Manoj Bajpayee has the gift of making characters his own. I can't think of a single movie or a show that you can pick and suggest that someone else would have been better at playing his role. I genuinely believe he is not capable of being average.
A good example of this is the show The Family Man, where he plays the role of Srikant Tiwari. Absolutely no one could have captured the unassuming and highly virtuous nature of Srikant with the ease that Manoj Bajpayee did.
So, it's tough to believe that he turned down the role three times. Speaking about it at the International Film Festival (IFFI), he noted:
I was pretty afraid because somewhere, I was reluctant to be part of the template which I could see forming on the OTT platform. I was not clear as to what I wanted to be part of, but definitely, I was very clear about what I never wanted to be part of. At that time, a few of the series garnered quite a lot of curiosity and excitement from the audiences, but at the same time, there was a template that makers were following, which included blood, gore, and pistols
He also spoke about playing the role of Srikant.
We are the middle class. We don’t need to (draw a) reference, and we are the reference. I don’t have to go to someplace to observe Srikant Tiwari. I have to look within myself and find Srikant Tiwari. I have to look at my father’s life, my brother’s life or my neighbour’s life, and Srikant Tiwari is everywhere.
While also adding that his own life prepared him to play the character in a way.
They are the people who are travelling in the trains every day at five o’clock in the morning, reaching their offices and then going back to their respective homes. All of them are Srikant Tiwari. They are the references, and I have too many experiences. So leading a middle-class life has helped me in creating Srikant Tiwari.
To think he almost didn't do it!