PeepingMoon Exclusive: 'I'm a part of The Family Man franchise & that’s all I know,' says Manoj Bajpayee on rumours of crossover with Shahid Kapoor's Farzi

Trust Manoj Bajpayee to come up with a pleasant surprise every time you believe he's done every genre and kind of role. From a common man to a gangster, he knows the craft like nobody in the industry. A brand in himself, the actor never fails to amuse movie buffs and the harshest of critics with his flawless performances. Once again, he has done that in Gulmohar. Casting his magic of acting, he created a character that will live rent-free in our minds for many years. 

In an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon, he talked about Gulmohar's OTT release and drawing references from real life to play the character of Arun. Manoj further revealed the reason behind choosing projects offered by new filmmakers and how they tend to challenge him as an actor. He also reacted to rumours of him collaborating with Shahid Kapoor in the Raj & DK universe of spies. 

Excerpts from the interview:

Gulmohar is a poetic film. Did you want it to release in theatres?

The film was commissioned by Disney+ Hotstar and Star Studios a long time back and it was planned for an OTT release. We wanted to shoot when the COVID-19 lockdown happened. Gulmohar is a family film and needs to be viewed together.

While playing the role of Arun, did you steal some references from real-life experiences?

References are always there but most of them are quite in subconscious way. When you meet people in life, memories get stored in your brain and that comes handy. When I am creating a character, I imagine that in flesh and blood and work on the backstory. Whenever I say 'mumma' to Sharmila Tagore in Gulmohar, that’s exactly the way my daughter calls my wife. It signifies that no matter how old a person is, he/she will always remain a child for the mother.

Pankaj Tripathi has often spoken about how he got inspired by your journey from Bihar to Mumbai. Who has been your inspiration to take the plunge and trust the process?

That’s gracious of Pankaj to say so but he’s been inspired by many other people to take on this journey. He’s doing well and we’re proud of him. I’ve been inspired by many actors, majorly by Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha since he’s also from Bihar and was a superstar back then. Theatre actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri are people I look up to. 

You’ve often chosen to work with new aspiring filmmakers. Is it a conscious decision?

I did it for the longest time and will continue to work with directors who are debuting. These new directors are wanting to prove themselves and they aren’t in awe of you as an actor. They want something new from you and keep challenging the actor. The same is with Rahul V. Chittella (director of Gulmohar). I like that kind of discipline where someone is there to push me to explore my ability. That’s how discipline comes to me. New filmmakers are telling stories that are not only rooted but also universal.

At the recent screening of Gulmohar, you seemed to have gotten emotional on seeing Babil Khan. What was the first feeling when you saw him?

I feel good looking at him. He’s a young adult who’s looking after him, loving and taking care of his mother. It was lovely meeting Sutapa (Sikdar) after a long time. Seeing him, I was suddenly reminded of his father Irrfan. It was gracious of them to come for the screening and praise the film.

Of late, you’ve been pretty active on social media and often interact with fans on various mediums too. Do you fear overexposure due to the digital boom?

I only get active when a film is releasing because it is important for me to make sure that the audience is aware of the project. I don’t fear overexposure. Now that Gulmohar is out, I’ll be away from paparazzi attention and social media.

There are strong rumours about the merging of The Family Man and Farzi in a crossover show. Is it happening?

Please ask Raj & DK about it. I don’t have any answer to it. I am a part of The Family Man and that’s all I know.

Theatres are reviving with films like Pathaan. Is the industry finally breathing peacefully now?

Any film doing well is great for the industry.

SS Rajamouli’s RRR is creating waves globally. As a part of the Indian film fraternity, does it fill you with pride that our stories are reaching international lands?

It is great news and right now they’re representing India globally. We’re all praying for the team of RRR to return home with major awards. They know that the entire country is behind them and praying for them.