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INTERVIEW: “Commercial Films Aren’t Leaving The Realism Element Today”, Says ‘Missing’ Actor Manoj Bajpayee

Manoj Bajpayee is surely an actor every producer can vouch for. He’s in his career’s most secure zone where the length of his role or the kind of films he does, doesn’t make him insecure. He’s already had two releases this year with ‘Aiyaary’ and ‘Baaghi 2’ where he had pivotal roles to play and now he’s all set to reunite with his 20 year old friend Tabu onscreen as the lead actor in a phsycological thriller ‘Missing’ which also stars Annu Kapoor as the investigating officer.

We sat down to chat with Manoj Bajpayee and here’s what he revealed about his film:

Q. How did you manage the actor side and the producer side both in this film?

Manoj Bajpayee: We were shooting in a resort and all of us were staying in the same hotel. We shot in one corner of the hotel. It was easy, there was an executive producer. He took care of all the dirty work but whenever there was a problem I would definitely be there to give my 2 bits which were coming handy. There were moments which were quite stressful but not too many.

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Q. Tell us something about ‘Missing’.

Manoj Bajpayee: The layers of relationships in this film and individual characters with their own sets of layers that’s something that attracted me the most in this film. The layers of characters on a human level. It is important for me more than the thrilling element.

Q. Is the film inspired by the Hollywood film ‘Missing’ by any chance?

Manoj Bajpayee: It most definitely is not. I mean if that was the case we would have made sure we already change the title. It’s just that the name is similar.

Q. Where is the kid who is not being fully shown in the trailer?

Manoj Bajpayee: (Jokingly) The thing is the girl had a shoot for just 2 days. We later decided it would be better if we don’t keep one at all. The girl wouldn’t get satisfied with any shot. She required a lot of pampering.

Q. Is there scope for music in this film?

Manoj Bajpayee: The music for the film is given by Mr. M. M. Keeravani. He’s one of the biggest names to have occurred on the Indian screen. Mukul (Abhyankar – director) and Neeraj Pandey decided that they didn’t want to go for anyone else but him. And in this film, they waited for 8 months because he was tied up with ‘Baahubali’ back then. We waited and then he did the background score for the film. That makes anyone realize the importance and weightage given to the background score of the film.

Q. Do you think 90s were the real time when actors like you got to really balance the commercial films with realistic cinema and that’s why you are the stars you are today?

Manoj Bajpayee: For Tabu, as an actor per say she started with ‘Kaala Pani’ and at that time taking that kind of a risk was amazing especially because busy and successful doing the commercial films. And then she went ahead and did Priyadarshan’s ‘Kaala Pani’ and got so much acclaim for it. I always feel that this has given Tabu an idea to dabble in both worlds. Her parts have given strength to a lot of other actresses. That contribution of hers is unparalleled because she’s shown a way to all the female actors as to how to go ahead and choose roles where women are in the fore front. As far as my career goes, after ‘Bandit Queen’, I was very lucky to get ‘Satya’ which became such a landmark character. And one after the other, Ram Gopal Verma kept showing belief in me through ‘Kaun’ and ‘Shool’ which were talked about a lot. It gave a lot of strength to my career and got the belief to wait patiently for roles to happen to me. I’m the end I believe it paid off. As Kay Kay Menon says, if Bhiku Mathre hadn’t happened, many of the actors of my kind wouldn’t have happened to Hindi films. In the end you’ll have to give credit to director like RGV who has revolutionized the whole industry. Otherwise in the 90s, wherever I use to go for work, I used to see in one studio Tabu dancing in one song or some other heroine dancing on a song, I still remember being on set for ‘Ruk Ruk Ruk’ song shoot standing there watching Tabu as I was a big fan of hers. The studios used to be booked with shoots for those commercial films only where actors like me couldn’t see ourselves fitting in. We needed directors like Mani Ratnam, Shekhar Kapur, Ram Gopal Verma, Govind Nihalani and the likes for contributing a lot in making space for us.

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Q. Congratulations on the success of ‘Baaghi 2’. What made you do that film?

Manoj Bajpayee: I know Ahmed Khan since the ‘Sapney’ days and I did the film for him. Also Mukesh Chhabra (Casting Director) and Ahmed were persistent I do the part so much so that they camped at my home (laughs). I’m really happy with the success. I was made to feel like a Star by Sajid (Nadiadwala) and his team. Sajid is already a very successful producer and this is one more successful film in his kitty but people who needed this the most is I would say Ahmed especially after his initial two films didn’t work. So I’m very happy for Ahmed and for Tiger for having a blockbuster, he is devoted with his skill and the amount of hardwork he puts is something I’ve personally seen. He used to rehearse with his trainer even between shots. When you see such a devotion for be it anything inside someone, you feel like that person deserves all the success he’s getting.

Q. You’ve received some kind of flak from reviewers who claimed you were wasted in ‘Baaghi 2’. What’s your response?

Manoj Bajpayee: In a film like ‘Baaghi 2’ you either use a Tiger Shroff or Manoj Bajpayee. They decided to use Tiger Shroff intensively. Why shouldn’t I sign a film like that? There are certain things that you do for many reasons. The creative aspect is not the only reason always. Sometimes you’re just trying to please yourself and not everybody else.

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Q. You are known to be a serious actor. Does that come with a pressure?

Manoj Bajpayee: I don’t think Tabu feels that way, she even goes on to do light hearted films like Golmaal in between. And that’s the beauty of an actor, to be able to do what you love to do and mentally not take yourself seriously. Go ahead and be a part of a Golmaal or Baaghi and enjoy the experience thoroughly. Without even judging the content. Try to belong and own it, that’s important. At the end of the day, we are actors. Whenever we get an opportunity to go and enjoy on a movie set, we do it all the way. Tabu takes her privacy very seriously but she doesn’t take the ‘actor’ in her very seriously. There’s a strength within when an actor needn’t take all the compliments they get very seriously and can also take the criticism out of their hearts very easily.

Q. What’s your take on current generation actors like Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra and the likes doing realistic cinema like actors like yourself?

Manoj Bajpayee: There’s a huge contribution from all these films. All those actors and directors who were a part of such films have made a huge impact on mainstream cinema. Commercial film makers are not leaving the realism part in their stories. Realism is not being taken for granted.

Q. Tell us something about your role in ‘Son Chiriya’.

Manoj Bajpayee: I have a special appearance in the film.

Q. Do box office numbers bother you?

Manoj Bajpayee: I’ve made a career out of flop films.

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