Interview By: Team Super Cinema

One of the most prolific actors we have, Manoj Bajpayee now also turns producer with ‘Missing’. We catch up with the actor who talks all about the film in a quick chat!

“Missing’ is not the kind of thriller that will only shock people or give them suspense. It goes a lot beyond that.”

What lead you to producing ‘Missing’?
It was actually the faith I had in Neeraj Pandey, and then overall I thought, it would be easy. I know Tabu for a while, so I thought it would be easy to work with her and then I had Mukul as a director. It’s a very unique story, and I’ve never seen a film like this so I am only hoping people go to watch it with the same level of curiosity and like it. We are very proud of this product, a film which Mukul has made, that’s the only thing we can say.

Tell us about your character?
I think he is a man who represents men in general. I think most men have those traits. One can never guess anything about the film or any character seeing the trailer because this is an intriguing film. It will continue to engage you, involve you. Hence, it would be a different experience. The audience will feel they are a part of the film, and it won’t just give them a sense of thrill. It was a difficult character for me to perform. And working with actors like Taban (Tabu) and Anu Kapoor, if I say it is an absolute honour then even that would be an understatement. Working with such actors gives you immense opportunity to prepare yourself and keep your game up.

The characters in the film seem to have layers…
The beauty of the film is all the characters in the film have this extreme positive side and extreme negative side. All of them look very human in the film. They all have their vulnerable moments throughout the film. ‘Missing’ is not the kind of thriller that will only shock people or give them suspense. It goes a lot beyond that. Hence it’s a very unique film.

One of the most talked about things is Tabu and you re-united after 18 years. What has been the change since then in each other?
The change I have seen in Taban is that when we did films like ‘Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar’, ‘Ghaath’, and we used to interact with the media, she used to be reserved. She was guarded around people, media. Now I see a big change in her personality wherein she expresses, talks to people and welcomes people. The beauty of friendship is you accept each other with their advantages, or problems or anything. And she is very special to me.

Is ‘In the Shadows’ also a thriller of sort?
It’s a human story, dealing with a complicated mind, dealing with a person searching for a boy, dealing with the absence of a child. So, it’s a different type of story than this.

Do you think it’s because of social media that we don’t have many thrillers because there’s always this fear of the suspense being revealed?
We have tried our best that’s why we decided we will only interact with the media few days before the release. In fact we released our trailer 15 days before the release. We didn’t want to talk much with the media and offend them by saying we won’t reveal much about the character, so we have met them just few days before the release.

Interview By: Amul Vikas Mohan

He is just five films old. But the kind of consistency that he has shown in his short but illustrious journey is absolutely laudable. Whether it’s an ambitious student (SOTY) or a confused and under-confident businessman (Hasee Toh Phasee) or an angel-hearted criminal (Ek Villain) to an aspiring author in Kapoor and Sons – he has pulled off every role with ease. Apart from being appreciated for his performances, all his movies have fetched good numbers for the producers too. We caught up with the heart-throb at his place as he basks in the success of his recently released movie (which is still running and is loved by masses as well as classes and opens up about other things in his career. Read on for excerpts.

“Eventually it’s a business and you have to perform at the box-office”

You had a great release in Kapoor and Sons this year. What’s the feeling right now considering the response it got from the audience?

No offence to all my other directors and films but by far I have got the best response for Kapoor and Sons. Also we are feeling way more happy and excited because we didn’t expect it. We thought we were making a smaller film and for a certain section of audience. But now everyone came in and connected to it and felt it was a story of their household. They felt all the emotions we wanted them to but we did it in a different way. We did it in a much more subtle, much more real way, unlike a Dharma productions movie. And people have liked this side of me. I have got certain reviews or texts saying ‘the best so far Sid…happy to see you this way’ which I’ve saved. So I can’t complain. The response has been encouraging but it’s also confusing. My most successful film was Ek Villain and it was an intense character but people loved it. Most recently for Kapoor and Sons it was different kind of love – a different side, a lighter side is being appreciated. So hoping to maintain both and keep people guessing and excited by doing all genres.
From the outside Kapoor and Sons looked like a niche film in a way it was just promoted or spoken about. You all were not too aggressive with the marketing….

It was definitely a strategy that we followed to reduce the number of days to promote the film. Again based on the kind of film that we made and as you said – the different zone, the different tone, a different world that Shakun Batra had created really well cannot be considered as a mainstream Hindi feature film. So we thought let’s apply the same strategy to the promotions as well. It’s not a mainstream film where we can go out and just start dancing and people will understand what kind of movie it is. It’s very difficult to make people understand the kind of movie it was in promotions. As you saw in the film it was not about a single character or a single track. It’s an experience of a whole house and it’s a family film which has everything. Definitely it was a strategy to reduce the number of days for promotion to minimum because we cannot sell it on one aspect and it was just the three of us promoting it. But I think that’s what has been encouraging for us as everything that we have done off the norm for this film – be it our acting, promotions or packaging of the film, all have worked. We have made money at the box-office. Obviously we have got appreciation too. Hopefully it will be a trend and people will understand this style of acting. You don’t need to scream out every emotion to make the audience feel happy, sad and scared. It can be understood within subtle lines and just by good writing and the actors have to do much lesser. These experiences are equally good. People came out saying we cried and we found it very funny, things were very candid. All things were done taking it very easy and subtle which I’m very happy about because I like that kind of acting and I come from that zone. I hope many films will be made in this zone and people would really enjoy them.

Your last three releases were very different – how easy or difficult is it for an actor or performer to switch from one to the other in terms of mental space to approach a new idea with a new scenario in your mind?

Here our schedules were so jam-packed that the amount of homework that I would like to do I feel sometimes I don’t get it. I did take that time off for Brothers just purely to take care of the physical aspect of it which then is never the end result that you want. But as far as the preparation is concerned, the directors always come first. The first seating is always with them jamming and all of us workshop now and did our scenes before. The easy way I find is getting into the physicality of the character. Like Ek Villain was the first time where I had to bulk up or try a tattoo on my body or scar and have two different hairstyles and color also – which were very subtle things and was never like screaming out. People didn’t recognize me in Brothers for the first time when they saw me in beard and buzzed hair. For Kapoor and Sons I let go all of that and you can see nothing physically appealing about this character. He is a very regular guy who would not go to the gym and be obsessed about bodybuilding. So for me it’s always the physical thing and the rest follows. If I don’t feel like my character in the film then I feel it’s wrong. Just imagine if I threaten my brother when I’m really big and muscular in Kapoor and Sons then the scenes lose its charm and it doesn’t look like a house anymore. It will look like I’m a big boy in the house overpowering my parents. So it appears like you are not really into the world of it.

“You don’t need to scream out every emotion to make the audience feel happy, sad and scared. It can be understood within subtle lines and just by good writing and the actors have to do much lesser”

Also Boobly in Kapoor and Sons, that guy has worked out for everyone!

Yeah…Boobly or Boobs as we say, with just that one line he is just so amazing and he has become a star. That speaks about a good film when even small characters are noticed.

You are being consistent now. Is that a genuine thing that you want to keep aiming for? Be it box-office results and performances – those are two things and being consistent in both these things, is that what you want to strive for in future with your other films? 

It took me a while to understand how important it is to do that. Not coming from the industry I did not really understand what it is for a film to do a certain number in certain areas, the way it used to affect money. I didn’t know what box-office was. I felt box-office is just a thing as most of India thinks – good and bad or hit and flop in that sense. I have understood the technicality lately. Earlier I was very naive and unaware of that. But now when I look back, from Student Of The Year to Kapoor and Sons out of all the five films, four of them have done 70 crores plus worldwide and the only film which didn’t do was HaseeToh Phasee it still earned profit for the producers and it was a very small film. So the understanding of that is also important because eventually it’s a business and you have to perform at the box-office for the producers and the last thing you want as an actor is not to make money with your film. So now I think as I’m getting more mature and into the industry I’m becoming more conscious of the budget of a film. Like for all my future films I ask the producers about the budget and discuss how and where we cannot waste money because it’s just adds extra pressure to the actors to perform at the box-office. But I have been pretty consistent and lucky in that way to get those numbers and in different genres which I like to attempt and it’s not that I want to do the same thing again and again. I think people are appreciating and liking it. And the interval is to make it a norm – it’s the script first and come up with a new story, adapt as much as you can to a film and make money at the box-office.

What kind of role would you like more? What comes naturally to you? Whether it’s all action with different kind of looks or very subtle, natural?

I think mostly the world which is exciting as a child may be because everybody likes to beat up people. So I like beating up as many people as I can and it makes me feel very heroic and powerful. That is the exciting aspect about it. But I think where I can play around much more and have more fun in sound performances, expressions is definitely the lighter roles like in Hasee Toh Phasee or Kapoor and Sons where you can improvise a lot.  Once you are playing an intense character you are very restricted because that’s pretty much that guy can do. If he is a very serious and straight forward guy then he won’t suddenly spring up another emotion or crack a joke. Whereas if you are playing a lighter character, the world is much easier because of the scope of improvisation and I enjoy it a lot. I’m doing another lighter role in Baar Baar Dekho and again going back to beating people up in another Fox action movie by Raj and D.K. Not doing it often or not keeping it back to back also keeps me exciting. When I enter a frame now and instead of cracking a joke I have to take a pose or kick the guy, it’s exciting if you do that after few months or few years you train because you get better or you have that experience and you can use that experience. I approach an action sequence more differently now because of the Brothers and Ek Villain experience, there will be more swiftness and slicker. It’s not that it’s a conscious effort but I have been lucky in getting good scripts and flipping between them.

What about competition right now with all the younger lot actors who have come with you and around you and where do you see yourself?

We all are aware of the competition and how many people are there for a film for a particular budget. Categories are made according to budgets here of how much you can spend on these actors so you would group actors according to what they would get at the box-office. I belong to a particular group and the endeavor is to break out and go into a higher one. And producers look for consistency. One can break out from the regular and carve his own niche. Baar Baar Dekho is slightly higher in budget according to my budget. I think all of us are not considered for the same role and that’s why we are saved. We all have different styles of acting and also we are physically very different. If I would say I one edge is that I probably have is that I have done more action films as compared to the others who have not ventured into action films. Keeping aside the competition all of us are different and new in our thinking, to realize that it’s up to the box-office and it doesn’t really matter socially whether it’s going to be your Friday or my Friday. Whatever is bound to happen will ultimately happen. We leave it to the box-office. We watch each other’s movies, comment and we are still in touch.  We all are very amicable and professional.

Tell us about the brands that you are part of.

There is an international Coca Cola campaign which was shot in Wal Mart. For the first time we have tried to replicate an international ad. Coca Cola is the biggest brand in the world and it is sold in every country and every corner. But now we are also justifying our position there to endorse such a big brand because our films are making money there and I have certain films lined up for future there. I had a great time shooting with them. And for the first time I shot an ad for Pakistan. I shot for Sprite, again it’s from the Coca Cola family. I got to work with Ali Zafar in an ad film which only airs in Pakistan. It was my first interaction with a Pakistani production team but those guys were extremely excited and warm. They know our movies and television. I met Fawad and had a great time. That was something unique and I did something out of the country. Also I was in New Zealand for 10 days and promoted tourism, adventure sports for them. I have got few more brands now. I find these ads creatively very fulfilling to do where you can contribute too. With a good team onboard you can try on different looks, styles, hairstyles. That’s also like a benefit for actors. More people see you on television and that adds to your branding. It’s a win-win situation for both the product and the actor. Now I’m completely into it. I understand brands and how it works. I’m enjoying the ad world also.

Lastly five years from now which is that one movie you want to be known for?

I’m can’t be biased to any particular director and it’s unfair. They all gave me chance to do something new. The directors had faith in me that I would be able to do justice to the roles that were offered to me because everything was new to me and nothing was really in my comfort zone. To be known that I never had a comfort zone or one zone where people would feel that he could pull off very easily, to have it in a decade that every time there would be some element of experimentation. Hopefully, after a decade I will be having more 100 crore films and much bigger films. Just out of emotional quotient for me Ek Villain will always be special. Now again in retrospect I have realized how difficult it is to arrive at that number, how difficult it is to get what we got on a Friday – the 3 digit number. That Friday we couldn’t understand that time what was happening and we partied till late night. The number was above 10, something around 16 and now after two films we realize how difficult it is to get that number. So I think with all those memories I would like to remember Ek Villain and cherish. Just to be fair to all my other directors it’s really difficult to choose any movie purely based on performances.

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