‘Mainstream people didn’t know what to do with Manoj Bajpayee,' says the actor
Manoj Bajpayee, in a chat with us at 54th IFFI in Goa, shares why commercial cinema never attracted him, his love for indie films and how OTT ‘empowered him'.
It has been three years since Manoj Bajpayee has had a theatrical release, but the actor ain’t complaining. Instead, he has been making his presence felt in the OTT space with projects releasing one after the other. This year, two of his films -- Gulmohar and Sirf Ek Bandaa Kafi Hai -- received immense praise. As both the films were recently screened at the ongoing 54th IFFI in Goa, Bajpayee is only grateful for all the love and adulation.
“I have done very few films where I could experience those kind of euphoria inside the theatre. Satya (1998) is one of them. It gives me a high for a very different reason. I was thinking that in this industry, I’ll only do character roles, or I’ll do heroine ka bhai or a henchmen of the villain, and suddenly I had a career, which I had never thought would be possible. So, that’s high I felt because of that. Then I got that high with Raajneeti (2010) and the dialogue, ‘Karara jawaab milega’. Then, Satyamev Jayate (2018), on my entry I saw whistles and cheers. So, I’ve experienced it very few times because I had been part of very few mainstream films,” Bajpayee tells us in an exclusive conversation the morning after his films were shown to a packed theatre.
Asked why does he feel he hasn’t done many mainstream films and the actor begins by stressing that the medium has never been a concern for him, and what has mattered so far is a good job and choices.
“In cinema, while I was dabbling with different genres, I mainly wanted to push and promote independent cinema and independent directors who I wanted to work with. To do that, I needed that power for myself, and to get that, I have gone ahead and done a few of the mainstream films, got that power, and then used it for my own independent films, and they were many in numbers because I was enjoying my stint in independent films,” the 54-year-old continues, “I was looking for the directors because I realised that it is nearly impossible for any independent director to approach me. And it was very evident that the middle of the road or mainstream people didn’t have solid thing of concrete thing for me. They really didn’t know what to do with Manoj Bajpayee. All they could think of me was a villain. And that I never wanted to do. Those kind of characters never interested, never excited me.”
And thanks to streaming platforms that Bajpayee witnessed saw an influx of roles, diverse and experimental in nature, which, in a way, gave a new direction to his career at this phase. Agreeing with this, he admits that OTT has definitely empowered him. “Also, it came in a time when the pandemic was at its peak, and people were inside their houses, so they got a chance to explore it deeply. Also, with streaming coming in the picture, suddenly the choices are way too many (for actors). And to my luck, The Family Man happened, which totally changed the demography of OTT. It has empowered me and so many actors like me, and that was a turning point not only for me but also for so many other talents,” says Bajpayee, whose next web series, Killer Soup, releases next month.
Talking about his upcoming film, Joram, which is a theatrical release, Bajpayee doesn’t shy away from stating that while most filmmakers would think it’s apt for a digital release for the subject it has, the studio backing the film didn’t hesitate and decided release it in theatres, and then put it on OTT. “It also says that makers now have a lot of confidence in Manoj Bajpayee and their talent. And I feel that confidence comes from OTT and what we have done in these four years. We have used this medium of OTT very well. Not only me, many of the directors and many of the actors to their advantage to really expand their fan base and get the audience to watch the content they want to,” he says, adding that his career going forward is going to be a fine blend of OTT and theatrical releases.
“I’m not going to differentiate between them. I’m going to go with the few films for OTT and few for theatres. The box office never bothered me in the past. It still doesn’t bother me. It will never bother me. It’s always about the content and the quality of the product that I am part of. This is where the buck stops because to really excite me and one particular audience, is something nobody knows how to do it. The numbers will never decide for me as to how good the film is. And that will never change. My love story with the cinema will be on whether it is on OTT or in theatres, it doesn’t matter,” ends the actor, who will be seen in theatrical film Bhaiyaaji next year.