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the-south-asian.com                         November  2000

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Manoj Bajpai5 minutes with the protagonist



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Manoj Bajpai - "it is the performance that matters - not the image"


The common man has been the protagonist of Hindi films since the birth of meaningful cinema. From Balraj Sahni in Do Bigha Zameen to Guru Dutt in Pyasa and Raj Kapoor in Shree 420---the common man has been projected a victim of circumstances.

Perhaps it is a reflection of times that Manoj Bajpai has given the common man a whole new meaning. The roles he plays do not have larger than life images but belong to the mainstream of the society - the middle class victim unleashing and venting his anger. As he did in Satya and Shool.

Which is why after films like Bandit Queen, Sansodhan, Tamanna, Satya, Kaun, Shool and Fiza, Bajpai has become the alternate macho symbol---a niche seldom filled in Bollywood except to an extent by Naseeruddin Shah. 

Though some critics feel that with his latest Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, Bajpai is running the danger of being typecast, the actor ignores the charge, saying  it is performance that matters not the image.


Excerpts from an interview with Newsmen Features

NF: The common man's role seems to fascinate you immensely. How is Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar different from your earlier films?

MB: Well, for one, the story is different and I instantly fell for it. I play a village bumpkin who sets out for Mumbai with big city dreams. But as it often happens his dreams come crashing down. His values and ideals are eroded and he emerges a different and a very changed man at the end of his journey.

NF: What kind of a message are you trying to give through a movie like this?

MB: The message here is simple. In order to be successful and to survive in life one needs to stop taking things to one’s heart and rein in one’s emotions. The hero of the film is a common man. The circumstances make him big. When the film ends, a new story actually begins.

NF: How did you get this role?

MB: I have known director Hansal Mehta since I came to Mumbai. At that time he was doing a serial called Kalakar in which he gave me a role. Though the serial came to a close after the tenth episode, I enjoyed working with him because he understood me as an actor. Now that he is making his first film, I am gratified that he chose me as the main lead.

NF: How would you rate Hansal Mehta as a director?

MB: I feel he has the vision and patience to understand creative processes. He is very capable and gently guides everyone on the sets. I've always had confidence in him and I feel he's made an excellent film. I am very satisfied by my work and if the film is a hit, then all the credit must rest with Hansal Mehta.

NF: What do you think of Saurabh Shukla, both as an actor and as a scriptwriter of the film?

MB: This is not the first time that I am working with Saurabh. My association with him dates back to the time when I was doing theatre. I worked in many plays written by him. In my opinion he is one of the most talented and realistic scriptwriters. He takes an ordinary piece of writing and transforms it into the most extraordinary script imaginable. Besides, he is a very talented actor. He is even planning to go into direction now and I am waiting for the day when I can work under him as an actor.

NF: On what basis do you choose the films that you are going to work in?

MB: It's simple. If a part doesn't suit my profile I don't hesitate in rejecting it - no matter how much money I am offered.

NF: Many of your films have dance sequences featuring you. Do you think dancing suits the type of roles you perform?

MB: Singing and dancing are a part of our culture and are certainly not new to me. I have once even done the role of a folk-dancer in a play. I may not be Govinda or Prabhu Deva, but I manage to bring out the character through my dancing. If I am asked to play a dancer in a film I will work hard for it. As an actor I must accept challenges.

NF: Who are the heroines you enjoy working with?

MB: I feel comfortable with all the actresses I have worked with though I must admit that I felt most at ease working with Tabu, Raveena Tandon and Karishma Kapoor. Tabu makes her co-stars feel completely at ease as does Raveena Tandon. Working with Karishma in Fiza was a different experience. I feel she is exactly like me -- she gets completely engrossed in the character once she faces the camera.

NF: Apart from Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, which are your other films being released this year?

MB: One of my films nearing completion is Ghaath. Then there is Aks with Amitabh Bachchan, which should be released a little later. Recently I have signed Panchi but that will take some time to complete.



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