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Manoj Bajpayee in 'Silence... Can You Hear It?' Image Credit: Zee5

What’s the best way to beat the COVID-19 blues?

There’s no right answer, but if you are Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee then the perfect pick-me-up could be being bestowed with a coveted Indian National Award. He’s the latest recipient of the Best Actor award for his role in ‘Bhonsle’ and he shares it with South Indian actor Dhanush who also won for 'Asuran'.

“The world has only seen 25 to 30 per cent of me as an actor ... There’s more to come,” said Bajpayee with a laugh.

The Bihari actor, who recently turned into a Bhojpuri rapper with ‘Bambai Mein Ka Ba’ (a song on the plight of migrants in Mumbai), believes that the last few months have been incredibly tough.

“2021 has been hard on every one of us and the entire world … I am no different. But human beings are interesting and we can adjust to any kind of odd situation that we are thrown in. We have found a way to communicate and we have found a way to survive and survive well despite having faced so many tragedies. We lost so many people in the world and from this industry. But we still kept bouncing and coming back. We know how to move on,” Bajpayee told Gulf News in an interview following his National Award win.

The self-made actor, whose credits include stirring and compelling works such as ‘Sonchiriya’, ‘Zubeidaa’ and the hit web series ‘The Family Man’, believes that the human race can be resilient.

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The Family Man Image Credit: Amazon Prime

“Everything that we faced has hit us hard. We faced such a hard time in the last few months, but human beings will always find ways to survive. We are engineered to function that way. There are times when you think you can’t go forward, but in this climate of uncertainty our race has to move forward or we go extinct,” said Bajpayee. The actor, who has fully recovered from a battle with COVID-19, recently saw the release of murder mystery ‘Silence... Can You Hear It?’, streaming now on Zee5 Global.

“The digital medium was our only mode of entertainment while we were all locked up in our homes ... They have been serving some great content. Till the theatres come back in full swing, the digital medium is our way to go. When a movie releases on a digital platform, we are competing with creative content from around the world and across all platforms ... The audience is now open to content that we were earlier not used to ... The OTT (over-the-top) platforms has exposed everyone to a whole new world ... And, they are asking for more,” said Bajpayee.

Excerpts from our interview with the man of the hour in Bollywood …

What an incredible and scary start to your 2021? You contracted COVID-19, but also learnt that you received a National Award for the Best Actor while you recovered. Your thoughts …

Manoj Bajpayee in Bhonsle
Manoj Bajpayee in Bhonsle Image Credit: Supplied

There’s a lot of weakness right now, but I have to do the promotions for ‘Silence’ and that’s why I am here. Thank you for your good wishes. It’s my third Indian National Award honour and each time you get this award you feel happy and thankful. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me throughout my journey as an actor.

‘Silence’, a whodunit, is your first release after your momentous National Awards glory. It’s a murder mystery and a departure of sorts from the kind of heavy and intense movies you take on. Was that by design?

I feel like actors are not supposed to do anything by design. An actor should be ready to take on any kind of story in any genre. Any film that challenges you as an actor and challenges your craft or skills is right up my street. Once that’s out of the way, I sit back and relax … ‘Silence’ had a great story. I have always been a fan of the works of Alfred Hitchcock and [of the character] Sherlock Holmes. I have personally enjoyed watching such detective movies or series.

Your character Avinash Varma, the investigating officer in ‘Silence’, seems to be a maverick of sorts… volatile and temperamental. Did you find those character traits appealing?

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Silence... Can You Hear It? Image Credit: Zee5

I loved the back story behind my character Avinash Varma, more than how he conducts himself during his investigations. He’s intelligent, but is impatient with the outcome of any case … In his personal life, he’s a divorcee and is not getting a chance to meet his daughter who’s away in London living with her mother.

I have an old, ageing mother who watches out for me. And that back story made him interesting and compelling. Plus, the genre of a whodunit has always fascinated me … You are constantly teasing the audience to think a certain way. This is an out-and-out murder mystery where the process of finding the killer is more important than anything else. Expect mind games that intrigue you. As you watch ‘Silence’, you will realise that the movie teases your mind more than the body.

You play a man in uniform in ‘Silence’ and that reminded me of ‘The Family Man’ …

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Silence... Can You Hear It? Image Credit: Zee5

I would have to disagree with you here. ‘The Family Man’ is set in a different world than ‘Silence’. In ‘The Family Man’, I played a person who was trying to balance his job and his family … ‘Silence’ is a very intense investigation into a murder. And murder mysteries are a tricky and fascinating genre ...

Don’t miss it!

'Silence... Can You Hear It?' is now streaming on Zee5 Global.