Manoj Bajpayee reveals why he chose to be part of Mrs Serial Killer and how he is spending the lockdown in the hills
Mrs Serial Killer, one of Netflix's recent releases continues to be in the spotlight for various reasons. Starring Jacqueline Fernandes and Manoj Bajpayee in the lead roles, the film received mixed reactions and reviews. The audience was eager to watch new content online, particularly because of the lockdown period, but Mrs Serial Killer didn't impress. Yet the film continues to trend online.
In a candid conversation with Indulge, the lead actor, Manoj, talks about the film, its subject and what prompted him to be a part of this movie.
Why did you agree to do Mrs Serial Killer?
Shirish discussed the script with me when he finished writing it. He said, 'I have this role, it does not have too much screentime but it is the best role of the film and you should do it whenever we make it.' I had forgotten about it and suddenly one day I got a call that he was making that film. He had somebody else in mind, but he thought of checking with me if I would do the role. I thought it's a fantastic role in the script. The reason for me to agree to do Mrs Serial Killer is Shirish, more than the role. Shirish is the reason for me to do this film because I have been part of his filmmaking (journey) and I loved the script.
How different was the experience shooting for a 'thriller-comedy'?
Shirish and I thought of giving a twist to the script because Dr Mrityunjoy Mukherjee is not somebody who is very easy to understand. He's very unpredictable in his ways. We thought of adding silliness to his character. He likes to play with the people he is controlling, so he becomes a performer. That's why we added a few lines to make him more unpredictable and people found those lines very funny.
The film has been trending online...
It's amazing. Can you believe that it has been trending on the No. 1 position for over a week? This is just a film of around 2 hours. For a film to trend this long is quite a feat for any filmmaker. So that took us by surprise. It's quite humbling. People have gone ahead and watched it in the first go, so you know, you just think of thanking people. They have the control in their hand, they chose to watch Mrs Serial Killer. They have their opinion about it. That's why I say it's a very open and democratic platform. There is no box office, there is no star-rating by reviewers and nothing influences the viewers because there is a direct connection between the content and the viewers. There is no obstruction.
How was it to work with Jacqueline Fernandes?
It was lovely. I got along fairly well with her. She thought I will be some serious actor, sitting in one corner pondering over my next scene. In the role of Dr Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, I needed to improvise more and be a little funny. I was like that throughout the shoot. The atmosphere used to be quite light. That kind of broke the ice between Jacqueline and me. After that, we were like one gang of friends having fun on the set.
Looking at the uncertainty of our times, how do you as an actor think the film and entertainment industry will have to change and evolve?
The future of films is going to be as bright as ever. It's just that it will take a little time before they start coming into their own. Once the lockdown is lifted, people will try to avoid going back to theatres because of the fear in their mind. All the mediums of entertainment have their own place. A community meeting cannot be replaced with anything else. They will come back to their old self but it will take a little time. First, we have to wait for the pandemic to go away so that the fear is gone. Once that's done, they will start going back to the theatres.
But how will this pandemic impact the film industry and the way it works?
Oh yes, everything is going to change. Post the coronavirus pandemic, it's going to be a changed world. The behavioural pattern, the lifestyle and the film industry will change. The content will change because of the influence of the OTT platforms. Also, the exposure of the people to the OTT platforms and the variety of content they have already watched. The filmmakers will really have to be on their toes. This is the same audience which was locked in their houses and they invested in a variety of content. Their demands will differ from the demands of the past. The filmmakers will really have to pull up their socks and be innovative.
What parameters do you look for when choosing to be part of a film?
Well... the script could belong to any genre it doesn't matter, but it has to come from life. It should be part of the life that I have been watching, observing or living. That's a priority. It should not be something which doesn't have any meaning or reason. That is first. Secondly, I look for a good director, a good role and an engaging script.
Your work includes unforgettable films like Satya, Gangs of Wasseypur, Kaun, Zubeida, Aligarh, and more recently the web series The Family Man... Which has been your most enjoyable work/project and why?
I have enjoyed all of them. I chose them with a lot more care. Around 80% of the projects that I have done, I have given all of myself to them. So yes, they are very dear to me. The film which is very close to my heart is Gali Guleiyan. According to me, somewhere I was quite satisfied with my performance and it took a lot out of me. It has done remarkably well in all the festivals and I'm hoping that some OTT platform acquires the rights of it as quickly as possible for the people to watch it.
How are you spending your time during this lockdown period?
I was shooting in Uttarakhand. After five days of shooting, the Janta curfew and then the lockdown was announced. The entire unit left and 7-8 of us chose to stay here. Fortunately, my family was visiting here for five days, so they are also with me. Actually, I would say that my family is lucky to be in a relatively safe place. We are away from the hustle-bustle and the chaos.
What's on your reading list?
There are too many... I am reading Naseer Saab's memoir and I am reading Maximum City. My favourite author is Amitav Ghosh. I love to read a lot of Hindi literature and poetry. I'm reading prose by Uday Prakash. The new poet who got my attention is Shaqeel Azmi. Manoj Muntashir is also writing quite well. Kumar Vishwas has been original for quite some time.
Have you tried any new activity recently, considering you have so much time right now?
How can I pick up anything when I'm in the jungle here?! The only thing I've discovered about myself is that I love trekking.
Would we ever see you direct a film?
I would definitely like to direct films. For that, I need a script which really compels me to go on the set and take up the job of a director. Till then, I'll wait.
What has the lockdown taught you?
The lockdown has taught me one thing that is fantastic - don't plan for the future. So, right now, I'm not thinking about anything. I live in the present as the sun rises and as the sun goes down I go to sleep.
Which of your projects are in the pipeline?
Once the lockdown is lifted, work on The Family Man 2 will progress with a lot of speed. There is Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, that film will go into post-production. Bhonsle and Gali Gulieya will be acquired by an OTT platform. The film 1971, which dropped on YouTube after 13 years has become a digital blockbuster, so I am quite happy about that. Mrs Serial Killer has been trending for over seven days now and I am enjoying my family time.