Manoj Bajpai is calm and composed even when you ask him point-blank questions on the unplanned way his career is evolving. In complete contrast is the old hand’s portrayal of Veerendra Pratap in Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti, where the actor is angry and hungry for power, destroying all that comes in his way to the political top. In conversation with KoiMoi, Manoj talks about his character, co-stars and career.

Tell us about your role in RAAJNEETI?
The role is inspired by Duryodhan from the epic, Mahabharata. It is a larger-than-life role. The character I play comes from a feudal-political family and is somebody who believes that all the power belongs to him. The thirst for power gives him a high.

We’ve heard that you developed a six-pack abdomen for the character.
(Laughs) No, the character never demanded something like that. It required a certain craft from me in terms of acting and the look, and I tried my level best to achieve that.

RAAJNEETI is a political thriller set in North India. Coming from Bihar, how did you relate to the story?
The story is relevant to every state and not just Bihar or U.P. As Indians, we like to keep abreast of the latest in politics. We also love to think that we are better than the representatives we vote for. Now, the film deals with the thirst for power and that is something that will resonate with all.

Katrina Kaif, as a female politician, has a pivotal role in the film. Does the film just reflect the reality or does it also try to push for change?
There has been some cleaning up in our polity, like the impetus to the Women’s Reservation Bill. But yet what 75 per cent of the population experiences is dirty politics… Raajneeti talks about that.

How was it working with Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor, the next superstar hopefuls?
Superstardom or stardom is not about being deserving. It’s all about being lucky. But I really enjoyed Katrina’s company; she is down-to-earth and very hardworking. She’s also somebody who is ambitious and wants to achieve a lot.

Ranbir is a nice guy, who is hell-bent upon doing well. From whatever I’ve seen of him in Raajneeti, he’s somebody who doesn’t take his job for granted.

You’ve been known to name your own characters in films? Did Prakash Jha give you that liberty here?
(Laughs) Prakash Jha is a very fertile mind and my character and the name, Veerendra Pratap Singh a.k.a. Veeru Bhaiya is completely his creation. But I discussed a lot of politics with Prakash ji. He’s the best guy for this political thriller; he’s very interested in politics and has even stood for elections twice.

Every actor has a hunch about a film’s success or failure…
I had even thought Acid Factory and Jail would work. It’s difficult to gauge the mind of 120 crore Indians. So I do the kind of work that I would like to do. I had thought that I did an unprecedented job in Jail, and improved a lot as an actor. You might call the film a flop, but I’ve got nothing to do with it. Every good film is not successful, and every hit film is not a good one.

But isn’t Manoj Bajpai occupying very little of the audiences’ mind space today?
I am charging more money today than I ever was. Who’s to think I am not successful?

What are your coming projects?
After Raajneeti, there’s Dus Tola, where I play a goldsmith, and then Chittagong – The Uprising. I am also thinking of getting back to my roots – to doing theatre.

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