An acting stalwart who is one of the finest exponents of method acting in the country, Manoj Bajpayee is an actor for all seasons. In an illustrious career that has extended over 25 years, he has immortalised characters of all shades in movies belonging to diverse genres. Needless to say, accolades have come beckoning in the form of multiple Filmfare and National Film Awards.
An alumnus of the esteemed Barry John Acting Studio, Manoj`s film journey began with a minor role in the crime drama Drohkaal in 1994, and has since flourished in the course of over 70 feature film credits. Some of his most iconic performances over the years have come in movies like Satya (1998), Shool (1999), Aks (2001), the period drama Pinjar (2003), the political thriller Raajneeti (2010)
, the cult classic crime film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
and the biographical drama Aligarh (2015)
Manoj Bajpayee was born in Belwa, a small village in West Champaran, Bihar. He was the second of six siblings. Upon completing his schooling from Khrist Raja High School in Bettiah, Manoj studied at Maharani Janaki College in Bettiah till his twelfth grade. He then moved to Delhi where he attended Satyawati College and went on to graduate from Ramjas College, Delhi University.
Having a keen interest in acting since his childhood, Manoj attempted to join National School of Drama thrice, but was rejected. Subsequently, he was introduced to Barry John`s acting school by a friend. Impressed by Manoj`s work at the studio, John decided to make him his teaching assistant. He then applied to join NSD for the fourth, where he asked to be a part of the organization in the capacity of a teacher.
Before making his acting debut, Manoj was married to a girl in Delhi. However, the two got divorced during his struggling days. In 1998, four years after his Bollywood debut, he met Shabana Raza, a Bollywood actress known by her stage name Neha. The two got married in 2006 and became parents to their daughter Ava Nayla in 2011.
Manoj made his screen debut with a one-minute-long role in Govind Nihalani`s crime drama Drohkaal in 1994. In the same year, he played the role of dacoit Mann Singh in Shekhar Kapur`s biographical drama Bandit Queen. He was initially considered to play the lead role opposite Seema Biswas in the National Film Award-winning movie, but the role eventually went to Nirmal Pandey. The actor was then signed by Mahesh Bhatt
to play supporting roles in his directorial ventures Dastak (1996) and Tamanna (1998) before Ram Gopal Varma
offered him the role of Bhiku Mhatre in the crime film Satya (1998). His performance in Satya is considered one of his career-best performances, and won Manoj a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor.
He then collaborated with Ram Gopal Varma for the 1999 psychological thriller Kaun alongside Urmila Matondkar
, which failed at the box office; and the action crime drama Shool opposite Raveena Tandon
. His portrayal of an honest police officer in a crime-stricken Bihar in Shool, won him the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. Next, he was seen in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra`s supernatural thriller Aks (2001), which went on to receive critical acclaim. Manoj`s portrayal of Raghavan Ghatge in the movie won him a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Performance in a Negative Role. Next came the memorable performance as Rashid in the period drama Pinjar (2003), which was set during the partition of India. This earned the actor a Special Jury Mention at the National Film Awards that year.
Yet again winning a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Manoj was seen in the 2003 war film LOC Kargil, which was based on the Kargil War fought between India and Pakistan in 1999. Subsequently, he was seen in movies playing significant supporting roles in Veer-Zaara
, Fareb, Dus Kahaniyaan
, and Vedam
before being cast alongside Ranbir Kapoor
, Nana Patekar
, Katrina Kaif
and Ajay Devgn
in the political thriller Raajneeti (2010)
. Playing the role of Veerendra Pratap in the movie loosely based on the mythology Mahabharata, Manoj was nominated for yet another Filmfare Award for Best Actor. One of the most iconic roles in Manoj`s career came in 2012, when he portrayed Sardar Khan in Anurag Kashyap`s Gangs of Wasseypur
. His role of a gangster seeking revenge for his father`s death earned the actor Filmfare and IIFA Awards nominations that year. The movie also went on to become a critical and commercial success, receiving positive reviews internationally. Gangs of Wasseypur has since been hailed as one of the enduring classics of Hindi cinema.
In 2012, Manoj was seen alongside Akshay Kumar
and Anupam Kher
in the heist thriller Special 26
, which was inspired from the 1987 Opera House heist. The movie went on to become a critical and commercial success. Next, he was seen in the biographical drama Aligarh
, which explored the real-life story of Prof. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, who was sacked from his job after the faculty of Aligarh Muslim University find out about his homosexuality. Manoj`s moving portrayal of an unfairly persecuted man won him the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor that year.
In 2017, the method actor was signed to play the role of Ranvir Singh in the action spy-thriller Naam Shabana
, which was a spin-off to the 2015 movie Baby
. Subsequently, Manoj was cast alongside Amitabh Bachchan
, Amit Sadh
and Yami Gautam
in Sarkar 3 (2017)
. In the same year, he gave one of the best performances of his career in the psychological drama Gali Guleiyan (2017)
, which earned him a Best Actor award at the New York Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival.
In 2018, Manoj appeared in the action thriller Aiyaary
alongside Sidharth Malhotra
and Baaghi 2
alongside Tiger Shroff
, though both the films failed to impress the critics. Besides these, he was also seen in Love Sonia (2018)
, where he portrayed a ruthless trafficker named Faizal. Other significant acting credits in recent times include the vigilante action film Satyameva Jayate (2018)
, the action drama Sonchiriya (2019)
and the Netflix film Dhaka (2019). His 2020 releases include Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari
Before making his movie debut, Manoj had already made his television debut in 1993 Doordarshan`s drama series Shikast alongside Shammi Kapoor
, Kitu Gidwani
and Ashutosh Rana
, with Naseeruddin Shah
being the narrator. Next, he appeared in Hansal Mehta`s
Kalakaar, and in DD National`s serial titled Imtihaan, which was directed by Imtiaz Ali
. Among his other television appearances are the shows Hum Bambai Nahin Jayenge, Kurukshetra, Swabhimaan and Badalte Rishte.