Actor Manoj Bajpayee has spent more than 22 years in the film industry, with several hit films in his kitty. But the actor has never been the first choice when it comes to commercial films. The 47- year-old actor, who has no godfather or family connection in the film industry, not only established himself but also impressed with his roles. Be it an underworld don in Satya, gangster in Gangs of Wasseypur, an honest police officer in School, shrewd politician in Rajneeti, or gay professor in Aligarh, Manoj Bajpayee fits well into every role. The actor was recently in the Capital to attend the 12th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) Festival, where he spoke about his love for theatre and his survival in Bollywood so far. Excerpts:
Two of your movies, Sarkar 3 and Naam Shabana, are slated for release. How excited are you about it?
Yes. Naam Shabana, is coming out soon. In Sarkar 3 I play a small but a significant role. In Naam Shabana, its a very significant role. Producer Neeraj Pandey and I are very good friends.
In the trailer of Sarkar 3, you were shown against Amitabh Bachchan. This is not the first time you have been pitched against Bachchan. Is it talent vs talent?
I don’t know why we both have been made two sides of a coin in every film. I am a huge admirer and have grown up seeing his films in childhood. His films led me to become an actor. I don’t like opposing him in every film but it is the characters and we both have to play them. On the talent front, you have to ask the respective directors.
How do you feel working with him (Amitabh Bachchan)?
I respect him a lot. I enjoy working with him because he is extremely professional.
If one talks about good movies in Bollywood, some of your movies will figure in this list. But why don’t we see them so often?
Of course I have done some commercial movies, not much. Wherever I feel that I will be stereotyped I run away from them. Because I am an actor and have the ability to explore new characters. I love to do challenging characters.
Whosoever has come out of theatre, including you, is a very matured, good actor. Don’t you think theatre should be made mandatory before stepping into cinema world?
I won’t say theatre is mandatory for film actors but also for other professionals, who want to do well in their life. Theatre is not only great for actors, directors or technicians, it is great for any kind of professional. I suggest parents must enroll their kids into theatre because it will help them in exploring their personality.
In Bollywood, a few theatre actors, after some struggle, have earned a good name in the cinema industry. But some actors, who just have a family background in films, have established themselves easily. What is your take on it?
This is a fact, I live with it, have never complained about it. A shopkeeper always gives his throne to his kid. Since it is a film industry, like any other industry, the owner of the industry will always give his throne to his kids. This is the reality of industry not now but has been happening for years. Irony is that we outsiders can’t even complain about it. We have to fight to establish ourselves.
It was reported actor Kangana Ranaut raked up nepotism in Bollywood. Do you agree with her?
I read everything that Kangana Ranaut said, and the only conclusion I came up with is that she is a very brave girl. Anybody and everybody can’t be a lone fighter, but Kangana is lone fighter and she is winning all the way. Kudos to her, I stand by her.
You spent almost 22 years in the television industry. Are you happy with the achievements so far?
Forget about 22 years, I tell you I haven’t started yet. The beginning is yet to come. I have always maintained that this industry has only used just 25 per cent of my talent. Still 75 per cent is left.