No pretence, no clichés, no baggage of mincing words. Manoj Bajpai is about pure unadulterated performance.
Known for his fluency in Hindi, he is all for the correct usage of the language and feels sad that there is a decline in Hindi medium schools across India and many of the schools that exist are for children from deprived backgrounds. Hindi cinema however he feels is a good medium to keep the language alive. “It is the Hindi film industry that gives us all our bread and butter but the language is under threat,” he says adding that ‘soon it will be the 2nd language of the states in which it originates from.’ “But India speaks Hinglish today, so the films too depict the same,” he adds.
What kinds of role appeal to him? Has it to do with the script, character, the length of his own role, the production house or the story? “Everything! If all these aspects are covered, there is a foundation for a good film,” he states. Does he have a particular leaning towards the powerful characters? “Most characters come to me, I don’t choose them. I thank my directors for giving me roles that have so much meat in them and that allows for much space to be explored. I am an impulsive actor. I am myself unsure of what I’ll essay when the camera is on,” he adds.
Does he attach himself to cinema that has addresses a social cause? “I do. I am an actor who loves to keep in touch with whatever is happening around the world and debate about it. I feel that such cinema should be made and I should be part of it.”
An NSD graduate, does he feel that theatre actors create more power on screen? “Yes, they do,” he states simply. “I feel that they are much more equipped with the skills required for acting. Theatre is an actor’s medium. An actor prepares himself to face his audience, so he is well prepared to face the camera too,” he states. So, how does he negotiate the difference in the medium? Most theatre actors have a sense of dissatisfaction with the big screen because they always feel that their histrionics are better explored onstage? “I am planning to do theatre and will be going through the draft shortly. We would like to come to the Middle East with a play,” he states.
Bajpai is pleased with the advent of the new rung of directors who are trying their hands on new genres of film-making. “Vishal Bharadwaj is so good. Anurag amazes me, Diwakar Banerjee is unique, Vinod Nambiar is great. It is a great time for Hindi cinema.
Ask him on his foray in South Indian films and he smiles. Manoj Bajpai has mainly done Telugu formula films.” I am usually not comfortable doing films in a genre and language that is unknown to me. Whenever I have done a South Indian film, it has been done at the insistence of the director. I have rehearsed, worked doubly hard because they show so much enthusiasm in me,” he states. Ask him the difference between working between Mumbai and the Telugu film industry? “The Telugu film industry works with a great sense of conviction. They have the conviction and belief about their cinema,” he adds.