My journey has not been of a star, but of an actor: Manoj Bajpayee

After driving people crazy with his portrayal of Sardar Khan in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ and of Surya Sen in ‘Chittagong’, Manoj Bajpayee has emerged as one of the leading actors of the Hindi film industry in the contemporary era. One after the other, every film has seen the man dive deep down into a character and deliver gutsy roles. In ‘Chakravyuh’, too, Bajpayee believes that his role is the one that needs to be watched out for. Ananya Bhattacharya of spoke to the ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ star. Here are the excerpts from the conversation:

‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ has established you as one of the most bankable unconventional stars in the Hindi film industry. How far do you think you’ll be able to take that with ‘Chakravyuh’?

My journey has not been of a star, it has been of an actor – and I’ve been very clear about that. I’m an actor, and I’ll keep doing good films, good roles, and a variety of roles and not try to get into any kind of a stereotype. That’s my strength. And if films become successful, then nothing like it, you know! It really gives confidence to my directors, other directors to make such films. ‘Chittagong’, which came afterwards, has been hugely appreciated. It’s a tiny film, made on a budget of about 2/2.5 crores, and it has been praised a lot. Now the job is done. My job is just to go ahead and associate myself with good roles, and that is where it ends. The film is now not only known in Chittagong or West Bengal, but the rest of the country as well.

How easy or difficult was it working for ‘Chakravyuh’?

It’s always difficult to get into a new character that you are completely unfamiliar with. It is new flesh, new blood, new face, and new personality. It is difficult to deal with new characters like Rajan that I’m playing in ‘Chakravyuh’; a Zonal Commander in a Naxal Wing. Rajan is somebody who sounds very local, but can debate at the UN; he’s so well-read – at the same time, he’s so cruel when it comes to completing his mission, when it comes to punishing the betrayers, when it comes to fighting with the machinery. There’s a complete contrast in this man. And he’s very very emotional about the men who are working for him.

Do you think Prakash Jha has been able to extract the best from you?

This is my third film with him. And I always feel that he’s given me different shades to play with. He could easily have given me any one of these roles – but he chose Rajan – and that’s what he said.

And you look forward to working with Prakash Jha again?

Yes… I look forward to working with Prakash Jha again and again. He makes topical films, and with every topic that comes his way, he’s wrapped up in the story – a story that you know, that you’ve read, that belongs to our contemporary society – the story that he’s talking about. I really enjoy working with Prakash Jha.

With a topic that’s as strong and controversial as Naxalism, do you think you’ve been able to do justice to the subject?

What we’ve done is that we’ve given a 360 degree point of view. We’ve given it the point of view of the government machinery which is being represented by Arjun (Rampal) and Esha (Gupta), the point of view of the Naxalites which is being represented by me and Anjali (Patil), and the point of view of a complete outsider who comes into it and how he reacts to the entire thing (represented by Abhay Deol). You make a story involving all perspectives – and let people decide which side they should take – that is for them to decide. Our job is to make a topical film and do justice to it.

Are you looking at working in more of commercial films or more of content-driven ones?

I haven’t been part of a lot of commercial films. They are not made that often now. The industry has changed now, because of the multiplexes and its good that content is driving the whole thing. People like Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj, Dibakar Banerjee – all of these guys are changing the whole thing – it’s a great sign for the industry.

What kind of expectations do you have from ‘Chakravyuh’?

I always expect my film to be appreciated and be successful – sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t plan it. All I can say is that I’m keeping my fingers crossed – and hoping that like ‘Aarakshan’ and ‘Rajneeti’, this one too is successful!