Manoj Bajpayee, the man who was rejected by the National School of Drama four times, is one of the finest talents in the country today. Making a powerful debut with the 1994 crime-drama, Bandit Queen, there was no looking back for this marvelous actor. As he turns 49 today, let’s revisit some of his most spectacular pieces of work on the celluloid:-
1. Satya (1998)
Before Shah Rukh Khan proclaimed narcissistically in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, “I am the Best”, Manoj Bajpayee excitedly screamed from the top of a cliff, “Mumbai ka King Kaun, Bhiku Mhatre. In one of Hindi Cinema’s most absorbing crime thrillers, Manoj played a gangster called Bhiku Mhatre, the kind of character encountered in our everydayness in the underbelly of the Mumbai city. Despite belonging to the world of the underworld, this character wasn’t the villain of the story, and when it met an unpredictably tragic end, we were more dejected than delighted. Satya marked the beginning of a solid performer who had a lot more to showcase on the silver screen.
2. Shool (1999)
With the advent of some happy-go-lucky cops like Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg or cops personifying buffoonery like Shiva in Rowdy Rathore, audiences were fooled into believing that such are the traits of police officers in real life too. However, after Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer (1973) and Om Puri in Ardh Satya (1983), Inspector Samar Pratap Singh from Shool was the one cop that meticulously captured the nuances of real-life officers. With a permanent scowl on his face and honesty on his sleeves, Manoj Bajpayee breathed life into this character and made his troubles and tribulations dangerously real.
3. Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012)
Never before, humour was blended so fantastically in a film about rivalries, bloodshed and subterfuge. This ambitious Anurag Kashyap directorial saw Manoj Bajpayee portray the role of Sardar Khan, hungry and edgy to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Despite a palette of some fascinating and idiosyncratic characters, Manoj Bajapyee left a significant lasting impression with his memorable performance that was a perfect blend of anger and amusement. His funeral proceeding, which marks the opening credits of the film’s second part, is possibly the most significant funeral of all time.
4. Aligarh (2016)
Hansal Mehta’s bold and fearless film, depicting homosexuality and its dangerous repercussions in today’s cynical society, saw Manoj Bajapyee play Ramchandra Siras, a homosexual professor who’s shamed by the society and treated as a pariah. Unlike Kal Ho Na Ho and Dostana, where this sensitive issue was showcased for comic relief, Aligarh was gripping and disturbing in its portrayal. Unashamed of his sexual choices and distraught by the backlash of the people, Manoj brought both warmth and heartbreak to his performance that deserved a lot more than what it received.
5. Aks (2001)
In his most psychotic role yet, Aks saw Manoj Bajpayee in the role of Raghavan, a creepy, obnoxious and dreadful criminal who eerily laughs and quotes the Bhagwat Gita. A despicable character that haunts the police officer who killed him in an encounter, Manoj infused Raghavan with hatred, fearlessness and the kind of obnoxiousness that made quite a few people squirm in their seats. It’s unfortunate not much has been spoken about this performance.
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