It's been over two decades in Bollywood for Manoj Bajpayee, and yet the acclaimed actor finds it impossible to adjust to the fact that outsiders are expected to be in the good books of the industry's "gangs", whether they offer work or not.
Manoj made his feature film debut with a small role in Govind Nihalani's 1994 film "Drohkaal". His breakthrough role was the gangster Bhiku Mhatre in Ram Gopal Varma's 1998 crime drama, "Satya".
The National Award-winning actor explains why he maintains all along that Bollywood is an impossible industry for outsiders. "It's an impossible industry for outsiders and if you are a girl trying to get in from outside then it is all the more impossible, because there are gangs and groups here, and they expect you to be in their good books all the time, whether they give you work or not," Manoj told IANS.
Over two decades, Manoj has carved a niche for himself with his performances in films such as "Shool", "Kaun?", "Zubeidaa", "Pinjar" and "Gangs Of Wasseypur" among many others. He points out that the industry can be a difficult place for those who don't play by its rule.
"If you are a person who believes in ability and hard work and not surrendering to peoples' whims and fancies, then it is quite an impossible industry," he added.
"When I entered Hindi films, it was very difficult (because) conventional, commercial and formula films were really ruling the roost (at that time). Coming here and travelling so many years, and having a little bit name for yourself is quite a miracle. That is why I say it is quite an impossible industry," he added.
With his work in films like "Satya" and "Shool", it would not be incorrect to say that Manoj has open the floodgates for several other talents, such as Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Does he think that they have managed to break the dominance of the commercial stars?
"I was quite stubborn. I have always been stubborn since my childhood. After the success of 'Satya', I wanted to do something good. I somehow felt that this is a great chance to do my kind of work and stick to my conviction. It needed patience and a lot of perseverance to say not to all the bigwigs and all the big money that was coming my way, and so many films," said Manoj, who will next be seen in the Amazon Prime series, "The Family Man".
"I could have easily had so much of money, name and fame in a very short span of time but I chose the other way," he added.
Manoj says it has not only done him good but has "done good to so many actors and now they are big names (and) all of them have a great lifestyle".
"Today, if you look at it, so many other young actors are getting the benefits of all the struggles one has gone through in getting films and sticking to one's conviction," he added.
The "Aligarh" actor feels in a small way he has contributed to all of this.
"I believe somewhere in a very small way, I have contributed to the (rising importance of) content and to all the actors who are really talented and want to do something different," Manoj said.