Manoj Bajpayee: I always have an urge to play characters who represent the middle-class

Manoj Bajpayee

Manoj Bajpayee | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Manoj Bajpayee looks worn-out after a series of back-to-back interviews, but the exhaustion never reaches his eyes. He lights up the minute a question is asked or a camera is switched on. This is a man who clearly loves discussing his craft. He is thrilled and, even mildly surprised, by the response to  Secrets of Sinauli: Discovery of the Century on Discovery Plus, for which he was the narrator. Up next is Neeraj Pandey’s  India’s Untold Story: Secrets of the Kohinoor, the next story in the Secrets franchise, which premieres on August 4. Soon after its trailer launch, the star sits down for a chat on the franchise, what the National Awards have done for him as an actor, and his love for films from the South. 

Excerpts from an interview:

In a recent interview, you mentioned that being stubborn and patient were the reasons you’ve got the roles you have. till now. As a narrator, what has your experience been?

I have been doing auditions and poetry recitation since my school days. Elocution contests used to be major events in my school. I always represented not only my class, but also my school in all the contests. Since then, auditions and poetry recitations have been part of my endeavour to better my speech, even during my theatre days. So, when you’re a narrator or a storyteller or hosting a documentary series, it makes your job easier. You know what kind of craft should be pulled into it. 

Were you surprised that ‘Secrets of Sinauli’ got such great feedback?

I was really overwhelmed; I don’t think any documentary series has done that well. People were watching it as though they were watching fiction! When people go and watch a documentary with that much interest, it pushes a whole genre. It’s an interesting genre that not only engages you, but also gives you knowledge about that particular subject

‘Secrets of Sinauli’ was released soon after the excavations in Sinauli in 2018, so there was a lot of interest and curiosity surrounding it. The Kohinoor, on the other hand, has been discussed for years. So, whyKohinoor now? 

It’s amazing that Kohinoor has been discussed so much. I myself have read so much, and yet I didn’t know 80 per cent about it. This also says a lot about the depth of the research and the hard work that the research team has put into this documentary. There are so many things about the journey of Kohinoor that are going to shock you, trust me. 

You have really embraced streaming platforms, and we have seen you on several shows and films. But the last theatrical release you had was in 2020 with ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari.’ Do you miss that rush?

Theatrical releases will also happen. At this point, an actor is the one with the advantage [with so many different platforms]. What releases on OTT and in the theatre is purely a decision of the director and producer. But I really thank the streamers for providing such great opportunities to such great talent in this country. I don’t think cinema [in theatres alone] would have done justice to that talent.   

You’re lending your voice to a documentary series on historical events. We see a lot of period dramas being produced in the Hindi film industry these days. As a history student, is there any historical character you’d like to play?

Though I graduated in history, I’ve never had the urge to play any historical role. I always have an urge to play characters from the middle-class. I loved playing Professor [Ramchandra] Siras in  Aligarh and Biranchi Das from the Odia series ( Budhia Singh — Born to Run). The middle-class and people with different challenges and contradictions... I love playing them. I love playing people we see in our day-to-day lives. I find their struggles and the way they overcome them more heroic than what we see any historical character do. 

Manoj Bajpayee in ‘Aligarh’

Manoj Bajpayee in ‘Aligarh’

Is there any non-fiction character that you dream of portraying?

I am always on the lookout for good non-fiction characters to play. My mind is always working when I read a newspaper, opening a news portal. There are thousands of stories hidden there and each story is screaming to be told. 

You won your third National Award for ‘Bhonsle’ last year. What have such awards done for you as an actor each time?

No award in this country does anything to anybody’s career. It’s an honour — you get the award from the President. If your name is chosen for the honour, you should just feel thankful and receive it with a lot of humility... and you must continue to approach your work as a newcomer every day. 

Suriya and Ajay Devgn shared the National Award this year for Best Actor for their performances in ‘Soorarai Pottru’ and ‘Tanhaji,’ have you watched these films? 

I haven’t watched  Tanhaji, but I watched  Soorarai Pottru and it was magnificent. I watch a lot of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam films. I dig deep into Malayalam and Tamil films especially. I’m always on the look out for a director I want to work with; Vetrimaaran is one of my favourite directors.

Below every Instagram post of yours, there are at least three people asking when the third season of ‘The Family Man’ will be out. When is that happening?

( Laughs) It’s up to Amazon Prime to decide when they will start talking about the third season. I don’t know when my manager will be called for the dates. But it will happen.

‘Secrets of the Kohinoor’ hosted by Manoj Bajpayee, will stream exclusively on discovery+ platform starting August 4, 2022

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2022 7:18:33 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/manoj-bajpayee-i-always-have-an-urge-to-play-characters-who-represent-the-middle-class/article65710233.ece