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I may never direct a film: Manoj Bajpayee

Manoj Bajpayee on the change that Hindi film industry is witnessing and why indie filmmakers should not give up

Before we get started, Manoj Bajpayee leans in to ask whether to deliver his answers in English or Hindi. He is fluent in Marathi too and language has never really been a hurdle for him. Someone who believes that diversity is the only way ahead for cinema regardless of the language, the actor participated in a discussion on films on day four of the Jagran Film Festival (JFF). hitlist caught up with the actor for a freewheeling chat...

Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpayee. Pic/Shadad Khan

What role does a film festival play in a city such as Mumbai?
It’s a well-known fact that our country churns out the maximum number of films in the world. And we’re not just talking about Hindi films here. The problem lies in the distribution and marketing of a film. Nowadays, it takes more money to get a film released than to actually make it. In such a scenario, it’s better to have film festivals. These events not only bring film lovers together but also connect industrywallahs with the commoners. The exchange of ideas that takes place during interactive sessions is something that benefits both parties.

But some critics feel that film festivals are being organised just for the sake of it.
The purists will always have their idealistic view about everything. They are not wrong in holding their views high but we don’t live in an ideal world. We are part of something that is prone to trial and error. And yes, I don’t think all Indian states are properly represented in our country’s film industry. So if you’re telling me that film festivals shouldn’t grow in numbers, then I beg to differ. Unless we run something, how would we know whether it can do well or not?

What role do events like JFF play in your growth as a film industry professional?
I’ve always been a film buff and I was the guy who wouldn’t miss a show. At a film fest, people walk in to watch a particular film but they stray into a hall not knowing what to expect. This is what would happen to me when I was younger and I’m sure it happens nowadays too. A non-Marathi person walks into watch a Marathi film and is impressed by what he sees. Like they say, you watch and learn.

As far as regional cinema is concerned, what is the greatest challenge that Bollywood is facing today?
Content. If you look outside Bollywood, there is a rising wave of small but meaningful film industries. They don’t churn out hundreds of films a year but they have stories to share. Bhojpuri film industry and to some extent, Punjabi cinema, seem to have lost track; this is because they are trying to be something they are not, whereas Assamese films express themselves as originally as possible. Bengali cinema and Malayalam films have done that for many years now. To address your question, yes, at times, the Hindi film industry too has tried to be everything it’s not.

But aren’t things in this industry gradually changing?
Of course, there is. We’ve seen an inflow of new ideas. Some call it independent cinema but the truth is that these indie filmmakers are still struggling to get backing from producers. They shouldn’t give up. They should keep making these films. Fortunately, we have some influential people in our industry, who raise their voices for these low-budget films.

Speaking of filmmaking, do you see yourself directing a film anytime soon?
I’d love to direct a film but the only thing that’s stopping me from turning into a director is that I can’t stay awake after 10.30 pm and a director can’t afford such luxury (laughs). Even as an actor, I ask my producers about the number of night shoots we have to do. I wouldn’t think twice before saying no to a film that requires me to compromise on my sleep.

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