I’ve learnt to distance myself from my characters so that they don’t affect me psychologically: Manoj Bajpai

Seasoned actor Manoj Bajpai talks about how he works on his characters, how characters affect the actor, his latest release ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ and much more

Manoj Bajpai (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Manoj Bajpai (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Subhash K Jha

Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari sees you donning several disguises. Was that a challenge?

It was a challenge getting into all those disguises. When you have 4-5people working on your looks, prosthetics etc every morning for hours for a disguise that came on screen for just a few minutes.

Sounds like quite a challenge?

It was quite a task. I also had to work on the characters for each disguise, give it a backstory, even if it was on screen briefly. It had to look convincing. So yes it was a challenge, but worth it.

After doing so many heavy roles was it fun doing comedy?

If you mean only comedy is fun, then I disagree with you. I always have fun no matter which character be it Bhonsle or The Family Man or Gali Guleyan. No matter what the tone of the character the one has to enjoy playing it. Someroles make you intensely invested like Gali Guleyan, Bhonsle or Satya. Others characters put you in a happier place and you remain in a happy frame of mind playing them in order to pitch them in the right mode, as was the case with The Family Man and Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari.

Was it a relief in Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari to move away from so many heavy parts in recent times?

Yes, it was a different turn and quite a change from the characters I’ve been playing recently. Even The Family Man gives me the chance to stay lighthearted , although in a very different way as compared to Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari. When you are doing something like Rukh or Aligarh you can’t bring the happy sur to the sets .That would disturb the mood of the character.

These had begun to take a toll on your mental health?

It’s true. When I was doing Satya, Kaun and Shool they completely ruined my mental health. With experience and age I learnt to distance myself from my characters to the extent that they didn’t affect me psychologically. After Pinjra I changed my approach so that I immerse myself in the character and come out without hurting myself.

In spite of the pandemic 2020 has been a good year for you workwise comment?

Coincidentally all my OTT projects came out during the pandemic be it Bhonsle, The Family Man or Mrs Serial Killer. One of my own favourite films 1971 went unnoticed when it was released in theatres in 2007. The producers recently put it on YouTube where it’s a blockbuster. I also did Bhojpuri rap for Anubhav Sinha during the pandemic. Yes, I am humbled by the woek and attention during these stressful times. But at the same time nobody wants to be locked down for six months, jobless helpless. Now I’m shooting again and it’s going to be back-to-back work for me for the next one-and-a-half years.

Tell me about your forthcoming assignments?

I am not allowed to talk about all of them. I’ve signed some very exciting stuff. I am very excited about The Family Man. All the characters have moved on from Part 1. It’s a different dynamic and politics. It’s going to be a very different experience from Part 1. My character Srikant Tiwari is now in a different zone. I had a balls hooting it. Shrikant is like R K Laxman’s Common Man striving to keep a balance between his work and family. I enjoyed playing his various shades and yet had to ensure the audience saw him as one character. Like Srikant Tiwari I am going to have to be away from my family for quite a lot time in 2021.

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