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Is the era of superstars over? Manoj Bajpayee says yes

Manoj Bajpayee recently interacted with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group, and film critic Shubhra Gupta at Express e-Adda.

By: Entertainment Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 12, 2021 10:10:32 pm
Manoj BajpayeeManoj Bajpayee was last seen in Dial 100. (Express Photo by Vasant Prabhu)

Man of the moment, Manoj Bajpayee, whom the audience cannot get enough of on their OTT screens, was the guest on Express e-Adda.

Bajpayee is the season’s current favourite– he captured the country’s imagination like never before with Amazon Prime Video series The Family Man in 2019 and went a notch higher with the show’s second season earlier this year.

But the golden run was not achieved overnight. Manoj Bajpayee’s current stardom is a result of decades of hard work, underlined by quiet hits, nationwide acclaim, crushing failures and the will to rise again.

Since his breakout role as Bhikhu Mahtre, a gangster with a big heart and a quick temper in Satya (1998), the Padma Shri recipient has consolidated his position as a powerhouse performer. He played a range of characters in films like Kaun (1999), Shool (1999), Zubeida (2001), Pinjar (2002), 1971 (2006) and Raajneeti (2010). His role of Sardar Khan in the much-talked-about Gangs of Wasseypur 1 (2012) only cemented his position further. Bajpayee delivered one of his career-best performances in Aligarh (2015), when he played the role of an ageing professor facing discrimination on account of his sexuality. In between several commercial outings such as Naam Shabana (2017) and Baaghi 2 (2017), he also delivered moving performances in Gali Guleiyan (2018) and Bhonsle (2018). Bajpayee won the National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance in Bhonsle.

His terrific performances notwithstanding, commercial success mostly eluded him. But as India woke up to storytelling on digital medium a few years ago, Manoj Bajpayee found the stardom he always deserved. In the absence of the box office yardstick for success, Bajpayee’s career bloomed in the long-form story format that didn’t demand immediate returns but audience’s attention for a long time.

The overwhelming success of The Family Man and Netflix’s Ray anthology are prime examples. And there seems to be no stopping Manoj Bajpayee.

Live Blog

Manoj Bajpayee at Express e-Adda today. Catch all highlights below.

20:46 (IST)12 Aug 2021
What made Manoj Bajpayee cry recently?

On being asked what made him cry recently, the actor said he didn't like people asking Bachpan Ka Pyaar fame, Sahdev Dirdo to sing the song over and over again. "the child was so helpless," the actor said, adding that it made him cry.

20:42 (IST)12 Aug 2021
What is Manoj Bajpayee reading?  

"A book on Vivekanand."

20:41 (IST)12 Aug 2021
What is Manoj Bajpayee watching?

"I finished watching Malik, and I am going to watch one more South Indian film."

20:40 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'I keep tweaking my acting method'

Talking about his method of preparing for a character, The Family Man actor shared, "The method keeps changing. I keep tweaking my method based on the character I am playing. Sometimes I don't even prepare for a role when it's a commercial film like Satyameva Jayate. I go by what my director says. For films like Bhonsle, Aligarh, Gali Guleiyan I always create a back story of my character and then build the character accordingly. During the Aligarh shoot, I learnt Marathi. Then I work on body language, there are so many aspects of playing a character. You have to be innovative to play a character and go on the set fully prepared. I hate reading any new book or script in my preparation time for a character. I also hate meeting people from outside apart from the film unit on the set."

20:36 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee on importance of screen presence

Talking about the importance of screen presence, Manoj Bajpayee shared, "I remember one director told me screen presence is very important but you cannot plan to make the camera like you. I always give this example that Zanjeer onwards the camera started liking Amitabh Bachchan. It was just that he understood the space in front of the camera and when you understand that, the camera starts loving you. I never watch the monitor. Shekhar Kapur told me to be involved with my craft. If you are involved in your scene, the camera will love your truthfulness."

20:20 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee learnt singing from Piyush Mishra

"When we used to do theatre, those who didn't know singing had to learn it. Piyush Mishra did everything to make us learn singing. If you didn't know the rhythm, nobody would want to stand beside you on the stage. Gajraj Rao was very bad at rhythm and his sense of sur was all haywire. Especially in theatre, many things were essential, if you lacked in any of those you will be looked down upon, like what you are reading, which film have you watched and where, how much of a cinephile you are, and others," shared Manoj. 

20:08 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee on choosing scripts

"There are two kinds of content I associate with: one is from theatre and the other is influenced by filmmakers like Shyam Benegal and Satyajit Ray who have educated me about films. So I try to balance these two sides. When I am reading a script, it should engage me as a reader irrespective of the genre. After that, I look at other dynamics like who is the director and what is my character. I also put my instinct into a script."

19:55 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Watch | Manoj Bajpayee talks about censorship in films

Manoj Bajpayee talks about films and OTT platforms.

19:52 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'I feel like an outsider all the time'

'Bihar will never leave this boy. I was there a month back and there’s a side that always tells me not to come back to Mumbai. Earlier, I came back for films and now I come back for my wife and daughter. If you are coming from those sorts of places, you always feel like an outsider. Sometimes I feel that I am living in this house but it doesn’t belong to me. That immigrant feeling will never go away,' said Manoj Bajpayee.

19:49 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'Haven't ever agreed with censor board'

Expressing his opinion on the film censor board, Bajpayee said, "I have been saying this for the past 20 years, we have a censor board but I haven't ever agreed with it. They should only tell what age group of people can watch it or not. It should be on the exhibitors to decide. You cannot cut creative portions. If I suggest something to Anurag Kashyap or Kanu Bahl., they just shut me up. There is a board that snips it out just like that."

19:48 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee shares if Tandav controversy had any effect on Family Man 2

On being asked if Tandav controversy had any effect on Family Man 2, he said, “It is overstated. Family Man was complete when the Tandav episode happened. Do you think Family Man seems censored? In fact, we were concerned about protests coming from another part of the country. However, we were sure once people watch it, they would realise it is about them. Raj-DK and the writers put all the arguments in the script and let people side with their own argument."

19:44 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'Freedom of expression comes with great responsibility'

Expressing his opinion on censorship, Manoj Bajpayee said, "Freedom of expression comes with great responsibility. During Family Man’s season 1 shoot, each and every cuss word was discussed. If it was there for the heck of it, it had to go. However, if it distilled the entire mood and my thoughts in one word, it could stay. The same goes for violence. Are we thinking about it creatively or are we doing it because we have the freedom to do it on OTT. On social media, people complain I cannot show your show to my child because of the cuss words. That is great. I don’t show them to my daughter. Parents have to act as censors." 

19:38 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee: In OTT, no numbers are given out

"Stars were supreme, commercial cinema was written around them. But in OTT, no numbers are given out so how would you make a business model out of it?" asks Manoj Bajpayee.

19:35 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee discusses why it is fine if big stars take major portion of profit in a film

Discussing the structure of how the big stars take a major portion of profit in a film, Manoj said, "That's how producers and directors were casting. They were going to stars so that they could give them numbers at the box office. They created films around stars to bring in profit, and in such a scenario if that actor takes 50-60 per cent of the profit, I don't see anything wrong with it."

19:31 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Who has lost with the rise of OTT during the pandemic? Manoj Bajpayee replies

Talking of who has lost with the rise of OTT during the pandemic, the actor said, “The system that is based on Friday releases has lost out. You see their desperation and anxiety but they are also trying to tweak themselves to be a part of this new situation. They were the real kings of the box office.”

19:25 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Watch | Manoj Bajpayee discusses the shift in film industry amid pandemic

19:24 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'When we come back after the pandemic, there will be bruises'

Talking of how the audience will consume content after the pandemic is over, Manoj said, “When we come back after the pandemic, there will be bruises. Will cinema or community viewing be of the same nature? It will not. We can continue to discuss it but we will not reach any conclusion. That time has not come.”

19:23 (IST)12 Aug 2021
Manoj Bajpayee on digital platforms

"Mumbai ka king aaj ke samay mei OTT hai. (OTT is the king of Mumbai now). OTT has completely changed the game that it is becoming difficult for people to make anything just in the name of entertainment. People want a good story, great writers, directors with vision, great performances… they are the real kings of OTT," Bajpayee said. 

19:21 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'Mumbai ka King Kaun?'

On being asked if he hears his voice when now he hears the words "Mumbai ka King Kaun?", Bajpayee replied, "I am not the king of Mumbai, but the kind of balance Satya portrayed, I understood that this audience is not ready for the kind of cinema that I want to do. So, I realised we should not shock or surprise them. We should go slow."

19:19 (IST)12 Aug 2021
'Anxious if this amazing time will continue'

"I am coming on OTT, my films are coming to OTT. I am getting so many choices, so is Pankaj Tripathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Duggal and so many others. It is a democratic, ideal time. I am anxious if this amazing time continues," Manoj Bajpayee said about the current time in the film industry. 

The Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group and features those at the centre of change. Past guests at the event include Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, CNN host Fareed Zakaria, actor Pankaj Tripathi, economist N K Singh, CMD of Kotak Mahindra Bank Uday Kotak, and writer and Morgan Stanley strategist Ruchir Sharma.

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