Warning: very personal blog
I never knew I could be so crazy about an actor until I first watched his movie. The movie was Satya. I was filled with sheer delight to see such talent, but I also remember thinking that this guy had no chance in Bollywood. Reason being I thought he was too good for Bollywood.
On seeing Manoj Bajpai's later films, I realised that he would probably never see a day in his life when he'd have no roles. One doesn’t necessarily have to get roles in big banner films to grow as an actor. Good actors bring to the character more than its conceived capacity. Of course, they can contain themselves within the character, too.
His eyes have an intensity that is so convincing. He just had to mouth the dialogues in Shool: his eyes had done the job for him. It didn’t take Samar Pratap Singh much to woo an already dazed audience.
You can hardly miss his simplicity, on screen or off screen. No nakhras, or attempts at creating colourful personas. And somehow, I have connected so easily with him. I find him so believable. There are things that he believes in that I share and respect. Sometimes, I think, he is too good to be true. Sometimes, it's like this guy could have been in my college, my village, just living across the street.
I have always loved acting and had even thought of choosing it as my profession. I have done very little acting, but whenever I get to see some good acting, I get so involved. Vicarious pleasure. I recently re-visited all but four of MB's movies, excluding the newest one. And I saw something I had missed before: MB had been so consummated by his roles that MB, the person, was seen nowhere. I mean, that in Satya he is Bhiku Mhatre; in Kaun he is this nosy stranger; in Ghaath he is Krishna Patil. When I say, 'he is,' I mean, 'he is.' 100%. Of course, he brings to each role that characteristic finesse. But there is no leftover.
Each character is filled with fresh and unique life, stands on his own, speaks with natural ease, sits and walks as only he would. A good actor would know when to switch on and off her 'self,' and yet retain her core sensibilities that make the portrayal of the character so special. This may be a little dense, but hold on. It's just this: the actor steps out of herself, steps into the character, and comes home again. For this to happen, two things are essential: a substantial knowledge of the self and a total awareness of the character. This is easier said than done.
When I watched Bandit Queen, and then Satya, and then Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, and then Aks and so on, I saw this happening. MB, the person, had dissolved into MB, the artiste. So I knew MB, so I didn’t know MB.
He has achieved this fluidity, this ease with his self and his characters. I once read in an interview of his that he had spent the night drinking beer in front of a Satya poster the day it released. Nothing can match the happiness you get when you do something that you were born for.
But my fears about Bollywood still persist. Its rarely able to give challenging scripts to a mature actor. I hope I am proved wrong.