|He instantly brings a smile to your face. He’s so rooted and real. I recently learnt that he has been the highest tax payer from our industry. Stardom hasn’t gone to his head. He still thinks like a middle-class man. It’s great to work with such humble co-stars.”
There’s no doubt that Manoj has managed to impress the audiences with his performances over and over again. Why has he then restricted himself to ensemble cast films only? “I believe in doing what is good in front of me instead of looking for solo-hero films. That will be very foolish. Films like Zubeidaa come once in a while. I get many solo-hero scripts but they have nothing to offer. So it’s better to be a part of a whole gang and stand out. I’ve never been afraid of getting lost in a big cast. I’m not insecure of others. I only concentrate on what I have and try to do it to the best of my ability,” he asserts.
The audience has mostly seen Manoj playing serious roles. Does he consciously stay away from mindless comedies and masala films? “I can’t do mindless comedies. I don’t look down upon anything that others do but it’s just that I will be bad in doing it. But I’m doing a comedy with many theatre actors. So you will have many moments to laugh. But I’ll do something that is real yet humorous. I can’t do out-and-out comedies. I tried it in Money Hai Toh Honey Hai. Even though I was good in the film, it didn’t do well. I feel this is my weakness. I need reasons to act,” he states.
So does he feel that Bollywood is slowly waking up to performance-driven actors like him? “Our kinds of actors have to sit and wait for our kind of roles. You won’t believe that I haven’t signed anything after Gangs Of Wasseypur. All my three films that will be releasing this year were signed before Wasseypur. See, if good scripts are being written, it’s not necessary that the director thinks of me. He will think of stars. So it goes to them. Also, there are not enough people making good films,” he says frankly.
Critics were bowled over by his performance in GOW. How does he feel about being showered with praises by them? “It’s a great thing for an actor. However, today they’re saying good things, tomorrow they won’t. The happiest moment of my life has been winning two National Awards. I got nominated in the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Brisbane recently. I was sitting on the stage with Anurag Kashyap and I told him, ‘This is the highest point in my life. I’m nominated with four of the biggest actors of the world. So even if I don’t win the award, it doesn’t matter’,” he shares.
Apparently, the actor happened to meet South superstar Rajinikanth recently and he too was rather impressed by his acting talent. “It’s not about Rajinikanth’s compliment,” he cuts in, “It’s about an icon of his stature recognizing me. That too when he’s come from a different industry. It says so much about him. We met in a flight. He complimented me and actually took time out to talk to me. I was floored by his humility and passion for cinema.”
Manoj played a man who is obsessed with sex and women in GOW. Do bold scenes make him nervous? He nods in disagreement, “No, I’m never nervous for such scenes. I feel shy when a girl is coming on to me in real life. But ask me to do anything on screen, I will do it. I just have to be convinced about why I have to do it,” says the talented actor.
So is he a serious man back home with wife Neha too? “I’m not a serious guy at home ya. Neha slaps me around, “I’m a very meek husband. She is the dominating one. It’s difficult to believe but there’s a very strict person behind that pretty face. She doesn’t want anything moving without her consent,” he signs off.
By CHANDNI GHOSH