“I’m always on the outlook for untold stories” ”“ actor Manoj Bajyapee

By Neeru Saluja

Actor Manoj Bajyapee can play any role with conviction. Be it the underworld don, a gay professor, the honest cop, a family man or his latest comic role of a wedding detective.

One of the finest and critically acclaimed actors of our film industry, Manoj is unstoppable as his latest film ”˜Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’, is the first theatrical release by Zee Studios after the pandemic. A situational comedy co-starring Diljit Dosanjh and Fatima Sana Shaikh, Manoj plays the role of a wedding detective who gets a kick out of finding the flaws in potential grooms.

As we talk to the Padma Shri actor about his latest film, dancing, rapping and unconventional roles, he also gives us an important message on how we can support the industry in these difficult times.

”˜Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ is the first theatrical release in Bollywood after COVID. How are people reacting to it and how does it feel having a film release after such a long time?

It’s a comedy film and it will be better if people watch it together. We made a collective decision that no matter what happens we will wait for the cinema halls to open and then release the film. With that conviction and confidence, we decided to go to the theatre. The first day people were apprehensive, they came in less numbers but now the numbers have started growing. With all the restrictions and protocols in place, people will slowly and gradually come to watch the film, as it carries good reports.

You play the role of ”˜Mangal’, a wedding detective in the film where you change into various characters with ease. Tell us a bit about playing all these characters.

It’s a very light hearted film for the family. My role is of a wedding detective who has a family to feed. His father doesn’t believe in him and his sister is very modern in her outlook. He needs to prove himself and in this process ruins the prospect of the groom. It is a situational comedy that will make you laugh. The role required a lot of patience, and it took 4-5 hours to get ready for each character. But when you see your character coming into light, everything is worth it.

We have rarely seen you doing comedy. Will you call comedy your forte?

I like to call myself an actor who does justice to any genre that he is given. I try to be good at everything and excel in everything I do.

This year we have seen you grooving on ”˜Basanti’ in the film and you also sang a Bhojpuri rap ‘Bambai Main Ka Ba’!

After a long time I danced on a song. It was a situation that was required for the film. I need to be convinced in a film that a song or dance is required, and in this film it was the case.

I did a rap song in Bhojpuri, my native language. It talks about a relevant issue. The country was going through a migrant crisis during COVID and it had to be discussed.

You don’t repeat roles intentionally, and are an evolving actor breaking limitations. To achieve this, what kind of characters do you look for?

Something that I have never seen before. A story that is dying to be told or a character that needs to be told. I’m always on the outlook, and I’m happy to reach out to people and filmmakers for stories never seen before. The next year is full of those untold stories.

You have been one of the few mainstream actors who moved to OTT platforms much before COVID hit us.

And also one of the few actors to experiment with short films! With OTT, I wanted to come on with a clutter breaking subject. This was something I was looking for and ”˜Family Man’ gave me this opportunity. I’m glad it has done phenomenally well nationally and internationally. Everyone is now looking forward to Season 2.

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. What has it taught you?

It has taught me everything that was told to us. Don’t be greedy, love your planet and love other creatures. Money is not everything, competitiveness is not good. Family is everything. The way forward is to follow these rules and this is the only way to save the planet.

Is there a message you would like to give to cinema lovers in these difficult times?

The Indian film industry has gone through such a bad time due to the lockdown and the pandemic. It is now slowly limping back to it’s feet. Through entertainment, we have contributed to the society. Now it’s the turn of the society to show their support when films are releasing in theatres. It’s not only about actors, but the matter of all the employees and daily wage workers whose bread and butter depends on this industry.


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