Manoj Bajpayee: Haven't managed to impress my daughter yet
As his maiden web project The Family Man wins praise, Manoj Bajpayee discusses what makes him tick.
He is counted amongst the finest talents produced by the industry. But at home, Manoj Bajpayee jokes that he has yet to measure up to eight-year-old daughter Ava Nayla's expectations. "She is crazy about Varun Dhawan and Tiger Shroff. I have still not managed to impress her," grins the actor.
Blame it on Bajpayee's choice of projects perhaps, which are often gritty and hard-hitting. However, his latest offering, The Family Man, walks that fine line between a comedy and a thriller. The actor plays Srikant Tiwari, an undercover agent for the Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell, in the Amazon Prime Video show. And before you imagine a gun-toting hero in a hyper-stylised actioner, here's the caveat—director duo Raj-DK infuse this thriller with their signature brand of humour. Our desi Chembur-based Bond may be chasing terrorists, but he also can't afford to forget to pick up his kids from school. "Srikant is a man leading two different lives," explains Bajpayee, over sips of diet cola, when we catch up with him at a Juhu hotel during the promotion of his web series.
Bajpayee with daughter Ava Nayla
The show has come at an interesting juncture in his career. After 25 years in showbiz, the actor has decided to slow down and work at his own pace. "After Raajneeti (2010), I took a conscious decision to avoid being in a rush. I did not want my health to suffer from working round-the-clock. I wanted to enjoy my work and my life, too. I can choose the projects I want to do. By God's grace, there are people who still want me in their projects and I still get paid well for them. "
He has stayed away from camps in Bollywood and charted his own path, never trying to wriggle his way into projects with A-list stars. "With due respect to those who figure on the list, what is A to some, may not be to others. I would rather be on the list of good films and actors. It is heartening when today's youngsters talk to me about Bhiku Mhatre [his character in Satya, 1998] or Sardar Khan [Gangs Of Wasseypur, 2012]."
A still from The Family Man
Of late, when the actor is not facing the camera, he is busy conducting workshops at the National School of Drama, New Delhi. "I am excited about the process of finding and guiding new talent. I have passed on the contacts of some of the talented lot to casting directors so that they can audition with them. I have made it my personal endeavour to promote fresh talent," asserts the actor, who burst on the scene with Ram Gopal Varma's Satya (1998).
The mention of Varma lights up his face. "I am still in touch with him, we often discuss cinema," he smiles, adding that he has forged strong bonds with some filmmakers over their shared passion for movies. As much as he loves brainstorming with directors over ideas and scripts, he insists direction does not figure on his to-do list. "It is better to do what I know rather than step into other people's territory," he reasons matter-of-factly.
Up next for the actor is the Netflix film, Mrs Serial Killer, helmed by friend and neighbour Shirish Kunder. "I admire his talent. I hope he gets his due." As 2019 nears an end, Bajpayee agrees it has been a landmark year for him. Not only was he honoured with the Padma Shri, but he also turned 50 in April — enough reason to host a bash. "I had never thrown a party all these years, but this time, I did it due to the coaxing of my friends. I don't celebrate birthdays or talk about my age. After all, an actor never ages."
Politics? No way!
Bajpayee has been getting feelers from several political parties to join the electoral fray. However, he dismisses the idea. "I will never join politics. Bihar may be the hotbed of politics, but what do I know about politicking? I only know acting."
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