Acclaimed actors Manoj Bajpayee and Ashish Vidyarthi‘s relationship goes a long way back. They have known each other since their college days, when the pair had not even stepped into the Hindi film industry. After first sharing screen space together in Govind Nihalani’s Droh Kaal in 1994, the pair reunited for another cinematic experience in Hansal Mehta’s celebrated feature Aligarh, in 2015.
The actors have seen the industry’s transformation from then to now, and have had to go through multiple struggles to reach where they have in their professional lives. Speaking about the same in an earlier interview with The Indian Express, Ashish said that at the time artistes like Manoj and himself had entered Bollywood, there wasn’t a lot to do for them, so to make ends meet, Ashish appeared in a number of commercial films whose sensibilities were very different from his own.
“When we entered cinema, it didn’t have very much to offer to actors like us. I moved to Bombay in 1992, following a chance meeting with director Saeed Mirza, who had offered me a role in ‘Kutte ki Maut’, which never got made. My mother, a teacher, had been working hard, getting herself extension after extension to keep the house running. When I would ask her what she wanted the most, she would say she would like someone to prepare the meal after she returned from work. I decided I wanted to provide my parents and family a comfortable life and opted for mainstream and regional films. I became what people call a sellout, but it was a conscious decision on my part, as the kind of movies I wanted to do back then were too few and didn’t pay enough. But Baju (Manoj Bajpayee) didn’t give up and has a body of work behind him that’s truly inspiring,” Ashish said, while complimenting his friend.
Meanwhile, Bajpayee quickly jumped in support of his dear friend and said that he never believed Ashish to be, as he put it, a ‘sellout.’
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“I don’t agree that Ashish was a sellout. Anyone who knows him is aware that he is a man of utmost clarity. Though I am hearing the reasons from him today, I knew even then that the choices were serving a purpose. Even I have had it tough — I would have to hear nasty remarks every day for refusing mainstream films. There was eventually a time when I had to take up such films to make ends meet, till Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti came along,” Manoj concluded.
Safe to say, both Ashish Vidyarthi and Manoj Bajpayee have charted paths of their own, which many may only dream to do. While Ashish is a National Award-winning actor who has been consistently working in multiple film industries since 1991, Manoj Bajpayee’s career graph has influenced the likes of Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao. Bajpayee has been honoured with three National Film Awards and the Padma Shri for his contribution to arts.