the relatable aspects of The Family Man?
The story is not just about the protagonist Srikant, but also of all the people worldwide struggling to keep a balance between their job and family, which are both equally demanding. So to find that balance and to satisfy the sectors are very difficult. But this is what a common person does and is trying to do all the time. That is what happens.
Could you relate to this on a personal level because you have to balance a very demanding job with family?
I am a married family man and a working person. This is not just relatable to the man, but also to women who balance work with family and are the only earning person in the family. These are two demanding areas we are talking about, so it is about being available to both sides and making everyone happy with your presence and duty. Each of us is struggling with that.
Tell us about your character?
His name is Srikant Tiwari. The name itself suggests he is not from an urban class society and is from a small town area. He comes from a cultural background and is someone who is always in touch with his entire family. He is from a small town in north India. He doesn’t like to disappoint or offend anybody. He is married to a south Indian and she is from a completely different culture. So there is a cultural clash going on with the wife, who is a working lady.
What about your character’s bond with his children?
He has two small children and they go to a school that has a completely different culture from their parents. So there are lots of clashes happening in the family. But he is a very calm, composed and modern-thinking person. He is a modern father and understanding. He treats his children like friends, and they take him for granted, but he knows how to listen and respond to them.
This is isn’t the first time you have played a super spy…
A spy, agent or any other job, is irrelevant for me. I look at the person who is doing that job. As an actor, one has to focus on the character, so the job does become irrelevant in some sense. The character is not about the job, but where he comes from and what makes him choose this job. (My character) Srikant is passionate about his job and can’t think about any other occupation. He eats, sleeps, drinks and loves the job he is doing. He is so sharp and celebrated in his department. But he is a usual unassuming middle-class guy.
Is he an action man?
(Laughs) He is no James Bond. Everything James Bond is Srikant Tiwari is not, but he does everything James Bond does. There are no girls around him or fantastic high-tech gadgets in his hand. Looking at him in trouble and the way he deals with it, you crack up because you know that this is so real. So Srikant Tiwari represents all of us, who have to deal with family and a job on a day-to-day basis.
You are known for playing grey-shaded characters, but this one seems to be a totally good guy?
There are grey shades to him. Even when there are no grey shades to a character, I love to find some. There can’t be a good guy without those grey shades. (Laughs) If you ask my wife, she will definitely tell you about the grey shades of Manoj Bajpayee. So there are grey shades in each and every one of us. We have to have an open mind and a sharp eye to look at ourselves. A good guy without grey shades is boring and of no interest.
How does acting in serial compare to movies?
It is very hard to work across three months where we start at 7 am every day and finish at 7 pm. You are shooting so many scenes from the 10 episodes, so should know all the episodes backwards. You should have complete command over the characterisation and scenes, and have the ability to improvise when needed. So, it is very challenging mentally and physically. There are a lot of advantages too. There is ample time to explore the character. You know if you are doing something great, but it’s lengthy, the director will keep it because he can afford to.
What do you mean?
Sometimes on films, they will cut a pause that is so essential and amazing because you are limited by length. So, that way, it is a luxury and an advantage. But it is very challenging, so you need to be mentally and physically healthy, and completely prepared.
You are very hardworking, tell us what drives you?
My romance with acting is non-stop and in some ways, everything else comes secondary in my life. I am just so much in love with this craft. This is what keeps me motivated and drives me forward all the time.
What other projects do you have on the way?
The project with (writer) Apurva (Asrani) is still in the writing stages and will happen next year. There are two or three other projects I can’t talk about yet, which are being set up. Mrs Serial Killer directed by Shirish Kunder is ready and that is a web film. The Family Man will be taking up a lot of time. My film Bhonsle has almost completed the festival circuit and will be released.
Tell us, why should we watch The Family Man?
There is nothing like this and it is so unique. I am a web-show viewer and keep consuming quite a lot, and know that there is nothing like this. This is relatable, realistic, entertaining and at times there are things that happen in those sequences that you have not seen before. There are great talents who you will get to see in it, also who you have not seen before.
The Family Man is available on Amazon Prime