Censorship as an institute does not work in today’s age of the internet. If you are showing a film inside a theatre, you can’t make sure that a 16-year-old boy is not going to watch content meant only for those above 18. Censorship only makes one more curious.
Manoj Bajpayee came to this year’s edition of the Kathakar storytelling festival with an open mind, not expecting to be called on stage to perform. But he regaled the audience nevertheless, starting with stories of his eight-year-old daughter and how she had convinced her friends of being an American. He went on to talk about Delhi as a city and its forgotten heritage, throwing in some spooky stories from his childhoood, which seemed apt for a chilly evening outdoors at Sunder Nursery. From theatre to films and now OTT, he has mastered every platform, and in a conversation with FE, he talks about how each works. Edited excerpts:
You have not performed live since taking to films. Do you miss the direct connect with the audience?
I have done theatre for so long that I don’t miss it. However, there are many aspects of theatre other than performing. A big one is preparing for a performance and the stage, and this is what I have been doing even as I work in films. I don’t make a fuss of it or publicise it, but I regularly conduct theatre workshops with various institutes and organisations, in both Mumbai and Delhi.
You have tasted success in OTT with The Family Man? Was it a conscious decision to do this project, seeing that everyone seems to be dabbling in digital these days?
This is the future. You can’t ignore OTT. I was at Cannes a couple of years back and I saw a young boy of 18-19 years old on the red carpet. There was a such a huge crowd around him. Thousands of children were making a lot of noise and trying to have a glimpse of him. It even led to a traffic jam there. People were saying they had never seen such a gathering around a red carpet event. And who was he? A French Snapchat star. That’s the power digital media has.
With The Family Man, we have experienced this power. As an actor I never thought digital has invaded our lives to this extent, penetrated so deeply in every household. It is just the beginning with The Family Man, which is only a few weeks old but a global success already.
Do you agree with the viewpoint that stories are better for OTT platforms as you can talk about subjects and issues that otherwise won’t be touched or are censored?
Each and every medium has its advantages or disadvantages. Theatre is an actors’ medium where the director does not have any role after the lights are off. Likewise, satellite has its own strength. OTT reaches across the globe. It is streamed everywhere. So there are no censors anywhere, except maybe parents. I also screen content for my daughter. However, censorship as an institute does not work. If you are showing a film inside a theatre, you can’t make sure that a 16-year-old boy is not going to watch content meant only for those above 18. He is going to do that. He will watch it somewhere surely, even if it’s on Torrent. Anyway, censorship only makes one more curious.
What about issues?
I would say every medium has issues that are suitable for it. There are some issues not right for OTTs, say for 10 episodes. Some need to be told in a very precise form. I have asked my directors to turn film ideas into plays as they are more suited for the stage. You can’t take up any subject for web series, etc.
How important are stories, considering you are here for a story festival?
Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment. Ancient man used to hunt and return with tales and stories of how they killed the boar and deer, the bigger challenges they faced… It is the genesis of all art forms. Even poem recital is a form of storytelling. So it is great that we have a festival entirely devoted to the art of storytelling. I am sure each and every culture around the world has its own version of kathavachaks who spread the stories around.