An actor always starts with empathy: Manoj Bajpayee

According to the National Award winner, most of his characters that have become popular with the audiences are the people that he has seen sometimes from a distance and sometimes from close quarters.
Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj BajpayeeReuters

NEW DELHI : Be it Srikant Tiwari of “The Family Man” or Dasru from his upcoming film “Joram”, where he plays a displaced indigenous man on the run with his infant daughter, actor Manoj Bajpayee says his empathy always lies with characters that represent the common man.

According to the National Award winner, most of his characters that have become popular with the audiences are the people that he has seen “sometimes from a distance and sometimes from close quarters”.

“I come from a lower middle class farmer’s family. I have seen things around me, I have experienced things. Whether it is Srikant Tiwari or Dasru … either I relate to them or I have seen them closely in my life.

''Even if I am not them, the empathy is always with them. And an actor starts with empathy. He is looking at the characters from a distance but with loads of empathy and without judgement,” Bajpayee told PTI in a phone interview from Mumbai.

His character in “Joram”, the actor said, is quite relevant in today’s day and age. At the centre of the film lies a world and conflict that Bajpayee said he had not seen before despite playing an array of unique characters in the last 10-15 years of his career.

“This character, the story and conflicts are fantastic. This is about the bond that human beings and the jungle share, how it is going through a change and how modernisation is affecting it,” he added.

“Joram” reunites Bajpayee with Makhija, who directed the actor in short film “Tandav” and critically-lauded “Bhonsle”, a role that led to a National Film Award for Bajpayee.

The film is slated to be screened at the ongoing International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR) on February 1.

The actor said it was a matter of pride to represent India at such a premiere film festival, which had also showcased “Bhonsle”.

Describing his collaboration with Makhija, Bajpayee said as an actor-director duo they “understand each other’s strengths”.

“I admire his ability as a writer and director. He is somebody who is emotional, but at the same time, very aware of the times. His craft is uncompromising. Without being insulting or interfering, he gives me the space to grow and evolve, which is important to me,” he added.

The actor said he has been lucky with opportunities off late and always strives to pick the best from the offers that come his way. Bajpayee said he is always looking for well-formed characters with scope for improvisation and interpretation.

Rahul V Chittella’s “Gulmohar”, also starring Sharmila Tagore; Abhishek Chaubey’s Netflix series “Soup” with Konkona Sensharma; “Banda”, produced by Vinod Bhanushali and Suparn Varma and directed by Apoorva Karki of “Aspirants” fame; Kanu Behl’s “Despatch” and Raam Reddy’s “Pahadon Mein” are some of the projects the actor is looking forward to.

“I have been lucky with the offers lately. Earlier, it used to be tough. Sitting at home and waiting for the right script or the director used to be the main chore.

''Directors like Devashish, Dipesh Jain ('Gali Guleiyan'), Rahul V Chittella, Kanu Behl and Raam Reddy, I have gone out and found them. It’s a result of me trying to find exciting directors to work with. I am so lucky that they have made films that are going to stand out in my filmography,” he said.

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