After being in Bollywood for 24 years, Manoj Bajpayee has taken a plunge into production. He is ready with his first co-production Missing. The film has been written and directed by Mukul Abhyankar and presented by Abundantia Entertainment and Neeraj Pandey in association with Sri Adhikari Brothers and Anand Pandit Motion Pictures. The psychological thriller, releasing on April 6, stars Tabu, Annu Kapoor and Manoj in pivotal roles.
Ask Manoj what attracted him to the script and he replies, “It’s the kind of script that would be best for me to introduce myself as a producer. The script was so brilliantly written that I wanted to go with it not just as a producer but actor too. Secondly, Neeraj Pandey insisted that I should be one of the producers and I trust his creativity. He had given me complete control over the execution and all the decisions on the set at Mauritius. He wasn’t even present there, so I independently took all the decisions.”
The actor says that Missing is a small film and if the trailer has aroused expectations among the audience, he is happy about that. “Missing is a type of thriller we haven’t watched before and we are sure that we will fulfill the audience’s expectations.”
But with the film nearing its release is he getting sleepless nights as a producer ? “I never get sleepless nights for professional reasons. Isse zyada kya hoga (what more can happen) — I am here for 24 years and I am not going anywhere. Even if people want they can’t chase me off,” he says.
WORKING WITH NEERAJ PANDEY
Manoj and filmmaker Neeraj has collaborated on several projects. Some of their films have become big hits. Manoj says that they have huge respect for each other. “Apart from the bonding I share with him, I never forget that he is my director and I keep that decorum in tact. I never forget the fact that directors are the boss and I give them that space and respect. I think that also helps in maintaining the relationship,” says Manoj.
LESSONS AS A PRODUCER
Considering it’s his first co-production, it must have been quite a learning experience for him, from production to managing people on the set. But the critically acclaimed actor says that the biggest lesson he learnt was never to act in the film he is producing. “It’s a tough job working as a producer and actor. That’s why I am proud of this performance. It shocked my director as to how I could pull off such a performance because I was completely stressed out as a producer on the set,” he says.
BEING A PART OF THRILLERS
Missing isn’t the first thriller he is a part of. In the last few years, the actor has been a part of several films in this genre including Special Chabbis, Naam Shabana and many others. Looks like thrillers are his personal favourite? “I don’t know. I am interested in all genres. I am interested in doing a film like Budhia Singh: Born to Run, Gali Guliyaan (In the Shadows), which will release in May. I love the independent genre. I just enjoy doing middle of the road cinema where you do not compromise with the realism but at the same time you consciously try to make it a little more dramatic for the film to reach everybody,” he says. Manoj adds that he likes working in films where the script is the king. “At the end of the day, it all boils down to the quality of the film.”
COLLABORATING WITH TABU
The onscreen chemistry between him and Tabu in Missing has created a lot of buzz. The trailer has started trending and those who’ve watched it have been raving about the performances. Manoj is collaborating with Tabu after 18 long years as their last films were Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!! and Ghaath released in 2000. Manoj says that their equation has changed for the better. “In Ghaath and Dil Pe..., we just got introduced. We have been bonding as friends over the years and today, we are the best of buddies. We never fail to talk to each other at least once a week. I have very high regard and respect for her and she knows that. Whenever she needs my opinion she calls and it’s the same with me. We share our laughter and problems with each other,” he adds.
PLAYING COMPLEX CHARACTERS
Over the years, Manoj has played several complex characters. These roles were highly appreciated. His character in Missing is also complex. It’s not just black and white, there are various shades to it. Does it scare him playing such complex characters? “That’s my addiction (laughs) and I just love it. I love being the character or getting into the skin of it and changing myself completely. I would die of boredom if I have to say my dialogue in a similar manner in every film or play my character in a detached way. I will retire. One thing that excites me about my profession is getting into the skin of another character and knowing the mind of that character. It has to be different from what I have done last,” he says.
FAILURE OF ‘AIYAARY’
Manoj’s last film Aiyaary, directed by Neeraj, failed at the box-office despite all the expectations. Was he disappointed with the film’s performance? “I am not disappointed. Somewhere I was wary of the shifting of dates. The film did not get a good opening. Aiyaary is one of the best films I did and one of the best performances of my career. I will always be proud of it.”