“I don’t want this love story to ever end”

It looks like it has gone in a “jiffy” but it hasn’t, says actor Manoj Bajpayee while looking back at his career of 30 years in Hindi cinema.
The versatile star made his debut in 1994 with “Droh Kaal” and followed it up with a minor role in “Bandit Queen”. But it was his role as the flamboyant gangster Bhiku Mhatre in 1998’s “Satya” that made him an instant star.
There have been many challenges along the way, but Bajpayee credits his “extreme passion for cinema” for his survival in the industry.
“Looks like it has gone in a jiffy but it hasn’t. When you sit down, you realise that it was not easy. You kept building it brick by brick and sometimes suddenly someone would come and push the half-built wall and you start again.
“More than anything, what really made me survive all these years is my extreme passion and love for what I do. I don’t want this love story to ever end,” Bajpayee told in an interview here.
The 54-year-old actor, who hails from a small village called Belwa in Bihar’s West Champaran district, featured in films such as “Kaun?”, “Shool” and “Pinjar” post his breakout performance.
He was also appreciated for “Raajneeti” but his performance as Sardar Khan in “Gangs of Wasseypur” and the role of professor Ramchandra Siras in Hansal Mehta’s biographical drama “Aligarh” earned him wide acclaim.
Bajpayee, however, became a household name with his turn as an intelligence agent trying to balance a risky job with familial responsibilities in the Prime Video series “The Family Man”.
His latest streaming venture is “Killer Soup”, a crime series that is on Netflix.
The show, also starring Konkona Sensharma, will see Bajpayee in a double role for the first time. It also reunites him with Abhishek Chaubey, his director of “Sonchiriya” and “Hungama Hai Kyun Barpa” (from “Ray” anthology).
The actor, who has been a major voice and a strong proponent of middle-of-the-road cinema, said Chaubey knows how to extract the best from him in every performance.
Bajpayee said he always wanted to work with Chaubey but felt slightly disappointed that his role was short in “Sonchiriya”, but the 2019 dacoit drama is amongst his favourite performances.
“I read the script (‘Sonchiriya’) and I finished it in two hours. I thought I wanted to work with him in a bigger role, but this is so good. We had a meeting and he said, ‘Sir, I want to work with you, please trust me. Just go with it. I won’t let you down’. When I saw the character of Man Singh, I said, ‘Wow, even I could not see myself that way while performing,” he recalled.
The actor said Chaubey is his “kind of director” because they both have same cinema sensibilities and a love for the middle-of-the-road genre.
“Somewhere it serves a bigger purpose to the audience because too many potboilers and too much indulgence is not doing good to the audience. Middle-of-the-road is actually about balancing. Such movies excite and engage me,” he added.
As a seasoned performer, Bajpayee has done probably done it all but where he shines the most is in the roles that portray the loneliness and inner struggles of a person, whether it was an upright police officer in “Shool”, a man struggling with social stigma over his sexual orientation in “Aligarh”, a man dealing with difficult childhood in “Gali Guleiyan” or a retired cop trying to come to terms with a terminal disease in “Bhosle”, his National Award-winning act.
Asked whether he had an affinity towards such roles, Bajpayee said it’s not intentional but loneliness is something that he ponders about a lot.
“I am not a lonely person, believe me. If you look at it, everyone is lonely. In their quiet moments, everyone is seeking something that can’t be answered by a relationship, or a marriage, or by becoming a father or daughter.
“It’s something you are born with and you are seeking something that you can’t define. Then there is the old-age loneliness, when you are not wanted by anyone. It has always attracted me since my childhood,” he added.
Set in the fictitious town of Mainjur, “Killer Soup” also features an ensemble cast of great actors like Nasser, Sayaji Shinde, Lal, Anbuthasan, Anula Navlekar and Kani Kusruti. It is produced by Chetana Kowshik and Honey Trehan.