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Manoj Bajpayee: I don’t overplay my characters to overshadow my co-stars

To be in the same frame asManoj Bajpayee and steal the limelight from him is not a cakewalk. That’s because Manoj knows his job really well and is absolutely brilliant at it. The critically acclaimed actor is back with yet another power-packed role of a coach in ‘Budhia Singh: Born to Run’ wherein he will be seen training a kid who aspires to become an athlete. In an exclusive chat with the Times of India, Manoj talks about his journey on the film, pros and cons of working with kids, censorship issues and promises a paisa-vasool performance yet again. Excerpts:
Budhia Singh sees you as a coach of an aspiring athlete who is a young kid. How difficult was it to match rhythm with such a young co-actor?
Children are the best actors. They are not too hesitant in front of the camera and they are quite spontaneous. They do whatever they feel like doing if they are directed well. But this boy (Mayur Patole) is special. He comes from a small slum; unlike other child actors, he is not a spoilt kid. He had never seen and experienced the kind of love and attention he was getting on the set from everyone. But even at this age, he is very sincere towards his job and completely disciplined. He went through the entire training. He has been very focused on his job. Working with him came as a breath of fresh air for all of us.
Yes, you are right, but the producers and the director made sure that Mayur doesn’t get over attention and is treated like an actor on the sets. We gave him enough time to play with other children on the sets so that he remains normal. We used to let them be and let them play and make noise; we never restricted them from doing that. But they went through the entire workshop in a much-disciplined way. They understood the importance of discipline that needs to be maintained on the sets of the film. They were taught that when they were shooting, they have to be focused and professional.
The dynamics of working with adult actors and children are completely different. Was it easy to work with Mayur? Were you apprehensive about doing the film considering he was the central protagonist of the film?
No, not really, because if you read the script, you will understand that the film is a journey of Budhia and Biranchi Das. These are two main characters of the film. In fact, Biranchi is the driving force of the film. The story is told from the coach’s point of view more than Budhia’s perspective. I never had any doubt or apprehensions about my character. In fact, this was the character I wanted to play ever since I saw Biranchi talking to the media. He was always there at the back of my mind and I was lucky enough to have been offered the role. I was the first actor they approached for the role not knowing that I always wanted to play it.
You play one of the two most prominent characters in ‘Budhia…’ Did you consciously underplay the character to ensure that Mayur shines brighter?
See there is nothing called underplaying or overplaying a character. If at all that needs to be done, it is always a part of playing that character. I don’t underplay a character to ensure that the other character shines brighter or I don’t overplay my character to overpower my co-stars. Playing a character is not about other shining or you shining brighter. You need to do justice to the character. My character Biranchi has his own highs and lows that he goes through and accordingly I have played it.But didn’t you ever feel like taking a step back to let the kid perform and ensure that he doesn’t get intimidated by you?
I didn’t need to because he was trained very well and the workshops helped him a lot. In fact, he was so good that I had to do my job right. Mayur did complete justice to his character and I did the same to my character. We were given these two roles with a confidence that we would justice to them and we both were very focused in our individual roles.
Were there any moments when you were taken aback or got intimidated by Mayur’s performance?
No, I generally don’t get intimidated by my co-actors. But I was always in awe of him. His ability to run and his energy to be in the shot for a very long time was amazing. The kind of focus he had in his work and his character was commendable. Considering he comes from the slums and belongs to the underprivileged class, he lost his father at a very young age, it’s commendable to see how independent he is, although he quietly and subtly depends on you.
Did you play his coach or a mentor off screen? Or were you more like a friend to Mayur?Not really. I tried not to be very friendly with any kid on the sets, including Mayur because they were children and they didn’t know how and where to draw the line in front of the camera. So I had to behave like a coach all the time.See the Censor Board has always been at loggerheads with the filmmakers. This is not a recent trend. This fight has always been there. Just that now they are doing it too much. Censor Board’s job should be to classify the films and move on. We are waiting for the government to implement Mr Shyam Benegal’s recommendations as quickly as possible.