Counted among Hindi cinema’s finest actors, Manoj Bajpayee lost out on many things and for many reasons. Despite outstanding performances in 'Satya' and 'Shool', stardom eluded him for a long time. Now, with Anurag Kashyap’s 'Gangs of Wasseypur', he is hoping to reclaim lost ground. Here, the actor talks candidly about why hits matter more than performances:
Can we expect another landmark performance from you in 'Gangs of Wasseypur', like in 'Shool'?
I don’t know whether it’s going to be another great performance but I can tell you this — I am part of a film which will revolutionise Hindi cinema. As for 'Shool', there cannot be any comparison. This film talks about a completely characterless person. 'Shool’s protagonist was full of character.
How much did you have to work on the character of Sardar Khan?
This is the most difficult role I have ever attempted. I must also add that I have never seen this kind of a character being at the forefront of any story. Sardar Khan is totally black and immoral, but the challenge was to make him adorable — for the audience.
How then did you make him ‘adorable’?
It’s the behaviour of that person— the way he responds to other characters and how he goes about leading his life. He has two wives but still indulges in extramarital affairs, he looks at every woman with the idea of sleeping with her, and killing comes easy to him. There is nothing right about this man.
You have had some health issues in recent years. How did you scrape through that phase?
One of my shoulders had stopped working and I couldn’t lift it even an inch. The projects I had with me were slipping out of my hands. It was not a good time. It was a phase where I could only see other actors on screen and appreciate them. I felt sad that I might not be able to work as an actor in the future. It was a time of a lot of inner struggle to come back to the game. Also, commercially, as you know in our business, we are valued on the basis of our last hit. No matter how great an actor you are, you have to be a part of a hit. Sadly, I didn’t have any hits to my credit. Everything went wrong those two years. Then 'Raajneeti' happened.
How have you survived in an industry obsessed with numbers?
It’s quite a magic, really. Even I myself sometimes fail to understand how I have survived for the last eighteen years or so. I am still surviving without even five big hits to my credit. I think it’s because of that section of the audience which desperately wants to see me, and some directors who have kept pushing me to deliver.