Manoj Bajpayee was a farmer’s son, he did not have any godfather in the industry nor did he have enough finances to put him through acting school. All he had was a dream and the hunger to fulfill it at all costs.
In an interview with the Humans of Bombay, Manoj Bajpayee opened up about his journey so far and how he made a name for himself in an industry that is not always receptive.
“At 9, I knew acting was my destiny. But I couldn’t afford to dream & continued my studies. Still, my mind refused to focus on anything else,” Bajpayee started.
The multiple rejections and the fleeting thoughts about giving up
“I was an outsider, trying to fit in. So, I taught myself English & Hindi–Bhojpuri was a big part of how I spoke. I then applied to NSD, but was rejected thrice,” Bajpayee said to HOB, recounting some of the many hurdles he faced.
“I was close to committing suicide, so my friends would sleep next to me & not leave me alone. They kept me going until I was accepted,” he admitted.
Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen was a ray of hope
It was an ordinary day in 1994 when Bajpayee got his calling. “That year, I was at a chai shop when Tigmanshu came looking for me on his khatara scooter–Shekhar Kapur wanted to cast me in Bandit Queen! So I felt I was ready & moved to Mumbai,” said Bajpayee. Little did he know that his life would change forever, although it wasn’t this rosy in the beginning.
“Initially, it was tough–I rented a chawl with 5 friends & looked for work, but got no roles… I’ve lost 3 projects in a day. I was even told to ‘get out’ after my 1st shot,” Bajpayee said.
“I didn’t fit the ideal ‘hero’ face–so they thought I’d never make it to the big screen. All the while, I struggled to make rent & at times even a vada pav was costly,” he continued
“But the hunger in my stomach couldn’t dissuade my hunger to succeed”
In 1995, Manoj Bajpayee was cast in Mahesh Bhatt’s TV serial Swabhimaan and it only went onwards and upwards from there.
“After 4 years of struggle, I got a role in Mahesh Bhatt’s TV series. I got Rs.1500 per episode–my first steady income,” the 51-year-old said. The show paved the way for breakthrough in 1998 with Satya.
“My work was noticed & I was offered my first Bollywood film & soon, I got my big break with ‘Satya’. That’s when the awards rolled in,” he said.
Perfectly concluding his journey so far, Manoj Bajpayee said, “That’s the thing about dreams–when it comes to turning them into reality, the hardships don’t matter. What matters is the belief of that 9-year-old Bihari boy & nothing else.”
Manoj Bajpayee is today venerated as one of the finest actors of Indian cinema. The ‘method actor’, as he is called, has given us some stellar performances right from Shool, Pinjar to more recent movies like Special 26 and Sonchiriya.
It all started with a dream, and a strong passion to fulfill it.