Manoj Bajpayee on spy thriller The Family Man: Didn't know the Amazon Prime show will be such a rage
Manoj Bajpayee talks about his digital debut in Amazon Prime Video India Original The Family Man, and playing Raj and DK's inventive brand of spy.
Manoj Bajpayee is ecstatic with the response his maiden digital show, The Family Man, has garnered. As we speak to him, he is inundated with calls and messages.
“It is so unprecedented. Looks like it has become so massive. We knew that we had a good product in our hand but we didn’t know it will be such a rage. People have lapped it up, and now, let’s see where it goes from here,” he says.
Bajpayee plays Srikant Tiwari, the character who leads a dual life of an intelligence officer and an underpaid government servant with middle-class aspirations. “When I was offered the role, I immediately felt that I should start my debut in web series with this one because it was so relatable. It is talking about a middle class guy, and his struggle. The spy thing was an added bonus. For me, his relationships, his conflict, and being completely torn between family and duty, that is something I really loved,” says the two time National Award-winning actor.
“It is actually a tribute to a middle-class guy. This is not a story of a spy, this is a story of you and me travelling in a local train from Virar to Churchgate. Actually, they are the heroes of their own stories, and this is a real tribute to them. I had never played an unsung hero, where he is not wielding any power; rather he is struggling with his family, his wife, his children, struggling on his job, trying to decode and find some semblance in his life, some balance on his duty, and trying very hard to control things while things start slipping away from him,” he further adds, with fondness that is quite contagious.
Bajpayee, whose career boasts of many career-defining performances, like Satya, Shool, Kaun, Zubeidaa, Pinjar, Gangs of Wasseypur, Special 26, Aligarh, and Gali Guleiyan in the recent past, however, feels that the OTT platform throws a few more additional challenges as compared to movies.
“Web series is a different ball game altogether. You can’t be sitting relaxed on sets. Rather, you have to keep on exploring new facets and nuances about the character. The nuances are way too many to explore. You are reading the script again and again. You keep noting down the elements of the character, and you keep etching out the relationship with various other characters. For shooting for 12 to 14 hours a day, you have to know backwards. You have to be very well prepared to take off. It gets far too exhausting. You have to be awake and alert all the time. It is a tough game,” he says.
“Also, bringing humour into the serious scenes was also something that I wanted to achieve as an actor. Srikant Tiwari can actually diffuse any kind of tension any time, and he can actually get into a serious mode when he is surrounded by humour. You feel good with people who watch you 24 hours, and if they get sucked into this character then that is an amazing achievement,” he says.
One of the reasons why Bajpayee was roped in to play the ‘dual’ role was the ease with which he flips from being 'nice' to 'nasty', making the character more believable, said director duo Raj and DK. Responding to it, the actor says, “The transition that you make from a family person to an intelligence guy, that requires a certain skill where people should not feel that these are two different persons. Rather, they should feel that he is the same person, who is living the life in different areas and space.”
This is not the first time that Bajpayee plays an intelligence officer. He has essayed similar roles in films like Special 26 and Naam Shabana. “But Srikant Tiwari is a very original character that Raj and DK have written, and I don’t think I have ever played a person like this. I am loving every moment when people are laughing whenever he is responding to different situations. People are loving his relationship with his family, colleagues, with the terrorists, with his ex. It has given me a lot of new space to explore in," he says.
The actor has in the past spoken about the “overdose of sex and violence” in the shows in the digital space. “I am not averse to showing violence or intimate sequences but I feel it should be done in a creative manner, and not just to catch the eyeballs. But there should be no censor. It should be left to the filmmakers or they should give certification. They give certification so nicely, we won’t let our children watch anything and everything on television. The parents are the biggest censor, biggest monitor,” he says.
And the actor 'confesses' he still feels nervous when he goes on shoots. “Last night, when I was sitting and talking to my co-actors, I just said that I was feeling so nervous about the next day’s shoot, and they were all surprised. I didn’t want to impress anyone but that is the way I usually feel. I get very nervous. It is just that I am mature enough not to show it. I know how to hide my nervousness, and how to hide my tears. I have complete control over myself (laughs). A mere mention of his journey from the dacoit drama Bandit Queen (1994) to The Family Man makes him laugh heartily. “I don’t want to look back. I start feeling tired. I want to get up, and feel that I am making a debut in some project that I am starting today.”
Next, Bajpayee will be seen in Netflix thriller Mrs Serial Killer with Jacqueline Fernandez. “I am not allowed to talk about the show yet. There is some kind of embargo on it," he says. Then there is Bhonsle. The first look of the film was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Bajpayee essays a retired head constable, who battles loneliness in the film. “For Bhonsle, I have done my job, and it is one of the subjects that is close to my heart. Hope it gets released soon,” he concludes.
All images from YouTube.
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