In a career sprawling 27 years, Manoj Bajpayee has essayed iconic characters—from his breakout performance as the violent yet humane gangster, Bhiku Mhatre in Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya, to the murderous Sardar Khan from Gangs of Wasseypur, to the intelligence officer, Srikant Tiwari, who grapples with national security threats and familial conflicts in The Family Man. The actor has donned the khaki in a handful of films—including Shool, in which he played an aggressive, yet vulnerable inspector, and Satyamev Jayate, in which he played the gloriously dramatic Shivansh Rathod—and always succeeded in creating a humane impression. In fact, it was his performance as a retired cop—as the reticent, weary constable Ganpath Bhonsle in Devashish Makhija’s wonderful film, Bhonsle—that fetched him his second National Award for acting.
My personal favourite, however, remains DCP Aravind from the 2006 Telugu film, Happy. Aravind was stern and furious, yet the joke was always on him. “All my experiences with Telugu cinema have been wonderful,” says Manoj. “Allu Aravind (the father of Allu Arjun), the producer of my Hindi film, Kaun, convinced me to be a part of Happy after the director (Karunakaran) wanted me to play the part. I have great memories of my Telugu projects like Prema Katha, Vedam, and Puli (2010). It’s quite a task to learn the Telugu dialogues though,” he says, laughing.