Catching up

He's back on screen after long and sounds cheerful but Manoj Bajpai is clearly guarded in all that he says.

Written by DIPTI NAGPAUL D’SOUZA | Published:February 10, 2009 3:49 am

With three releases coming up,Manoj Bajpai is a busy man this year

He’s back on screen after long and sounds cheerful but Manoj Bajpai is clearly guarded in all that he says. Once the blue-eyed boy of makers of “meaningful” cinema,the National Award-winning actor seems to have learnt the ways of the industry the hard way. Bajpai has been strictly filtering the films he does. His sole release in 2008,Ganesh Swamy’s Money Hai to Honey Hai,didn’t bring home any acclaim to take forth his legacy. Neither did Swami,Dus Kahaniyan or 1971 — his 2007 releases. But the character actor isn’t bothered by the duds.

“I choose scripts that I like,irrespective of the director or his previous record. I’ve won two National Awards,which is a great honour. I should enjoy what I’m doing,else I will not be able to put in my best.”

Based on Delhi’s MCD sealing drive that took place years ago,his upcoming release,Anand Kumar’s Jugaad,was in the making for long. It is finally due to see light of the day this month but that hasn’t dampened his spirits one bit. “I had signed the film when the issue was still fresh and once I’m committed,nothing changes it,” he says curtly,before explaining his role.

Bajpai plays an ad agency owner in the film who one fine day finds himself on the streets after his office is razed to the ground. “My character naturally feels he’s lost everything and that he’s let down his team. But in weakness,he finds the strength — with support from his wife (Hrishitaa Bhatt) and his team — to get everything back.” He then sets out on a journey that takes him through every hook and crook.

“Or jugaad,as you call it in Delhi.” The new year is expected to be busier for him. Soon after Jugaad,Bajpai readies for the release of Sanjay Gupta’s Acid Factory and Prakash Jha’s Rajniti,a political potboiler starring Ajay Devgan and Katrina Kaif. “All I can reveal at the moment is that both the films will see me in powerful roles.”

It’s difficult not to bring up Ram Gopal Varma when chatting with the 40-year-old — he was once as much family to Varma as any of the director’s other protégés and,after all,Bajpai’s Bhiku Matre was Varma’s creation. But then the equation changed,as happens usually with the reclusive filmmaker.

Bajpai is evasive and brusque,but says enough to imply that things will never be the same again. “We ended the relationship with a mutual consent. And no,there’s no bitterness. I may not work with him but I respect him as a filmmaker.”

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