Reel Chameleon: The Many Incomparable Roles of Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpayee in stills from <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i>, <i>Aligarh</i> and <i>Satya</i>.
Manoj Bajpayee in stills from Gangs of Wasseypur, Aligarh and Satya.

Reel Chameleon: The Many Incomparable Roles of Manoj Bajpayee

Manoj Bajpayee turns a year older. We decided to pick the occasion to look back upon and celebrate some of his finest performances - God knows it’s not an easy task.

Plunge right in!

Aligarh (2016)

Manoj Bajpayee in a still from <i>Aligarh</i>.
Manoj Bajpayee in a still from Aligarh.

In one of the most difficult roles of his career, Manoj Bajpayee’s portrayal of the 64-year-old Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras in Aligarh is one of the finest performances in Indian cinema. His fundamental right to privacy cruelly invaded and hounded for his sexual orientation, Bajpayee’s Siras stays on with the audience with his helplessness, heartbreak and above all, loneliness, much after the end credit rolls. Bajpayee deserves every award he gets for this film and more.

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Bajpayee as Sardar Khan.
Bajpayee as Sardar Khan.

Driven by one thing alone — to avenge the murder of his father — Sardar Khan never eases up on the humour. He's been given laugh-out-loud lines, to be delivered with a deadpan poker face. And in the same frame, to execute a cold blooded murder. The way in which he does all three is the brilliance of Manoj Bajpayee.

Pinjar (2003)

A  poster of <i>Pinjar</i>.
A poster of Pinjar.

His portrayal of Rashid, a Muslim man who kidnaps a Hindu girl for revenge on the instigation of his family and falls deeply in love with her, won Bajpayee a National Award. The scenes where he almost silently takes on Puro’s hatred and emotes his love only through his eyes make for great cinematic moments.

Shool (1999)

A poster of <i>Shool</i>.
A poster of Shool.

A far cry from his characters in Satya and Kaun?, this pacy cop film saw Bajpayee transform like a chameleon on screen to become a single-minded honest police officer with an explosive temper that destroys him and all he cares for. The actor forsook the usual Bollywood melodrama to bring an intensity and vulnerability to Samar Singh that remains hard to match.

Kaun? (1999)

Manoj Bajpayee and Sushant Singh in a still from <i>Kaun?</i>.
Manoj Bajpayee and Sushant Singh in a still from Kaun?.

Written by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Ram Gopal Varma when he still made watchable movies, Kaun? is an underrated gem. A rare successful psychological thriller made in Bollywood, it has Bajpayee playing a character who might or might not be a psychopathic killer on the loose. He scares the hell out of us.

Satya (1998)

A still from <i>Satya</i>.
A still from Satya.

It was Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya that catapulted Bajpayee to stardom and won him a National Award. His realistic portrayal of Bhikhu Mhatre, a ruthless gangster-kingmaker straight out of Mumbai’s slums, stood out and remains an iconic character as far as gangster films go in Bollywood.

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