He is the true definition of talent. Inspite of being away from the industry, he stroked back, and how! We are talking about Manoj Bajpai who is going to be seen living the life of Professor Srinivas in ALIGARH. Interviewing him, he revealed the difficulties he faced in Bollywood, what made him take up ALIGARH, future plans and much, much more.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
What preparation went into becoming Professor Srinivas?
Everybody asks me this, but even if I tell you, you won't be able to understand because an actor's preparation is very private. We've learnt certain craft that we keep on applying for each and every role depending on the genre we are working in. Each and every preparation is extremely different from each other. Similarly, this film needed different kind of preparation - exercise and routine which I had to follow. 15-20 days have gone into getting into my character.
How much of reality about Dr. Srinivas is shown in ALIGARH?
There is a lot of fictional element also. We taken the creative liberty to convey the message by Professor Srinivas. Most (around 75%) of the film is true. We extracted some information from documents, like his court case etc.
Which was that one thing which drew you towards the script?
It's a great script in totality. The character in itself is very unique. I don't think Hindi cinema has ever seen a character like Professor Srinivas. This was an opportunity to be associated with a great film in the making. If we really work hard, ALIGARH is one film which will be a part of and will be remembered in History.
ALIGARH seems to have more to the storyline than just the life of a gay professor. So what do you think is that quality?
Being gay is not a character element -it's just an orientation, but the personality of Professor Srinivas was very unique. He was somebody who was filled with love and never thought anything wrong about anybody.
At the trailer launch you said that you were upset because Hansal Mehta didn't think about you first...
Yeah. He's a friend since 21 years and was thinking in his mind that I'll not play an old professor who's gay. He thought that if Manoj will say no to me, I'll not like it. Co-incidentally Mukesh Chabbra suggested my name and I now feel great and am thankful to Hansal Mehta for agreeing to Mukesh Chabbra's suggestion.
'Hansal Mehta has become very confident and daring'
What was your first reaction when you got the script?
Very nice. I started working on it. For me, when a script comes, there's an emergency. I have to be on my toes to do it right. I was really nervous. It took me 10-15 days to get into the character. When you're preparing yourself in a city like Mumbai, it's quite disturbing and not easy to concentrate.
You worked with Hansal Mehta in 2000. Now that you'll have come back, has something changed?
He's become very confident and daring and is in a much improved space as a director, with loads of clarity. It's a delight to work with him.
Do you believe that GANGS OF WASSEYPUR was a turning point for you?
RAAJNEETI. Before RAAJNEETI, I had done 1971, which got two national awards. There's a gap of 6 years and the industry didn't give me any work during that span. Earlier all the different kinds of films I did bombed. With PINJAR, I got my second National award, but the movie did average business. To survive, I've done a few commercial films, which also bombed. Suddenly I was out of the market and people, including my friends, were not ready to offer me anything. RAAJNEETI's role put me back to where I was. Amidst all fantastic actors, my role was much appreciated and the dialogues also became memorable. That movie added value to my actor. People then slowly got momentum - AARAKSHAN, SPECIAL 26, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR, TEVAR. Naseeruddin Shah also recently told me that ALIGARH is the conclusion of all the years I have worked hard. It's a great compliment for me.
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