Manoj Bajpai

His first major role has probably become the most remarkable villain since Gabbar Singh of Sholay. The spirit of Bhiku Mhatre, Mumbai ka king, Manoj Bajpai gives acting a whole new dimension. Manoj is the hottest thing in the industry today, with films like 'Ghaath,' 'Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar' and 'Zubeida' on the rolls. correspondents brings you the don himself. Excerpts:

What are you currently working on? What is the role all about?

I am currently shooting for 'Ghaath.' I play this unemployed city guy from the middle-class. He has dreams but he is not able to fulfill them because he does not have the opportunity. He is representative of so many city-bred youth who have quite a bit to prove but find no way to channelise their energy. So, they take up wrong deeds. It's a very serious issue we are dealing with here, but in the mainstream format with a realistic touch."

Like Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty, you are dabbling with comedy in 'Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar'.

"'DPMLY' is a tragi-comedy where the comedy lies in the situation, not in the performance. The comedy then turns into a tragedy. It's a very interesting film and it has shaped up so well that I am proud that I have done it. I played a major role in making it happen that at the end of the day I encouraged these people to make the film; people who were completely unknown to the industry. And I really hope that the film does well."

'Shool' did not do as well as expected. What went wrong?
"Nothing went wrong with 'Shool'. Trade people do not take into consideration the collections during the re-runs. But, I must tell you that 'Shool' has done a tremendous business during the re-runs. It was in demand all along and ran for many weeks. And I got as much appreciation for this film as much for 'Satya,' from every corner.

How does one rationalise a highly appreciated performance for a film that fails as a product at the box office?
"See, I am part of the film. You have to see that. The people who have been involved in the making of the film also benefit from it, in fact, probably much more than Manoj Bajpai alone does. Like E.Nivas, who directed the film. After 'Shool', every one is talking about him. Or Rajpal Yadav who was also offered a meaty role in Ramu's 'Jungle.' So, everyone benefited from the film. Even the cameraman Hari Nayar is doing so much work from the film. It's just that the media somewhere, I feel, backed out of emphasising on 'Shool' or showed some kind of ignorance in highlighting the importance of the film. They appreciated it and forgot about it.

There are some rumours going around that you and Neha have broken up. When, in fact, the two of you never even admitted to be seeing each other.
I am not very comfortable talking about my personal life. It is not that I don't want people to know about it. Everyone knows about it and I don't want anyone to know beyond that, because it is not just about my life. I am a very private person and I don't even intend to share these things with anyone, whether it's my misery or anything else."

Why is this?

"That's just the way I am. I am not very comfortable talking about these things. I tell people whatever needs to be told and I am very open about it. I don't feel comfortable talking about something when it involves another person. It's about respecting the other person.

Somebody said that you've taken ballroom dancing lessons for Shyam Benegal's 'Zubeida' and even in 'DPMLY' you are doing proper choreographed sequences. Why this sudden fascination?

"I have done a lot of musicals in theatre. I was one of the lucky few, who could dance as well. I am not Michael Jackson or Govinda or Prabhu Deva but yes, I can manage. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan has done some beautiful dancing. It's all about feeling the music and rhythm. And Arshad Warsi is a very good dancer and he has seen some of my stuff in 'DPMLY' and he said he loved my dancing in it. Coming from an accomplished dancer like him, it means a lot. He said, "Manoj, you look so good when you are dancing, that's only because you are feeling it."

You've got two films happening with Tabu. What is it like working with her?

"Oh, I have a fantastic relationship with her. It's a fabulous working relationship. I have always admired and appreciated her as an actress. She is someone who comes to the sets without any baggage. She gives so much credibility and depth to the role she is playing. She is a very comfortable actress to work with.

What is the criterion on which you choose your role?
"There is no criterion. At that moment in time, it should strike me and say," Yes, Manoj, this is the role you want to do." I may be proven wrong in the long run, but as long as it clicks at that moment. There will be people who will ask me why I refused to do a certain film and I may not have an answer to that. But, there is something about that role that is not going down well with me. Or I am not charged up about the role."

What does success mean to you?
"To me, it is the freedom to do what you want." Right now there are too many things to be accomplished before I can call myself successful."

What does a Manoj Bajpai kind of film look like?
'Aks,' 'Ghaath,' 'DPMLY' and 'Zubeida,' these are my kind of films. Simple narration, simple script, good characters."

Manoj Bajpai
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