Manoj Bajpayee on Bhaiyya Ji: I won't do such action ever again

The actor discusses the challenges faced while shooting his 100th film Bhaiyya Ji, why he is keen on doing both art films and commercial films, and more
Manoj Bajpayee on Bhaiyya Ji: I won't do such action ever again

With Bhaiyya Ji, Manoj Bajpayee hits the mainstream with full swing, literally and metaphorically. The trailer for the film has him delivering some over-the-top dialogues and engaging in action-heavy sequences executed in slow motion as upbeat music plays in the background. He has worked in action films in the past but not in this manner. “I cracked my bones and got injured while shooting; it was life-threatening,” he says, recalling the experience on set.

In his conversation with CE, the actor reflects on the challenges faced while doing the action scenes, how the film’s idea took shape, and why he is keen on working in both art films and commercial films.

Q

Bhaiyya Ji would be the 100th film of your career. How do you see this? Was it planned to be your 100th film?


A

I didn’t know that this would be my 100th film. In fact, I don’t take such milestones seriously. I got to know this only when our director Apoorv Singh Karki mentioned it to me while filming. He said to me that if Silence 2 came before, Bhaiyya Ji would be my 100th film. As luck would have it, Silence 2 was released before, and Bhaiyya Ji became my 100th Film.

Q

The film is based on an idea that you had initially. What was it about and how did it take shape?

A

There was a news article I read when I was doing theatre that stayed with me. I had a story in mind, but there was nothing written. I wanted it to be a middle-of-the-road film. But when Apoorv heard the idea while we were shooting Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai (2023), he asked for it for further development. He wanted to make it with Telugu mainstream film sensibilities as he has grown up loving these films. I gave him the idea, and he suggested that I play the lead role in it. I was reluctant, at first, as I felt it wasn’t for me. But he convinced me to do the film by saying that this would be something new for me.

Q

The trailer gives a sense of some well-written Hindi dialogues that are less common in Hindi films these days. It is like a return to old-school Hindi cinema. What are your thoughts on this?

A

In UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, and many other states, even if people have different local languages, their Hindi is quite good. That’s why they speak with a natural flair and in their own unique ways. Many people these days don’t know many Hindi words, and with Bhaiyya Ji, we could bring the language to the forefront. The story belongs to our soil; it comes from our culture and speaks about some relationships that have been away from our films for a while. That’s why having dialogues that are rooted in the land was necessary. Besides, in Hindi films, if you are not speaking in Hindi, what’s the point?

Q

You are the 'hero' of art films like Joram and Gali Guleiyan and are making your mark in the mainstream space with a mass entertainer like Bhaiyya Ji. How do you look at these two different forms of cinema from a storytelling perspective?

A

In art films, there is an effort to search for silence, and more importance is given to the story and its characters for a deeper exploration. Whereas in mainstream films, the motive is to entertain, so narrative pacing takes centre stage and creates various emotional releases. In mainstream films, we cannot compromise on the pacing, while in art films, there is a greater focus on the story and the characters.

Q

Does it also impact your craft when you work in these films?

A

It definitely does. I believe that an actor cannot judge these two kinds of work. Their craft must always be ready for any genre. I grew up watching films of Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrugan Sinha, and Vinod Khanna. So, I was prepared to work in any form, be it the role in Satyamev Jayate, Raajneeti, or Baaghi 2. My next film is, again, completely different; it is an indie by Kanu Behl called Despatch, where I am playing a journalist. I want to work in all kinds of films. By doing this, one is constantly working on themselves and their craft.

Q

What challenges did you face in doing the action sequences for Bhaiyya Ji?

A

It was quite an exhausting experience. The film has a sequence where I have to jump from one train bogie to another. There was no time for rehearsals as we had booked the train yard just for one day due to budget constraints. During the shot, I just took the name of God and jumped. The first two takes were bad as I was left hanging down the bogie. I told the action director to show it to me once more. I kept watching intently how he was moving his legs and everything. Finally, when it happened properly, I couldn’t believe it. Now, I can only say that I won’t do this kind of action ever again (laughs).

Q

Do you think that the Hindi film industry is going through a tough time lately?

A

It is in a vulnerable state. The world has changed drastically after the pandemic and people are habituated to watching films at home. If not for anything, they are watching interviews and podcasts. Content is being consumed in many ways, so it has become difficult to bring people to the theatres. This pertains not just to Hindi cinema but world cinema. With Bhaiyya Ji, we hope that changes. Our motive was to tell a story that would make people see themselves on the screen and enjoy it thoroughly. It is the story of our land that is presented in an entertaining way.

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