Terming Satya a game changer in India cinema, Manoj Bajpayee says the film gave him a career and it was only after its humongous success that he “started getting roles, respect and entry into big offices”.
Directed by Ram Gopal Varma, Satya released in theatres 25 years ago and the film is still lauded by cinema enthusiasts for its execution and treatment. It focused on the underbelly of the world of crime through the titular character essayed by J.D. Chakravarthy.
Bajpayee, who played the flamboyant and ambitious gangster Bhiku Mhatre in the 1998 film, said the cult classic altered storytelling style in Hindi cinema.
“I look at it as a game changer. It has completely changed the industry. From the way the stories were told to the craft, or the way people look at filmmaking or performances, everything was so new both for the industry and audience. After the humongous success of Satya, I started getting roles, respect and entry into big offices,” the 54-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.
Satya, also starring Saurabh Shukla, Urmila Matondkar, Shefali Shah, Makarand Deshpande, Paresh Rawal, Govind Namdeo and Aditya Srivastav, hit the screens on July 3, 1998.
Unlike conventional gangster drama plots, the movie revolved around real people, warts and all, he said.
“All you see is not larger-than-life people, but people who are very real, people who you see in their dark and brightest phase. That’s how human beings are. It is shown with so much realism, creativity and newness. That’s why it stood the test of time, and that’s why people still celebrate Satya,” Bajpayee added.
The love for film was not instant, the actor recalled, saying that people started coming to the theatres based on word of mouth.
“For a week, there was no audience inside the theatres. Only after the word of mouth started getting stronger and stronger from the second week onwards, it started attracting people and theatres started filling up.”
Satya went on to run in cinema halls for close to 25 weeks and emerged as one of the last silver jubilee films of the country, the actor said, adding that the team was awarded a trophy to mark the milestone at a function.
Bajpayee’s acting career also took off after Satya. He had previously starred in films such as Bandit Queen, Drohkaal and Tamanna.
“Satya gave me a career. I did not work before Satya… That’s how life changed, and this is how any other actor’s life changes in this industry,” he added.
The film also helped him win his first National Film Award in the Best Supporting Actor category, a complete surprise for the actor at the time. He recalled that his late secretary Bhaskar Shetty informed him about the honour.
“I was completely surprised, it was difficult for me to believe it. He (Shetty) asked me to watch the news. It was a dream come true. I always wanted to win a National Award and ‘Satya’ made it possible for me.”
The actor, who claims to have only once seen Satya in its entirety, believes the younger generation has also embraced the film with enthusiasm.
“I still get to hear from people that they find it amazing. Even now, the movie leaves people mesmerized with its making, music, performances, direction, and all of it,” Bajpayee said, adding, he has many favourite moments from the film but it’s difficult to pinpoint just one.
Bhiku Mhatre may have become a fan favourite character from Satya but the then-newcomer Bajpayee found it challenging to portray this role. It required a lot of hard work, he recalled.
The actor, who at the time only had Mahesh Bhatt’s TV programme Swabhimaan in his kitty, said he was able to dedicate a lot of time to Satya.
“My focus was completely on creating Bhiku Mhatre. I tried everything possible for it. It is difficult to talk about methods in one interview. Someday, I may write a book on it because a lot has gone into it.
“It was based on imagination and the experience with criminals I have seen or interacted with a little bit when I was in Bihar. Also, whatever stories Mr Ram Gopal Varma used to narrate from the underworld… The research that he had done, I used it to prepare for my role,” Bajpayee added.