– Yaser Khan
Bollywood has a handful of actors who make the industry feel extremely proud of having them be a part of its cinema. One such actor is Manoj Bajpayee. There are no limits to a dream! Hailing from a village in Bihar, after being rejected by the National School of Drama four times, this gem of a talent joined Barry John’s acting workshops and impressed one and all with his prowess. After doing small roles on TV, he finally did Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya which made him a household name overnight. Starring in over 65 films, Manoj Bajpayee, who is best known for films like ‘Raajneeti’, ‘Special 26’ and ‘Aligarh’, is all set to release his Neeraj Pandey film ‘Aiyaary’ alongside Sidharth Malhotra. In an interview with Cinespeaks, let’s take a what all he revealed:
1. What does ‘Aiyaary’ mean and what is its relevance to the film? Tell us something about the plot.
Manoj Bajpayee: The title comes from a Persian word. It came across Neeraj Pandey when he first read Chandrakanta santaki. When he was developing the script, he thought of naming it ‘Aiyaary’ which literally translates to someone in disguise. He’s someone who fools people. The central characters of this film are someone who are experts in mounding themselves into different individuals all together. One is a Kernel and the other is a Major, it’s a story about the guru and his prodigy or senior and junior as they refer to it as in the army. They work together in a unit and how they clash on a certain perspective to create a cat and mouse game leading to a rift is the story. Despite this they respect each other immensely.
2. We saw a lot of aggression from Karni Sena for ‘Padmaavat’ to release, infact that film has taken Aiyaary’s initial release date. Having made a film on the army, we have seen a completely opposite reaction from their side for your film. You have received a lot of love. What do you have to say about this contrast?
Manoj Bajpayee: Army has a very ideal and open minded environment. Their prime concern is the country. They stay united and not divided with a secular force. There are no discriminations within. They have faith in movies who have always shown them in a positive light. And Indian cinema has never disappointed them. This film too shows the great abilities of the Indian army. The people and the government have to understand that CBFC is the highest authority in passing a film and its word has to be final which has to be respected. That is what Supreme Court has said in the ‘Padmaavat’ case. We may have differences with the guidelines they set but we alter our content according to them. The government also has to ensure there’s enough security that nobody gets to go against the final word. This happened during my film ‘Aarakshan’, without watching the film it was banned and at that time by the moment we could go to Supreme Court it was too late. It is a sad state. How can these groups bad mouth artists and filmmakers just to get fame out of this situation? Why should we showcase a film to anyone who just raises a voice against the film from some corner?
3. How was it working with an amazing array of talents like Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Adil Hussain in Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Aiyaary’?
Manoj Bajpayee: I’ve learnt a lot from all of these extraordinarily talented people. I was very young when Anupam ji and Naseer ji used to work in films and I used to enjoy their performances. I wished I got such parts. Adil is a fine actor who belongs to my generation of actors, who hails from a theatre background as well. There’s Kumud Mishra ji too who I admire. Learning from these actors is a continuous process. You have to a prepared while performing with these actors. A great will always allow you to learn from them and not threaten you.
4. You share screen space with a young actor like Sidharth Malhotra who comes from a very different school of cinema than yours. What do you have to say about him?
Manoj Bajpayee: Before going to a set, I do not think much about the co-star. You can only form an opinion about a person when you interact with them. Sidharth is a normal boy hailing from Delhi who has to be appreciated for creating a niche for himself in the mainstream industry in such a less time where the only successful ones are star kids or relatives of filmmakers. I have respect for him for being an outsider and creating a name for himself. He has done a film like ‘Ittefaq’, which mainstream young actor would take a risk of doing such a film? He has benefitted from that film because it worked too. With every film he’s trying to do something different with the kind of risks they come with. ‘Aiyaary’ is sort of a milestone for him because it’s a Neeraj Pandey film where as an actor you feel privileged to be giving your best and do something different. He’s fantastic in the film. Neeraj and Sidharth together have achieved something very great with this film which a viewer can only understand by watching it. I believe he is a good actor.
5. This is your second film in a Neeraj Pandey directorial. How has it been working with him?
Manoj Bajpayee: Aiyaary is a very different film probably ahead of its time, very unthinkable. Neeraj ji is a mainstream filmmaker, there are those thrilling elements in his films. Despite that you can never call him film mainstream. That’s his brilliance. He’s rare than who can do this marriage perfectly which no other can.
We have a lot of respect for each other and I am good friends with him. He may not be able to cast me in every film of his. As much friendly we are off screen, we are equally serious we are shooting. When a director has clarity about his subject, an actor gets a lot of information and gets to understand the depth of his subject.
6. What is your take on award shows?
Manoj Bajpayee: Award shows will only be credible when they appreciate actual talent. It’s difficult to judge two actors who have acted in two films of distant subjects. They must have done great for their part and for the requirement of the film, how can one judge who out performed the other? I have a basic problem with the concept of awards shows. How does the jury decide who’s better, they’re all equally good. Also, awarding someone who doesn’t deserve the award is questioning your own credibility. By giving the undeserving you question your own existence.
7. For some actors box office success matters secondary, you are one such actor for whom it’s all about the characters that you play. Tell us something about it.
Manoj Bajpayee: I have as many flop films as those hits films those stars who have been termed ‘successful’. I feel grateful to the audiences for the respect that they give me. I’m here despite less hits and more flops, and the credit goes to the character’s that I have played.