As he gears for the release of his film 'Bhonsle', Manoj Bajpayee opens up on his love for acting, his character as Bhonsle, and more.
Speaking to WION in an exclusive conversation, actor Manoj Bajpayee and film producer Sandeep Kapoor speak about ‘Bhonsle’, opting for a digital release for the film, Manoj’s passion to do what no creative person has done before and much more.
With theatres around the world either running on half capacity or being shut because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, OTT platforms are filling this gap and how. Soon-to-release film that stars Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee in and as Bhonsle, pegs the actor as a retired Marathi cop who has been forced to retire as he faces a major illness.
Speaking to WION in an exclusive conversation, actor Manoj Bajpayee and film producer Sandeep Kapoor speak about ‘Bhonsle’, opting for a digital release, Manoj’s passion to do what no creative person has done before and much more.
WION: Who is Bhonsle?
Manoj: He is a 64-years-old who doesn't want to retire because he doesn't have a life after retirement. Bhonsle is scared of going back to his chawl and spending time there. He is averse to social interactions, doesn't like to meet people or talk to them. He is somebody who is purposeless after retirement and also he is going through a major illness. In the film, all of this is getting very difficult for him to deal with and because of his neighbour who comes from Bihar, he gets a purpose in life. This is about that man who is purposeless, ill, retired, lonely and what gives him a purpose in life. This is the character and partly the film.
WION: How was the idea of ‘us vs them’ dealt with in the film’s context as it has the backdrop of local Marathis wanting migrants to go back to their native?
Sandeep: For that you have to watch the film as the issue is local but the subject is global because it's not just about UP, Bihar or Maharashtra. You have similar problems all over the world.
Manoj: This film happens between Ganpati coming in and lasts till Ganpati Visarjan. This film is about how the life of a cop changes between these 10 days -- all the highs and lows he goes through. It's a complete life he lives through that period of time. Also, the backdrop of the film is local vs migrant which is at its peak especially during Ganpati in the chawl. The film is about how he deals with it. Clash between local and migrant is a global issue. Be it US, France, Germany, Britain -- you name a country and it's there. It's an issue which is dealt very locally in this film but since it's happening all over the world, it has a universal appeal.
Watch trailer: Bhonsle
WION: Theatre to digital. How difficult/ easy was that decision for the film’s release?
Sandeep: We were wanting to complete this film in 2018 and then took it to the international circuit to film festivals. We did it for almost one year. In 2020, we were planning to release in Feb/March but then lockdown and Corona happened and it got delayed. We are now very happy to bring it to digital because on the same day on 26th June, we will have a world premiere. As a producer, however much money I spend, I would not have been able to get a worldwide release on the same day in theatres. OTT is a good platform but having said that, films like ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ and others are also releasing on OTT, so OTT has its own audience.
WION: As a producer how profitable is going digital first?
Sandeep: With these kinds of films, it takes time to recover the money but the kind of credibility as a producer you get be it my last film ‘Anarkali of Arra’ which was released in theatres, I got my money. Here also, the OTT has also taken TV rights.
WION: Having done a variety of roles in your career, are you now content as an actor?
Manoj: No, never. I think I am far from that. During lockdown, after a few days only, I started getting the itch of getting back to the set and start doing what I was supposed to. I love acting. I am fascinated by this craft. I don't think there is any other job that is as interesting and exciting than acting. It's an ongoing learning that happens when you are dealing with the craft. It's so satisfying to see the character that you have prepared for. It's a different kind of joy. Somebody has said it right, it's like delivering a healthy baby. You feel all the pain that a mother goes through but when she sees the baby, that joy, that bliss is what an actor feels. I especially feel that.
WION: What's next?
Manoj: I would definitely like to do something that people have never thought of. I want something really out of the box, something no creative person has thought of. When Bhiku Mhatre happened, the industry never thought that this kind of a character would ever be played. They could have never imagined that kind of a film, character, performance. I'd like to do a film like that or ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Rajneeti’ or ‘Aligarh’. Surprising yourself and in turn surprising the audience and industry, that's a fantastic feeling. I am looking for that kind of a film, that kind of character. In Hollywood you have Brando’s role in ‘Godfather’, De Niro’s role in ‘Taxi Driver’, Heath Ledger in ‘Batman’ or ‘Joker’ for that matter -- a character or performance which defines our time that we are living in.
WION: How do you feel about nepotism in Bollywood and if the industry is fair to 'outsiders'?
Manoj: Let me start with this, the world is not fair. I have been saying this since 20 years that as an industry we celebrate mediocrity. Forget about industry, as a nation we celebrate mediocrity. Something is lacking somewhere -- in our thought process, our value system. When we see talent, we immediately want to ignore or push it away. This is the value system of ours which is so deplorable.
I have said it before, that this industry has wasted talent; so much that in any other country those talents who have not been given their due here, would have been known as the best actors of the world. But we don't care. Firstly, if you don't have talent then you have to be extremely lucky to get by. This is the system I am talking about. I am not blaming anyone. I am a part of this industry. This is why I said in my past interviews that we have to look inward and rectify that. Rectify, or you will keep getting flak for it, cursed for it and will keep on losing respect of the common people.
I was asking somebody recently to tell me when these words started existing in our industry -- insider, outsider? Only 20 years back. The evidence is there, it's just that we ignore it. Now when people are getting angry, you are saying that their anger is unnecessary. You avoided it, you ignored it. Somewhere there anger means they are asking questions and we have to answer those questions as an industry. That system needs to be rectified. Who will rectify it? Me, as an established actor, as an experienced actor. Others who are well positioned, are privileged. You can improve it by spotting talents, encouraging talent, by making their struggle shorter and admiring and respecting them. That's all it takes to make it a healthy and democratic industry. That's all it takes.
Watch the full interview with Manoj Bajpayee here: