Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023

Manoj Bajpayee weighs in on ‘masculinity’ debate initiated by Animal: ‘It is not about alpha male, if your film is engaging…’

Manoj Bajpayee says he won't ever play a character that doesn't match his conditioning as a human being. He also reflected upon the 'masculinity' debate 'instigated' by Sandeep Reddy Vanga's Animal.

manoj bajpayeeManoj Bajpayee said he cannot play characters with which he cannot relate. (Photo: Manoj Bajpayee/Instagram)

Actor Manoj Bajpayee recently weighed in on the ‘what is masculinity’ debate that he believes is ‘instigated’ by Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s latest hit Animal. The film presents Ranbir Kapoor’s character Ranvijay as an alpha male. Bajpayee said what a film represents depends entirely on a director’s ‘gaze’ and the message of a film doesn’t matter if the film is not ‘engaging’. But he also clarified that he won’t ever play a character that doesn’t match his conditioning as a human being.

During a recent chat with Zoom, Bajpayee, while answering a question about balancing the layers of a male character in a movie, said, “The film that has instigated this debate about masculinity has a director who believes completely differently. That’s his gaze. Joram is another gaze, which is directed by Devashish Makhija and we are in complete agreement with him. His interpretation is that the man doesn’t have a voice and the woman is making decisions for him. When that woman goes away from his life, he becomes voiceless.”

Manoj Bajpayee continued to explain why he was able to portray his character of a ‘voiceless’ man in Joram ably. “I have seen this in my own family. My father didn’t have a voice. We are six children, and if you ask any of my siblings, they will say the same thing. My mother was the alpha female. Even in her last days, she was so independent. She hated to be dependent on anyone. She was asking my sister to give her poison so that she could die because she hated the fact that she was dependent on her children. So, I am from that family. I am brought up with that conditioning.” Manoj’s mother Geeta Devi passed away in 2022 due to age-related issues.


When he is offered a character or a film that doesn’t match up to his conditioning, Bajpayee doesn’t take it up, “not because it is a moral or social issue, but because I have not experienced it. It doesn’t suit my gaze.” Explaining his perspective with an example, the actor shared an anecdote from the sets of his next film, Bhaiyaa Ji, which he is producing as well.

“Just now we were shooting the film Bhaiyaa Ji and it is our take on commercial films and mainstream films, and women characters were half-baked. We really sat down and we thrashed it out. ‘Aise nahi ho sakta (We cannot do it like this).’ Even if it is mainstream cinema, we have to sit down and we have to thrash it out. We postponed those sequences to make them (women) equal stakeholders in the script. Then only we can move ahead,” the actor said.

Festive offer

But Manoj Bajpayee also understands the business aspect of his profession. He knows that irrespective of the subject, a movie works with the audience only if it is “engaging”. He concluded, “The film that is instigating this topic is the biggest blockbuster. That means, at the end of the day, it is not about alpha male or anything else. If your film is not engaging, everything falls flat. Even if you are trying to say something amazing about the society, about the world, but the film is not engaging, the whole message falls flat.”

Animal, a revenge-saga, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Rashmika Mandanna, Triptii Dimri and Anil Kapoor, among others, is among the biggest hits of 2023. The film has earned over 862 crore worldwide.

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First published on: 26-12-2023 at 15:01 IST
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