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Manoj maps his mood

After Gangs of Wasseypur, the 43-year-old actor couldn’t have expected a better Friday release than Special 26. He tells t2 how that happened and why Wasseypur has not picked up popular awards...

What got you interested in Special 26?

Neeraj Pandey. I had been after Neeraj since A Wednesday! to give me a chance to work with him. I called him so many times to tell him that I’d be grateful if he decides to cast me. He was sweet enough to call me after he locked in on the script. A great script and the chance to work with a director I have been waiting to work with got me interested in this film. I wouldn’t have refused anything Neeraj could have asked me to do in his film. I was completely floored by A Wednesday!.

Considering the film is based on a real incident, were you required to do any homework?

Not really. I sat with Neeraj to understand what he wanted from me. With Neeraj, an actor has to be prepared to take instructions. He is sure of what he wants. He is not someone who waits for his actors to show different ways they can deliver a shot. You either hand yourself over to him or better a scene 100 times over. It’s very rare to find such a clear-headed director.

For many, Gangs of Wasseypur has brought you back on the map. Has the film made a difference for you?

Wasseypur wasn’t my first success. But a hit always silences detractors. After Wasseypur I have been reading a lot of scripts but I haven’t found anything exciting. My three releases this year (Special 26, Shootout at Wadala and Satyagraha) were signed before Wasseypur.

There was talk of a Hollywood project coming your way…

I think Anurag (Kashyap) is my ticket to international projects. I keep pestering him to get me scripts (laughs). I am currently going through a script from an American independent filmmaker. It’s interesting. Let’s see where that goes. I would love to do an international film.

The award season has started. Are you upset that your work in Wasseypur hasn’t been acknowledged?

This is not the first time. I wasn’t even nominated in any of the popular awards for Pinjar (2003), which got me the National Award. My film 1971 (2007) wasn’t nominated for any popular award but it went on to win the National Award (Best Film). I don’t take these popular awards seriously. They have to correct themselves. I am not complaining about the state of our popular awards but I see many people talk about it on social networking sites. I don’t care if I don’t get nominated or win awards because everyone knows that to do that you need to fulfil certain criteria.

And even after all this I haven’t learnt... (smiles). I attend every award function when I am not shooting. I get new suits made! I attend them only because I don’t want to upset the organisers. I was just telling Anupam (Kher) that it’s a pity that Wasseypur wasn’t sent for the Oscars. But again, that’s not surprising. When Satya (1998) released, Jeans was sent (as India’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1998). Our award ceremonies don’t surprise or upset me anymore.

Last year you said that you were so busy with work that your wife (Shabana) complained about you not spending enough quality time with the family...

But that has changed because I haven’t signed a new film (laughs). Now I am really enjoying my time with them. We go on holidays more often. Ava (daughter) will soon be two years old and has started attending playschool. So, like a stay-at-home father I drop her off to school and return with separation anxiety!


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