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TELLING TALES Manoj Bajpai: `For me the script is sacrosanct'
TELLING TALES Manoj Bajpai: `For me the script is sacrosanct'

Manoj Bajpai who became synonymous with the underworld flick Satya, is in a happy place now

He stands on the edge of a high rise with the city spread out before him demanding "Mumbai ka king kaun?" And triumphantly answers "Bhiku Mhatre." For those who cannot hear the clanging of bells of recognition, this is a seminal sequence from Ramgopal Varma's uber underworld flick "Satya" (1998). The man who fleshed out Bhiku was Manoj Bajpai and though he must bored out of his skull answering questions about Bhiku, he was graciousness personified as he went down that path one more time.In town to promote his latest film "1971," Manoj says: "I don't subscribe to Stanilawski's theory of delving into yourself for an emotion. There is nothing of me in Bhiku Mhatre. I just become the character."

Deconstructing Bhiku

Rationalising the reason for "Satya" faltering after Bhiku's death, Manoj says: "It is natural because he is a character who frightens you and makes you laugh. He provokes every emotion in you; he is so unpredictable that you are constantly on the edge. So once he dies, the emotional core of the film dies out."Having laid "Satya" and Bhiku to rest, we are all set to move to the present and "1971." Do we hear a sigh of relief? "For my character, Major Suraj Singh, I created a backstory, a family... For me the script is sacrosanct. Once I have the script, I work on my character and flesh it out so that it coincides with the director's vision."Manoj is proud of his role in the film. "This movie will show the growth of Manoj Bajpai. I have come a long way in terms of my craft." This, coming from a man who refuses to be formulated in a phrase - from "Bandit Queen" to "Satya" to "Kaun" to "Shool" to "Zubeidaa" - is nothing short of amazing."I have never been typecast. Commercial cinema is hell bent on typecasting and if you show any weakness for money you have had it baby!" "1971" was a different experience for Manoj as he had to "convey so much through silence. Everyone else is aggressive while I have to show my caring for my soldiers, my passion for my responsibility and command respect without too much dialogue."Ask him if he chose the character or the character chose him and he mulls over it. "I must compliment the character for choosing me and I hope the character is as happy with my work!"We are seeing Manoj on screen after a gap of two years. The reason for this is a one-year break and a year spent making five films of which "1971" is the first. "This year is going to be a Bajpai bonanza!" Manoj says with a laugh. There is "Swami" directed by choreographers Ganesh Acharya, followed by Sanjay Gupta's "Dus Kahaniya," Rajiv Virani's "The Whisperers" and "90 Minutes" by Iqbal Rizwi.With the exception of Gupta, all the films are made by debutantes - "1971" is Amrit Sagar's first film. "What to do? First timers come with such excellent scripts it is difficult to say no. And most established filmmakers are so insecure that they stick to formula."Manoj has made peace with his craft and says he would like to return to theatre at some point of time. An emphatic "no" greets a suggestion of working on radio. "Acting is my first love and by the same token I would never venture into direction as I am too selfish an actor to bother about others!"While Manoj has no problems with actors flaunting six packs, he says: "It is good to be fit and if people can make money flaunting their bodies, good for them. My USP has always been acting and that is what I would stick to."The lad from Bihar is a trifle upset at how the state is represented in the media. "Bihar is always portrayed as if they do not want it to be part of the country. This is the place that was home to institutions like Nalanda and we will surely bounce back." And is there a role he would give an arm and leg to do? There is a glint of mischief in his eyes as he slyly says: "Without an arm and leg I would not be much use now would I? But seriously I guess I would have liked to do Devdas but Shah Rukh Khan has done it... " Manoj has lived a life less ordinary but ask if there is any chance of seeing it all in print as a autobiography and he laughs out loud: "No, never! I will have to write all lies!" Mumbai ka king kaun? Manoj Bajpai!MINI ANTHIKAD-CHIBBER

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