Bollywood has some very bad people, says two-time National Award winning actor
Political, nepotistic, exploitative are terms not uncommon to Bollywood, the Hindi film industry’s moniker. It’s not a new debate, but one that got reignited with young and upcoming actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide. Various stories and theories about how the industry can be a toxic place started floating around and gained momentum.
Padma Shri (India’s fourth highest civilian honour) awardee and two-time National Award winning actor, Manoj Bajpai, tells YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma,
“It’s an industry where different people come and work and make things move in their own ways. In this, there are some very nice people, there are some bad people and there are some very bad people. There are various kinds of politics, it is a cut throat business, it’s very competitive.”
Recent events have also sparked a pitched debate around the ‘insiders versus outsiders’ narrative, where questions have been raised around whether an ‘outsider’ with no Bollywood connections can ever truly survive and thrive.
Manoj, the classic outsider -- a son of a farmer who grew up with five siblings in a village in Bihar and went to a “hut school” -- says that being on the fringes may have actually worked in his favour.
He elaborates, “I found it better to be on the fringes because I realised I don't belong there (the Bollywood insider circle) nor is it my journey. My journey was about different kind of work, different kind of films [sic].
“And I knew the so-called working elite fraternity wouldn't be able to give me that kind of work. The kind of work I wanted to do, it was possible by staying in the fringes. And the good thing about being in the fringes is, there are no expectations from you to be like them or to behave like them.”
Widely acclaimed for his acting skills, Manoj’s big Bollywood break came with the 1998 film Satya for which he picked up the National Award for the Best Supporting Actor.
Being an outsider accorded him a certain sense of freedom, he says.
“So I enjoyed that freedom of doing things my own way and finding my path. It’s miraculous that I am still here in an industry that is so damn box office oriented,” says the 51-year-old National School of Drama (NSD) graduate.
However, Manoj does not discount the fact that his Bollywood journey has been a turbulent ride, full of highs and lows; and it takes a deep sense of commitment and love towards the profession to be able to stick around.
He explains, “So maybe by treading through various paths I have somehow reached till here. And I always say my journey has not been a smooth ride, it was a rollercoaster, it took me up one day and it just kind of slammed me the other day on the ground.
“But one thing, when it slammed me on the ground I was not crying with the pain and I was not feeling bad about myself, rather I tried to get up the next day and again tried to run.”
Watch the full conversation here:
Staying motivated was at times tough, he admits, especially when the industry would not want him in lead roles. But his love for acting has always kept him going.
“It was difficult because the industry was not ready to accept me as their lead or the leads which were being offered to me, I was not ready to be a part of that. It bothers you till a point but again the next role that you do, suddenly you forget everything and you take a plunge into it and you keep moving on, keep following where your destiny is taking you,” Manoj says.
His fans will be able to see him return as the lead in the much-awaited second season of Amazon Prime Video’s popular series, ‘The Family Man’, expected to be released soon.