Manoj Bajpai, who won his third Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for Aligarh, says it’s high time to support good cinema and save it from a slow death
With releases like Budhia Singh: Born to Run and Aligarh in 2016, Manoj Bajpai impressed the audience and critics alike. The talented actor, known for his intense roles, has been running his Bollywood innings successfully for more than two decades, without any patronage from big production houses. A recipient of numerous awards as an actor, Bajpai says it’s high time that the audience lent support to good cinema and save it from a slow death. Excerpts from an interview.
Your film on sprinter Budhia was appreciated widely. How much is the audience receptive towards cinema for children?
It’s not about how much the audience is ready, you just have to continue to make these films for them so that they get used to these kinds of films. Cinema for children is happening but it’s a slow process. The producer will never invest in a film which doesn’t do well at the box office. It will change over the time but you have to be very patient about it.
What kept you going for over two decades?
One does not think about all of that. It’s only the conviction and faith in oneself, and also the ability to go on. I don’t know anything other than acting so, whether I succeed or fail, this is the only thing I know. As an actor, you just keep going on and on. You don’t plan everything in advance. You just play in the present and keep facing the new ball as it is thrown.
Some of your short films that released digitally have done well. What is your analysis of such cinema from business point of view?
Indian audience is adept with watching content for free on digital platform. Good short films are a way of getting people used to this type of cinema. And that is why I have gotten into it and today I am happy that a lot of known actors are jumping in this bandwagon. I am glad that I initiated it. I hope this platform will be used much more wisely and creatively, as that was the whole intention and motive.
Do you think it also helps to connect with the younger audience especially because they are in the loop always?
I don’t care too much about the young and the old. For me, any viewer is the audience. It’s not about the age, it’s about keeping yourself up with the technology. As the technology is evolving you have to keep pace with it and start using it creatively.
Out of the strong characters you’ve portrayed on screen, did any one stay back with you?
No, characters do not stay with me. I know how to shrug them off after the film is over. I am not too obsessed with the performance that I have done. I am not a person who gets carried away too easily. So, for me what is gone is gone. Today’s a fresh day with new challenges, and I take it that way.
You have often talked about rejection at NSD four times. Do you think it could have brought any difference to your career?
Each and every person who is willing to become an actor should do theatre first of all or they should go to an institution like NSD or FTII. Acting is an art that needs to be learnt. If somebody wants to become an engineer, he goes to engineering college. He doesn’t directly go to some location and start building the bridge. You have to have an experience and there are experienced teachers in the institute who help you to achieve things fast. When you are doing theatre outside the National School of Drama, things are very difficult because you are making two ends meet. You are doing theatre, workshops and at the same time you are trying to earn a little bit of money so that you can survive in a city. NSD would have definitely made my life easier had I been there. It was difficult for me as learning and earning is a very difficult combination.
Would you do an over-the-top romantic film ever?
I don’t find anything interesting in out and out romantic films. For me romance must be real. It has to come with its own misery, like it happens in real life. Anything real attracts me.
We have never seen you working with big production houses? Does it bother you?
You should ask this question to those production houses. I have been surviving in this industry since last two decades so I must be doing something right. Why should it bother me that somebody is not approaching me for his production?
Do you think the industry should pick up bold subjects more often?
There are many film-makers who are doing great work and they are choosing great subjects. Be it Anurag Kashyap or Hansal Mehta. But the audience has to buck up. They don’t have the right to complain that we are not making world-class films if they cannot support good cinema. If they don’t patronise then these films will die.
Text: Karan Bhardwaj