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    Sep 2011


    Default I canít be cast in any mould: Manoj Bajpayee

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    Manoj Bajpayee isn't your conventional hero, and that's his USP in the dynamic Indian cinema of today.

    GOW is a cult film, like Sholay
    Taking the success of his film Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW) in his stride, National Award winning actor Manoj Bajpayee says, "Once you complete a film, you move on. Then you focus on the next project. GOW has become a cult film, almost like Sholay. This was one film I was very very confident about - GOW, and I'm never confident about most of my films. I'm always in a doubt about how much it will appeal to the audience. But I knew that this film would be a super hit. We knew that we were giving something unique to the audience and they will love it. As it is the film has got so much international acclaim..."

    However, the biggest compliment Manoj's received for his performance in the film came from unexpected quarters, shares Manoj, who was in Lucknow to promote his film Shootout At Wadala (SOW). "My father has seen both parts twice. One of my brothers has seen it thrice. A friend has seen it 14 times! My father hasn't said anything to me, but the fact that he saw the film two times, which he never does, says a lot to me. That's very satisfying. But most of the kids in the family are quite disappointed because they are all under 18 and couldn't see their chacha's film! It's funny that the film has made so much of money in spite of having an A certificate. Imagine if it didn't have an A certificate what would it have done!" he wonders aloud.

    Don't blame Bollywood
    A thought that's on everyone's mind these days is that item songs in films are responsible for commodifying women, and lead to incidents like the Delhi gang rape. But Manoj doesn't agree, "Gang rape is undoubtedly the most heinous crime. I'm all for meting out the harshest of treatments to the perpetrators. But then, we should focus on that. We should force the government to make laws which free women. A law which allows them to live, walk, move around in peace and as they please, rather than blaming item numbers, advertisements or the film industry. Tomorrow you'll start blaming a writer for writing a certain book, you'll blame a painter for painting a certain picture. There's no end to the blame game. Banning anything is just not right. Let's get down to the real issue - that women are being subjected to such crimes and we should stop it. By blaming the film industry for any wrong of in the society, you are blaming yourself, because you are the one who's going to watch it. Over the years you are the one who has patronised the film industry. And it has always catered to what the audience wants. Why do directors and producers put item songs in film? Because people like them! Aap dekhna band kar do, woh dikhana band kar denge! Then you shouldn't say that item songs commodify women. Usko appreciate toh aap kar rahe ho na?" emphasises Manoj.

    However, that doesn't mean Manoj finds item numbers necessary in films. "I personally feel they are only done to titillate the audience, to attract them to watch the film. On a creative level, I think we can do without them. I'm not too much for item songs."

    No funny bone
    And like item songs, comedy is something Manoj is not comfortable with either. "I can pull off a light hearted role, like the one I'm doing in Special 26, but I can never do an out-and-out comedy role. That's because I can't do anything which I'm not convinced about. And I'm not very convinced that I can pull off a comic role," he says, adding, "I am doing a comedy film, but it's not going to be a deliberate comedy. The characters will not make an effort to make you laugh. Comedy doesn't come easy to me. But it's not as if my filmy characters won't make you laugh. Bhiku Mhatre made people laugh with his dark humour, as did Sardar Khan. He's a cold blooded killer, a lech, a womaniser who never takes life seriously. I keep doing variations in my roles and in films, but a full fledged comedy, never. I did Money Hai Toh Honey Hai with Govinda but I hated myself in it. I didn't feel good doing it."

    Not hero material
    Similarly, Manoj is not comfortable playing the typical Hindi film hero. "See, I need to believe in something before I do it. I need reasons to do it. Zubeida was a romantic film, but I saw reasons in playing the lead in it. He wasn't the conventional hero. He was different. I can't sing romantic songs on screen, I won't get away with it. I'd rather be seen in a variety of roles like Bhiku Mhatre in Satya, a romantic raja in Zubeida, a sympathetic love-lorn Rashid in Pinjar, a psychopath in Road, Raza Shiraazi in Veer Zara, a naxalite in Chittagong, the debauch Sardar Khan, a cop on the right side of the law in Special 26 or even Sabir Ibrahim Kaskar in Shootout At Wadala, than be cast in any mould. That's my high as an actor," says he with a smile.

    Bad guy, good guy?
    A mention of SOW makes us ask Manoj if the audience is going to end up liking the bad guys in the film as they did in Shootout At Lokhandwala. "See, that's the beauty of writing a story like this. When you are seeing the film from my perspective, you will end up following me, my actions and also my logic in indulging in those actions. You, as an audience, are following my journey in the entire film. That's why people fell in love with Bhiku Mhatre or even Veerendra Pratap of Raajneeti, both of whom were villians in the conventional sense. Take the case of Sardar Khan. I'm sure there hasn't been a more debased, notorious, lecherous, debauch, cowardly kameena than Sardar Khan in the history of Indian cinema, yet he emerges as the hero! That's because the story has been written from his perspective. So even if I'm doing something wrong in the film, there is a solid logic behind it, which the writer has already presented to you earlier in the film. And the audience excuses the bad guy for doing the bad things and he ends up becoming the hero!"

    Does that mean the audience is gullible? "Yes, but they are no fools. You can't feed the audience any crap," he reasons. "Our job in GOW became harder because there was nothing good about Sardar Khan. Usme koi bhi toh achchai nahi thi! He was not loyal, not sincere. That was a challenge - to make people love him," says Manoj, "In fact it was a challenge to play the character. For 45 days I led a troubled life because I didn't know from where to draw the inferences to this character. And then after so much praise, it is immensely satisfying that you have made the audience love a character like this also!" says Manoj, who's big time into charity, otherwise.

    From having walked the ramp to participating in Kaun Banega Crorepati for a cause, Manoj says it gives him satisfaction to be doing his little bit for the audience. "As an actor, I say yes to being associated with a cause because if my presence can bring funds for people in need, then I'll be with them forever," says he.



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