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Manoj Bajpayee: Bollywood has always been a family business. You've got to be as lucky as Shah Rukh Khan or ...

Manoj Bajpayee: Bollywood has always been a family business. You've got to be as lucky as Shah Rukh Khan or ...

Manoj Bajpayee: Bollywood has always been a family business. You’ve got to be as lucky as Shah Rukh Khan or Akshay Kumar to make it bigRenuka VyavahareIn a candid conversation with BT, the outspoken actor talks about completing 24 years in cinema, Bollywood’s inability to tap into his talent, how nepotism has always existed and why certain sections of the media are equally responsible for it. | TNN | Aug 12, 2018, 01:00 ISTManoj Bajpayee (Tejas Kudtarkar)Manoj Bajpayee (Tejas Kudtarkar)In a career spanning over two decades, Manoj Bajpayee has proved his mettle as an actor par excellence. Known for getting into the skin of his chara cters with mastery, the National Award-winning actor will be seen with John Abraham in the upcoming Satyameva Jayate, a film that addresses the raging social pandemic â€" corruption. In a candid conversation with BT, the outspoken actor talks about completing 24 years in cinema, Bollywood’s inability to tap into his talent, how nepotism has always existed and why certain sections of the media are equally responsible for it. Excerpts…
You have completed 24 years in cinema. How would you describe your journey so far?
I gave my first shot as a movie actor 24 years ago for director Shekhar Kapur for Bandit Queen (1994). Who knew then, that I would get to work with two of the most path-breaking filmmakers of our time â€" Shekhar Kapur and Ram Gopal Varma (Satya, 1998). These people were game changers. RGV came as a godsend, not only for me, but so many actors who were never favoured by any filmmakers. We got a chance to be a part of this industry because such cult films were made. RGV created that space for us. Satya is not a movie that can be recreated though many have tried emulate the film over the years.
Speaking of creating space for actors who didn’t fit into the commercial cinema mould, you paved the way for actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui years ago, when you started off.
Well, Irrfan and Kay Kay Menon came first. Nawaz arrived much after that, and now there are so many other good actors like Rajkummar Rao and Vicky Kaushal. Look at the contribution these actors have made to Hindi cinema with their performances. Speaking of paving the way, I was that frustrated actor, who wasn’t getting any work, despite doing significant films. Of course, the wait was compensated by the kind of films that came my way later on, but those films didn’t come to me easily. After Satya, I had to sit at home for years, refusing work that I didn’t want to do in the commercial space. Those were testing times. Today , when I look back, I am glad that I waited. If I had gone ahead and compromised on my sensibilities and done those roles, I would have not only harmed myself, but the cause of independent cinema and those actors who entered the industry after me.
Going by the success and recognition that actors like Nawaz are getting today, do you feel that you deserved it way early on in your career? It’s also about being in the right place, at the right time, isn’t it?
Yes! Not just Nawaz, look at Rajkummar and Vicky, these actors are here at the right time and at the right age. I’d love to do the kind of roles that Rajkummar is getting, but I am not in the same age bracket anymore. I wish someone would have made these kind of films with me 20 years ago, but there was nobody then. The space, belief, vision or courage was not there, except in Ram Gopal Varma, who did whatever he could for actors like me.
Coming to Satyameva Jayate, the film has a str ong social message, but it’s still in the commercial space.
Yes, Satyameva Jayate talks about corruption, but is set in the mainstream space. It’s not really about intellectual debates, it’s more single-screen and massy. I am not really known for these kind of films, so I felt like Alice in Wonderland around Nikkhil Advani, John Abraham and Milap Zaveri (smiles). Every day I was bamboozled by Milap’s vision. Nikkhil and I have been friends since he was assisting Sudhir Mishra. I had asked him for work and he has finally given me a role. I believe once you say yes to something, you surrender yourself completely to the director’s vision.
As an outsider, who came from Bihar to Mumbai to become an actor, being embraced and accepted by the industry must have been tougher two decades ago. Today, the industry is more open to outsiders, however, the nepotism debate rages on...
Nepotism has always existed in Bollywood. It’s just that peo ple are calling it out now. This is a ruthless industry. They will never give an outsider a chance, when there’s somebody of their own in the waiting. I know of a few directors, who have created this culture of making it difficult for outsiders. They are ruling the roost and prefer to work with people who they consider as their own. Their logic is, why should we give an outsider a chance when we have an actor sitting in our home? I can’t take names, but they are convinced about what they are doing. Good for them, but as an outsider, should that deter my spirit? No! I will work on my skills so much that you won’t be able to ignore me. This should be the resolve of all actors coming from outside.
Manoj Bajpayee (Tejas Kudtarkar)
Why do you think this culture exists?
We have got into this habit of pushing whoever is close to us over someo ne who may be more deserving. That has become our society’s tendency and thus, the system. The system doesn’t want quality or talent to be celebrated. They want their own people to succeed, even if they are mediocre. If one person from their fraternity is a little above average, they are celebrated as if they are the most gifted individuals. And who is enhancing their cause? It’s a section of the media.
But this also happens because Bollywood has been fairly dominated by film families, which also has its pros and cons...
Bollywood has always been a family business. You really have to be as lucky as a Shah Rukh Khan or an Akshay Kumar to make it big. It was SRK, who nailed it first. He used his talent and opportunities very well. I am very proud of him and the manner in which he has carved a niche for himself.
In a previous interview, you said that superstars are capitalists and actors like yourself are second-class citizens.
We are second-class citizens! Is there any doubt about it? It’s not a statement, it’s a fact.
You’re not really seen in the industry’s social circles.
I’ve never indulged in flattery or ass-kissing to get a role and even after 24 years, I’m still here. That’s not my personality. If you want to be friends with me, you should be ready to tell me the truth to my face and be ready to hear the truth as well. Yes, it hasn’t been easy and it’s not the easiest route, but I have accepted it. I will never be a people pleaser.
Earlier this year, a clash was averted between Aiyaary and Padman at the box office, as both were supposed to release on the same day. Call it a coincidence or not, your film Satyameva Jayate will clash with the Akshay Kumar-starrer Gold on August 15...
Akshay and I don’t know each other so well that we can pick up the phone and ask what’s happening (laughs!). Akshay is a big star and he ha s had his own journey. His film will get the audience, no matter which other film releases on the same day. He has his fan base and so do John Abraham and I. Our films are different, so we don’t look at it as a clash.
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