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‘I get pretty awkward watching myself on the big screen’: Manoj Bajpayee

"I would say my biggest critic is me. I believe I know my talents and my craft best and I hold myself to my incredibly high standards," the 'Ray' actor said

Manoj Bajpayee, Manoj Bajpayee films, Manoj Bajpayee Unluclass, Manoj Bajpayee age,Manoj Bajpayee was last seen in Ray and The Family Man. (Photo: Manoj Bajpayee/Instagram; Meetesh Taneja)

From essaying the role of Bhiku Mhatre in Satya to Sardar Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur and most recently Srikant Tiwari in The Family Man, Manoj Bajpayee has come a long way. But even after all these years, the actor confesses that he finds new ways to “fall in love with acting” with every new project he signs up for.

In an exclusive email interaction with indianexpress.com, the versatile actor talks about his unfulfilled dream, his love for the craft of acting, the importance of theatre in an actor’s life and why he feels he is his biggest critic.


You have come a long way, from being rejected by the National School of Drama to becoming one of the finest actors in the industry today. How would you describe your journey?

Not being able to study in NSD will forever be an unfulfilled dream. But since then, the journey has been incredible. Of course, it has not been smooth, but it rarely is. With almost a two-decade-long career, I’m finding new ways to fall in love with acting with every project I take on. There’s always something new to look forward to, and that is possibly the best part of this job.

If you could say one thing to your younger self, what would that be?

I would ask my younger self to calm down. I used to lose my temper very quickly, but thankfully, I’ve learnt to control it now. Younger me would be out on Twitter ranting and venting about all the ridiculous things he saw, but now, I’ve learnt to channelise the anger and move away from things I have no control over. I would also tell the younger me to really look forward to the journey ahead and savour every moment of it.

You have often spoken about your love for theatre. Do you ever plan to make a comeback to the medium?

I can say for sure that theatre is one of the most challenging forms of acting you can undertake. The mental, physical and emotional creativity and resilience shape your outlook. I would definitely love to go back to theatre and I am constantly in touch with my friends who are theatre directors. Unfortunately, due to my current time and date constraints, I am unable to say for sure when I can do theatre again. But soon, I hope.


How important, do you feel, is theatre for an actor to hone their skills and prepare themselves for what lies ahead?

As someone with a theatre background, it is difficult to answer this in an unbiased manner. But I would suggest that all aspiring actors try to do a little bit of theatre before stepping in front of the camera. There are no “second takes” in theatre, so you will make mistakes and you will learn from them. And once you learn, you will be sure of who you are and where you need to improve.

What is your Unluclass all about?

I’m trying to encapsulate the entire experience of being an actor. Right from cracking an audition, and breaking down a script, making sure you get the essence of the character you are playing, etc, I talk about everything. In my Unluclass, I have also talked about improvisation, rejection and other key aspects of acting which some miss out on. These things are vital for every actor and even though they cannot be taught, some guidance on these matters sure helps a lot. I wish I had someone during my early days to prepare me for all these things, it would’ve been a much simpler journey then. I mostly talk about my experiences and what I have learned from them in the hope that the students can pick up a few things.


The pandemic affected lives and livelihoods across the world; what has been your biggest lesson during the same? 

It has undoubtedly been a difficult year due to the pandemic. The things that we have all seen together will stay forever with me. I would say that the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that things like fame, glory, name and even your assets don’t really matter when it comes to life or death. Material things are inconsequential. The only sustaining resource you have is your relationships, the people around you. I think this has been a lesson not just for me, but for the rest of the world as well. I also learned to appreciate the little things in life. Things we take for granted and don’t pay much attention to.

The pandemic also affected the entertainment industry in a huge way; what do you expect the new normal to look like on the sets?

It is true that the pandemic has affected the entertainment industry in ways we never thought possible. Shooting with the fear of Covid and with the restrictions is certainly going to be a challenge. But we as a big family need to take care of each other and adhering to these rules without fail is something we must do to keep this family safe and healthy. The industry understands that and fully supports these directives, and like everybody else we hope and pray that it goes away soon.

You have performed on theatre, the big screen and also for the OTT platforms. How different is the experience? 

I like to maintain that I am the same kind of actor, no matter the medium. I study my script and the character and focus on preparation. The experience in front of the camera for both the big screen and OTT does not differ much, but of course, that’s not the case for theatre. I suppose the only difference between OTT and the big screen is for the viewers.

As an actor, what is the biggest appreciation for you? In all these years, who has been your inspiration, and harshest critic?


I have had the good fortune to work beside a lot of extremely talented actors. On the sets, they are the easiest to draw inspiration from. I am also a huge fan of the greats like Amitabh Bachan, Raghubir Yadav and Naseeruddin Shah. Watching them while growing up makes me turn to them for ideas. I would say that my biggest critic is me. I believe that I know my talents and my craft best and I hold myself to my incredibly high standards.

With theatres slowly opening across the country, do you plan to watch your next on the big screen? How does it feel to see yourself on one?


To be very honest, I get pretty awkward watching myself on the big screen. I try to avoid it as much as possible, and right now, with the safety issues, stepping out to buy groceries is a huge risk. Going to the theatre is definitely not something I plan on doing anytime soon. The health and safety of my friends and family are my priority.

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First published on: 14-07-2021 at 05:30:09 pm
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