Need good roles but need money too: Manoj Bajpayee
In a career spanning nearly 20 years, actor Manoj Bajpayee has oscillated between brilliant and mediocre performances, winning acting honours while also getting brickbats for his poor choice of movie roles.
Bajpayee, whose performance in “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012) and “Special 26” this year won him critical acclaim, plays the villain in Prakash Jha’s “Satyagraha”. The Bollywood film opened in cinemas on Friday.
The 44-year-old actor spoke to Reuters about how he nearly wrecked his movie career, the time when he had no work and why he is no longer content with just good roles.
Q: You’ve worked with Prakash Jha in several films, but most of them have been rather negative roles. Does he see the negative side of you?
A: This question surprises me. We think that the character standing opposite the hero is negative. But that is not true. I have never gone to receive awards where I was in the villain’s category. Just because my character was opposite Ranbir Kapoor in “Raajneeti”, doesn’t put him in the negative category. It is defined that all brothers are fighting for their rights, but it is never defined who is wrong or right. “Aarakshan” was different. It was completely negative because he is using education as a way to make money. There is no morality there, whereas my character in “Raajneeti” had loads of morality. My character in “Satyagraha” is in every sense a villain. Everything that is wrong about a person, is there in him. He is cunning, he is shrewd. He doesn’t have good intentions. In “Satyagraha”, he (Jha) has given me a negative character and yes, I have taken it up, for my association with him for the last three films.
Q: No more? Why not?
A: Done! Because after this, you expect to get (better roles). You trust the association, you trust the people. I am a very transparent person. I put my expectations on the table. I expect better roles. Different roles. Why not?
Q: What are the other criteria before you say yes to a role?
A: Only the script. With Prakash Jha, my association is strong, so I can demand from him. The same is with Sanjay Gupta. He knows that Manoj Bajpayee has expectations. These guys will definitely offer me better roles the next time. I don’t think there is anything wrong in that.
Q: As an actor, what does it take to play a villain?
A: It takes a lot of conviction to play a bad guy. One, you are going to be judged and secondly, you are risking your career. You have to put a lot of dimensions to that character. Every role is approached differently. Acting is a vast craft. It is a job that I can never say I know. The moment I approach a new character, I lose sleep. I am much less focused on my daughter and my family. Every time you feel you don’t know anything about the character and about acting. You want to work harder at everything.
Q: Does this work for roles you may not be convinced about?
A: There are three or four roles I have done which were a disaster. They cost (me) my career. I will not name them, because it will be an insult to the directors. I was not convinced by those roles and I still went ahead and those were great lessons for me. Those mistakes were few.
Q: Why do you say they cost you your career?
A: Because roles dried up. Offers dried up and you feel that somewhere you lost the focus and direction that you had earlier.
Q: What forced you to make those choices then?
A: I was vulnerable for many reasons.
Q: How do you deal with it when you start your career on a high and then the roles dry up?
A: I am a very practical guy. I’m a Taurean. I don’t get baffled or lose my confidence or get insecure when times are bad. And I have seen enough bad times. I keep myself to basics and lead a very basic life. There are no outstandings. I think I have a great ability to be patient because I know good things are round the corner. Because I know my job. And bad times will fly away when you know your job.
Q: How do you judge your career graph since “Satya”?
A: It’s been a roller-coaster. It’s been very hard. I have battled alone, when the kind of films that we all believe in were churned out, and left alone in the battle. The waiting period was huge. I would do one film, maximum two films a year. I would be sitting at home, doing nothing, twiddling my thumbs, saying no mostly. And then, suddenly, you are spoilt for choice.
Q: Do you see yourself playing leading roles now?
A: “Wasseypur” isn’t so far away. I have done “Saat Uchakkey” and finished “Traffic”. This is the way I have been doing (things). I aspire for great roles. I did “Satya” where I was the second lead. You cannot say that my choices are any different from those days. If I am part of “Satyagraha”, which is a multi-star cast, then I am also part of “Saat Uchakkey” where I am the only guy.
Q: What did “Gangs of Wasseypur” do for your career?
A: Every successful (film) gives you options. “Wasseypur” is a cult film. “Special 26” is a superb film. What they do, at the end of the day, is that they encourage all filmmakers to look at you differently. They add value to you, commercially, so you are offered much more roles, more scripts.
Q: Are you offered more money?
A: A little more money. Actors like me are not paid that well, but now I demand money. Only stars get paid very well in this country. That’s the truth and nobody can deny it. I usually demand what I deserve.
Q: How are those demands usually taken?
A: Not very well. Sometimes they bargain (laughs). Sometimes I am stubborn. But now enough of luring me with just good roles. I need good roles, but I need money too. There is an attitude that it is blasphemy for good actors to be talking about money.
(You can follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay)