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Manoj Bajpayee

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Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpai is looking away from the camera.
Bajpai at the premiere of The Blue Umbrella, 2007
Born (1969-04-23) 23 April 1969 (age 47)
Narkatiaganj, Bihar, India
Other names Manoj Bajpai
Occupation Actor
Years active 1994–present
Spouse(s) Neha (2006–present)
Children 1

Manoj Bajpayee (born 23 April 1969), also credited as Manoj Bajpai, is an Indian film actor who predominantly works in Hindi cinema and has also done Telugu and Tamil language films. He is the recipient of two National Film Awards and two Filmfare Awards.

Born in Belwa, a small village in Narkatiaganj, Bihar, Bajpayee aspired to become an actor since childhood. He relocated to Delhi at the age of seventeen, and applied for National School of Drama, only to be rejected for four times. He continued to do theatre while studying in the college. Bajpayee made his feature film debut with the one-minute role in Drohkaal (1994), and a minor role of a dacoit in Shekhar Kapur's Bandit Queen (1994). After few unnoticed roles, he played gangster Bhiku Mhatre in Ram Gopal Varma's 1998 crime drama Satya, which proved to be a breakthrough. Bajpayee received the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor and Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for the film. He then acted in films like Kaun (1999), and Shool (1999). For the latter, he won another Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. Bajpayee further played the role of a prince with two wives in Zubeidaa (2001), a serial killer in Aks (2001) and a hitchhiker-turned-psychopath killer in Road (2002).

Bajpayee won the Special Jury National Award for Pinjar (2003). This was followed by a series of brief, unnoticed roles in films that failed to propel his career forward. He then played a greedy politician in the political thriller Raajneeti (2010), which was well received. In 2012, Bajpayee essayed the role of Sardar Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur. His next roles were of a naxalite in Chakravyuh (2012), and a CBI officer in Special 26 (2013). In 2016, he portrayed professor Ramchandra Siras, in Hansal Mehta's biographical drama Aligarh.


Bajpayee with his wife Neha at the Raajneeti premiere, 2010

Bajpayee was born on 23 April 1969 in a small village called Belwa near the town Narkatiaganj in West Champaran, Bihar.[1] He is the second child among his five other siblings, and was named after actor Manoj Kumar.[2][3] One of his younger sisters Poonam Dubey, is a fashion designer in the film industry.[4] His father was a farmer and mother was a housewife. As a son of a farmer, Bajpayee would do farming during their vacation.[2] Since childhood, he wanted to become an actor.[5] His father had difficulty collecting money for their education. He studied in a "hut school" till fourth standard, and later did his basic education from Khrist Raja High School (K. R.) in Bettiah.[3] He completed his class 12th from Maharani Janaki College in Bettiah.[5] He moved to New Delhi at the age of seventeen and went to Satyawati, then to Ramjas College, Delhi University.[3] Bajpayee had heard about National School of Drama from actors like Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, where he applied. He was rejected three times and wanted to commit suicide afterwards.[2] He then did director and acting coach Barry John's workshop after actor Raghubir Yadav's suggestion. Impressed by Bajpayee's acting, John hired him to assist him in his teaching.[3] After that he applied at the National School of Drama for the fourth time, they offered him a teaching position at the school instead.[3]

Bajpayee was married to a Dipali Gupta from Delhi during his struggle period but was extremely poor even to put three meals on a table. His wife had to abort a child and latter due to excessive pressure by her father who served in IFS, led to their divorce.[1] He met actress Neha, who is also known as Shabana Raza, right after her debut film Kareeb (1998). The couple married in 2006, and have a daughter.[6][7]


Debut and breakthrough (1994–2001)[edit]

Following his one-minute role in Govind Nihalani's Drohkaal (1994),[5] Bajpayee acted in the biographical drama Bandit Queen (1994). Tigmanshu Dhulia, the casting director of the film suggested his name to its director Shekhar Kapur.[8] Bajpayee was considered for the role of dacoit Vikram Mallah in the film, which eventually went to Nirmal Pandey.[3] Bajpayee got the role of dacoit Mann Singh in the film. During that time, he also did a television serial called Kalakaar, directed by Hansal Mehta[3] and Imtihaan (Doordarshan).

Bajpayee was a struggling actor when Mahesh Bhatt offered him the soap opera, Swabhimaan (1995), which aired on Doordarshan.[9] He agreed to do the serial at a low fee.[10] Next, Bajpayee appeared in minor roles in films like Dastak (1996) and Tamanna (1997).[11] The director Ram Gopal Varma discovered Bajpayee when he was casting for Daud (1997), a comedy film, where he had a supporting role. Following the completion of filming, Varma expressed his regret for offering Bajpayee a minor role.[12] He then promised Bajpayee to give him a prominent role in his next film.[9] Satya (1998), a crime drama, was their next film together. In the film, Bajpayee essayed the role of gangster Bhiku Mhatre, who accompanies the title character to form their nexus in the Mumbai underworld.[13]

Satya was mostly shot in the real slums of Mumbai.[13] It was screened at the 1998 International Film Festival of India and opened to mostly positive review.[14] Anupama Chopra called Bajpayee and others' performances " good that you can almost smell the Mumbai grime on their sweaty bodies".[13] The film was a commercial success, and Bajpayee won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor and Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for his performance.[15][16][17] Filmfare later included his performance in the 2010 issue of Bollywood's "Top 80 Iconic Performances".[18] Bajpayee then collaborated with Verma in the year 1999 with Kaun and Shool; with Verma directing the former and producing the latter. Kaun, was a whodunit with only three characters in a house, where Bajpayee played an annoying talkative stranger.[19] The film was a box-office disappointment.[20] Shool saw him play the role of an honest police officer who finds himself in the politician-criminal nexus of the Motihari district in Bihar. Sify labelled Bajpayee's performance in the film as "truly amazing [..] especially the emotional scenes with Raveena Tandon."[21] The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi, with Bajpayee winning the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance.[17][22] He also acted in the Telugu romantic film Prema Katha (1999).[23]

The year 2000 started for Bajpayee with the comedy Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!! and the crime drama Ghaath, both alongside Tabu.[24] A dialogue from the former sparked controversy in some political parties.[25][26] Bajpayee's first release in 2001 was Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's supernatural thriller Aks. His negative portrayal of Raghavan Ghatge, a criminal who dies and reincarnates in the body of Manu Verma (played by Amitabh Bachchan),[27] garnered him the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role nomination.[1] It was followed by Shyam Benegal's Zubeidaa, co-starring Rekha and Karishma Kapoor. He played Maharaja Vijayendra Singh of Fatehpur, a polo enthusiast prince with two wives. His character was inspired by Hanwant Singh, the Maharaja of Jodhpur.[28]

Career struggle (2002–09)[edit]

Bajpayee's sole release of 2002 was the road thriller, Road. He played the antagonist in the film, a hitchhiker who turns to be a psychopath killer, after taking lift from a couple (played by Vivek Oberoi and Antara Mali).[29] Bajpayee received another Filmfare nomination for Best Performance in a Negative Role, for the film.[1] Pinjar (2003), a period drama, set during the partition of India, was Bajpayee's first release of the year. Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, the film was based on a Punjabi novel of the same name.[30] He received the National Film Special Jury Award for his performance in the film.[31] He subsequently portrayed Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav in J. P. Dutta's ensemble war film, LOC Kargil.[32] It was based on the Kargil War, and Bajpayee was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for it.[1] Both the films were commercially unsuccessful.[33]

Bajpayee's next roles were in Jaago (2004) opposite Raveena Tandon, Makrand Deshpande's Hanan and the thriller Inteqam.[34] In Jaago, he played the role of a police officer who takes the situation in his own hands, after his 10-year-old daughter is raped and killed.[35] The same year, he appeared in a supporting role in Yash Chopra's romantic drama Veer Zaara (2004). The film was screened at the 55th Berlin Film Festival, and grossed over 940 million (US$14 million) globally, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year.[36][37] In 2005, Bajpayee acted in Dharmesh Darshan's drama Bewafaa, the thriller Fareb, and the English language film Return to Rajapur.[38][39][40] He also acted in the Telugu romance Happy (2006).[41]

In 2007, Bajpayee played Major Suraj Singh in 1971. The film tells the story of six Indian army soldiers, who escape from the Pakistani prison where they were captured during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.[42] Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN, criticised the film but wrote: "[Bajpayee]  is in great form, he holds back mostly and in the process, constructs a character that says more with his eyes than with words."[43] He next starred opposite Juhi Chawla, in Ganesh Acharya's drama film Swami.[44] Bajpayee's final release of the year was the anthology film Dus Kahaniyaan. He acted in Sanjay Gupta-directed story Zahir alongside Dia Mirza.[45] All of his 2007 releases were financial failures. Next year, he starred in the ensemble comedy Money Hai Toh Honey Hai (2008), which was also a box-office disaster.[33]

Bajpayee's shoulder got injured while filming the Telugu film Vedam, and was absent from the screen for nearly two years.[46] He then returned in a major role with the comedy Jugaad (2009), which was based on the 2006 Delhi sealing drive incident.[47] His next release was the mystery thriller Acid Factory (2009), which was a remake of the Hollywood film Unknown (2006).[48] He played a comic role from one of the people who are kidnapped and locked in a factory with no memory of how they came there. The film did not do well at the box-office.[49] The string of financial failures continued with his next release.[50] Madhur Bhandarkar's Jail (2009), where he played the role of a convict serving life imprisonment. He called his role as a "narrator" and the "mentor" of its protagonist (played by Neil Nitin Mukesh).[49][51]

Raajneeti and beyond (2010–present)[edit]

In 2010, Bajpayee starred in Prakash Jha's big-budget ensemble political thriller Raajneeti. It was inspired by the Indian epic Mahabharata. Bajpai's role was of Veerendra Pratap Singh (based on the character of Duryodhana), a greedy politician, who considers himself the rightful heir of a political family. Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India in her review mentioned that Bajpayee "..grab[s] eyeballs in [his] scenes" and "..brings back memories of his mesmeric performances".[52] Indian trade journalists were apprehensive of Raajneeti recovering its 600 million (US$8.9 million) investment.[53] The film, however, proved to be a major commercial success with worldwide earnings of over 1.43 billion (US$21 million).[37] Bajpayee received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Filmfare for the film.[54] He then acted in two Telugu films :Vedam (2010), and Puli (2010); followed by the comedy Dus Tola (2010).[55] He also provided the voice of Rama, in the animated film Ramayana: The Epic, which was based on the Indian epic Ramayana.[56]

Bajpayee promoting Aarakshan in 2011.

Aarakshan (2011), a socio-drama based on the issue of caste based reservations in Indian, was Bajpayee's next film. The film sparked controversy in some groups and was banned in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh before its theatrical release.[57] Trade journalists had high expectations for the film but it ultimately flopped at the box office.[58][59] Bajpai's followup was the thriller Lanka (2011).[60]

In 2012, Bajpayee appeared in Anurag Kashyap's two-part crime film Gangs of Wasseypur. His character Sardar Khan appeared in the first one. To prepare for his role, Bajpayee shaved his head and lost four kilogram of weight.[61] It premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival,[62] Toronto film festival,[63] and the Sundance Film Festival in 2013.[64] Gangs of Wasseypur released in India on 22 June to positive response. Anupama Chopra called it his best performance since Bhiku Mhatre in Satya.[65] For his performance in the film, Bajpayee was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.[66] His next film was the historical drama Chittagong (2012), based on the Chittagong armoury raid. Bajpai portrayed the Bengali independence fighter Surya Sen in it, for which he charged no money.[67] His final release of the year was Chakravyuh, where he played a Naxalite; a role which required him to lose 5 Kilogram weight.[68] Writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar called Chakravyuh "the best film of last 20 years".[69] On the contrary, a review carried by India Today called it an "amateurish attempt", but praised Bajpayee's acting.[70]

In 2013, Bajpayee had five releases: Samar, his Tamil debut film, was the first release. He appeared in a supporting role in the film.[71] He then appeared in Neeraj Pandey's heist thriller Special 26. Based on the 1987 Opera House heist, he portrayed a CBI officer in the film.[72] It was followed by the crime film Shootout at Wadala, where he played a character inspired from the gangster Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar.[73] Bajpayee collaborated with Prakash Jha for the fourth time with Satyagraha. The film was loosely inspired by social activist Anna Hazare's fight against corruption in 2011,[74] featuring an ensemble cast the film was highly anticipated by trade journalists due to its release coinciding with the Mumbai and Delhi gang rape public protests.[75] Satyagraha earned 675 million (US$10 million) domestically.[76] Bajpayee then provided the voice of Yudhishthira for Mahabharat, a 3D animation film based on the Indian epic of the same name.[77] In 2014, Bajpayee played the antagonist in the Tamil action film Anjaan.[78]

Bajpayee continued to play negative roles with his next film Tevar (2015). A remake of the 2003 Telugu film Okkadu, the film opened to negative reviews and was a box-office failure.[79][80] The same year, he along with Raveena Tandon, appeared in the patriotic-themed short film Jai Hind. With a run-time of 6 minutes, the film was released on YouTube by OYO Rooms, right before the Indian Independence Day.[81] Bajpayee acted in another short film titled Taandav in 2016. Directed by Devashish Makhija, the film showcased the pressure and scenarios faced by an honest police constable, and was released on YouTube.[82] The same year, he portrayed professor Ramchandra Siras, in Hansal Mehta's biographical drama Aligarh. The story followed the life of a homosexual professor who was expelled from Aligarh Muslim University because of his sexuality. Bajpayee watched a few clippings of Siras to prepare for his role.[83] The film was screened at the 20th Busan International Film Festival, and the 2015 Mumbai Film Festival.[84][85] Aligarh was released on 26 February 2016 to positive reviews.[86] He next played a traffic constable in Rajesh Pillai's swan song, Traffic (2016). A remake of the Malayalam film of the same name, the film was released on 6 May 2016.[87] His subsequent release of the year was the biographical sports film Budhia Singh – Born to Run, where he played the coach of Budhia Singh; the world's youngest marathon runner.[88]

As of June 2015, Bajpayee is shooting for three films; including Saat Uchakke and Missing, which he has also produced.[89]

Acting style[edit]

Bajpayee is often regarded as a method actor and a director's actor, and is known for his unconventional roles in films.[90][91][92][93] Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has cited Bajpayee's performance in Aks as the inspiration for his role as the antagonist in Kick (2014).[94] Bajpayee has also been vocal about the disparity in the pay he commands, in comparison to the top actors in the film industry.[95][96] He has cited Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah and Raghubir Yadav as his inspirations.[97]

Director Ram Gopal Varma considers him to be "an education for me" and "simply the best actor I've ever worked with."[12] Shekhar Kapur, who directed him in Bandit Queen, recalls: "Manoj had the ability to portray a lot just by doing little. He never tried to overplay a scene and seemed totally comfortable with a minimalist statement."[12] According to director Hansal Mehta, Manoj "has the ability to transform himself like few others."[98] Bajpayee's performance as Bhiku Mhatre in Satya is considered to be one of the most memorable characters of Hindi cinema, along with his dialogue in it: "Mumbai ka king kaun? Bhiku Mhatre" (Who is the king of Mumbai? Bhiku Mhatre).[99][100][101][102] Kay Kay Menon credits this character as a turning point for other method actors: "If it were not for Manoj’s brilliant performance in Satya, actors like Irrfan and me might still be waiting to be accepted. Manoj opened the doors for us."[3] Writing about the character in his book Popcorn Essayists, journalist-writer Jai Arjun Singh wrote that the "earthiness" and the "authenticity" [of the character], was the subtle result of a persistence in Bajpai's performance."[103]


Films that have not yet been released Denotes films that have not yet been released
Film Year Role Notes
Drohkaal 1994 Anand Special appearance
Bandit Queen 1994 Dacoit Maann Singh
Kalakaar 1994 N/A Television serial
Swabhimaan 1995 Sunil Television serial
Dastak 1996 Avinash Banerjee
Sanshodhan 1996 Bhanwar
Tamanna 1997 Salim
Daud 1997 Pushkar
Satya 1998 Bhiku Mahatre National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor
Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor
Prema Katha 1999 Sankaram Telugu film
Kaun 1999 Sameer A. Purnavale
Shool 1999 Inspector Samar Pratap Singh Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated–Filmfare Award for Best Actor
Fiza 2000 Murad Khan Special appearance
Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar 2000 Ram Saran Pandey
Ghaath 2000 Krishna Patil
Zubeidaa 2001 Maharaja Vijayendra Singh
Aks 2001 Raghavan Ghatge Nominated-Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role
Road 2002 Babu Nominated-Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role
Pinjar 2003 Rashid National Film Award – Special Jury Award / Special Mention
LOC Kargil 2003 Gren. Yogendra Singh Yadav Nominated-Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award
Hanan 2004 Pagla / Shamsher
Jaago 2004 Inspector Kripa Shankar Thakur
Veer-Zaara 2004 Raza Sharazi
Inteqam: The Perfect Game 2004 Uday Dhirendra Thakur
Return to Rajapur 2005 Jai Singh
Bewafaa 2005 Dil Arora
Fareb 2005 Aditya Malhotra
Happy 2006 DCP Arvind Telugu film
1971 2007 Major Suraj Singh
Swami 2007 Swami
Dus Kahaniyaan 2007 Saahil
Money Hai Toh Honey Hai 2008 Lallabhai Bharodia
Jugaad 2009 Sandip
Acid Factory 2009 Sultan
Jail 2009 Nawab
Puli 2010 Al Saleem Telugu film
Vedam 2010 Raheemuddin Qureshi Telugu film
Raajneeti 2010 Veerendra Pratap Nominated-Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award
Ramayana: The Epic 2010 Rama (voice) Animation film
Dus Tola 2010 Shankar Sunar
Aarakshan 2011 Mithilesh Singh
Lanka 2011 Jaswant
Chittagong 2012 Surya Sen
Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 1 2012 Sardar Khan Nominated—Filmfare Award for Best Actor
Chakravyuh 2012 Rajan
Samar 2013 Rajesh Arunachalam Tamil film
Special 26 2013 CBI Officer Wasim Khan
Shootout at Wadala 2013 Zubair Imtiaz Haskar
Satyagraha 2013 Balram Singh
Mahabharat 2013 Yudhisthira (voice) Animation film
Anjaan 2014 Imran Bhai Tamil film
Tevar 2015 Gajendar Singh
Jai Hind 2015 Short film
Taandav 2016 Short film
Aligarh 2016 Ramchandra Siras
Traffic 2016 Constable Ramdas Godbole
Kriti 2016 Short film
Budhia Singh – Born to Run 2016 Birachi Das Biographical Sports Film based on Life of Budhia Singh
Saat Uchakkey 2016 Pappi


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