If you’ve watched Satya (1998), Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), or even Family Man (2019), you know who Manoj Bajpayee is. To some, he is Bhiku Mhatre while for others he is Sardar Khan. No matter what name you know him by, we bet you only know the widely successful actor that he is today, but not many are privy to the struggle Bajpayee has been through to reach where he is. Let’s take a look at the journey of actor Manoj Bajpayee.
Born in a small village of Bihar to a family of farmers, Manoj, who always wanted to be an actor, had to see some really tough days in the early days of his life. Manoj used to study in a hut school in his village and helped his father in farming during his vacation. Upon completing his 12th, he moved to Delhi to attend college. Bajpayee had heard about the National School of Drama from veteran actors like Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah so he applied there. His application got rejected thrice. This was a failure according to him and he even contemplated suicide at one point. Later on, he would go on to join Barry John’s acting workshop and then go on to assist John in teaching. When Bajpayee applied to NSD for the fourth time, he was instead offered a teaching position. This is just one of many tales of Bajpayee enduring the brunt of the obstacles life throws at you.
During an interview with HT, Bajpayee, recalling his early days of struggle said “I have never had such a difficult time from the time I left my village at the age of 17 and a half. These four years were like 40 years. Everything was falling apart, once I got three projects: a series, a corporate film, one docudrama, and another series. In one day I was chucked out from all.”
After completing his graduation, Bajpayee would meet Anubhav Singa and assist him during his plays. Anubhav later called Bajpayee to Mumbai and introduced him to director Pankuj Parashar.
After moving to Mumbai, Bajpayee did small roles in movies like Drohkaal (1994) and Bandit Queen (1994) and also appeared in serials like Kalakaar and Imtihaan. He started getting noticed when Mahesh Bhatt offered him the serial Swabhimaan (1995) on DD. Later on, after having his potential realized by Ram Gopal Verma in his movie Daud (1997), he promised Bajpayee a more significant role in his next movie. This would prove to be a turning point in his career as this next role would be of Bhiku Mhatre in Satya (1998). In 2010, Filmfare included Manoj’s role in Satya as one of the “Top 80 Iconic Performances”. Actor Kay Kay Menon credits Manoj’s role in Satya (1998) as a turning point for other method actors. He was quoted as saying "If it were not for Manoj's brilliant performance in Satya, actors like Irrfan and I might still be waiting to be accepted. Manoj opened the doors for us."
The next few years of his life, Bajpayee would keep doing films and kept getting noticed for his unique style of acting but none of his roles earned him significant limelight. The role that would catapult his name to the list of A-listers of Bollywood came with the movie Raajneeti (2010), a political drama inspired by Mahabharat. In 2012, Bajpayee starred in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), as Sardar Khan. There was no looking back for the actor after this.
In 2019, the actor completed 25 years in Bollywood and was awarded Padma Shri. Manoj was last seen in Family Man (2019), an Amazon Prime Video series, and is all set to star in Mrs. Serial Killer, his next venture with Netflix.