We live in a country where a film’s success is judged not by its content but by its turnover in the first three days of its release.
While walking towards the lawns, actor Manoj Bajpayee said to Waman Kendre, director of National School of Drama, “Aaj main do-chaar baatein hi karunga (I won’t speak much today)”. However, the moment the actor saw the crowd, including his former batchmates, cheering out loud for him, it was a whole different mood and he settled down for a long chat about his journey, right from being rejected thrice by NSD to being one of the most critically acclaimed actors in Bollywood.
As part of the interface series at the ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the actor spoke about what made him repeatedly apply for admission at NSD, the discipline that the institution instilled in him and the technique of acting he follows.
He started with sharing how a year ago he was invited by NSD to deliver a lecture to the students and given a cheque for the talk. The cheque was in an envelope with the NSD logo on it. “I still have that cheque with me,” he said. Recounting how getting that cheque was a proud moment for him, he said, “I was very glad receiving it because NSD has respected my entire journey and in a way, still shares a connection with me.”
Recalling how professor Tripurari Sharma had wondered why he kept coming back to NSD despite repeated rejections, he said, “Bahar reh karke jeene ki ladai ke sath techniques seekhna bohot mushkil hota hai. Vo seekhne ka junoon mujhe baar baar yahaan laata tha. I didn’t come here looking for work, I came here looking for an opportunity. In fact, I am happy that I was rejected so many times, because that helped me grow more intense as an actor.”
For the 48-year-old actor who made his debut with Bandit Queen, the discipline he learned at NSD is something he follows and values till today. “I wake up every morning at 5 am, do some yoga and then head to the gym for a 45-minute run. After coming back, I read and re-read all the scripts I have been given. In the afternoon, I make sure that I meet someone from the film industry and talk only about acting. We sometimes read the scripts out loud to each other. All this helps me maintain the zeal for acting.”
As the crowd cheered their alumnus, Manoj went on to share his experience in the film industry saying that more importance is given to realistic acting than characterisation. “This is like fraud in the name of realistic acting. According to me, characterisation is the key to acting. Knowing the character properly, trying to understand his existence and interpreting it according to your perception is important. I am not aware of any other sort of acting,” he said.
He believes it’s important for an actor to keep in mind the director’s vision of the script and try to understand he wants from that particular character. “After understanding the director’s vision, it is the actor’s responsibility to add his interpretation to the character and surprise the director with it,” he said.
The actor, who is known to represent the class of actors for whom performance is priority, agreed that mainstream cinema considers factors like looks, dancing skills, etc. before casting actors. He said hard work, determination and love for acting alone can make one thrive in the industry.
“Whether you are in theatre or cinema, there is no guarantee for success. What distinguishes you as an actor is your upbringing and the kind of education you have. So get into this industry only if you are in love with acting,” he said in reply to a student who asked him about the financial struggles of theatre actors.
The Aligarh actor concluded the discussion by saying that theatre is surviving only because of the few people who decide to stay on in theatre and work passionately for its growth. “We live in a country where a film’s success is judged not by its content but by its turnover in the first three days of its release. So, theatre and even independent films are not able to be a part of mainstream because our audience prefers content that is very limited.”