Bhonsle is reflective of our times, as the migrant vs local conflict is a growing global concern: Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpayee opens up on his upcoming migrant drama Bhonsle and why it draws parallels with the times we are living in
Manoj Bajpayee feels his long-awaited film Bhonsle is an extremely relevant film for today. Directed by Devashish Makhija, the film is a striking commentary on the migrants in Mumbai. Bajpayee who plays a retired police officer in the film befriends a North Indian girl and her brother when the local politicians are trying to rid Mumbai of its migrant population.
"It is quite a telling picture of our times. The migrant vs local conflicts is a growing concern globally. It is happening everywhere, even in western countries. Also the crisis has been brewing for a long time." says the 51-year actor.
A few months ago the coronavirus-induced lockdown had also triggered a mass exodus of economic migrants residing in urban conglomerates, who were desperate to go back to their homes. Bajpayee says the image of labourers hurt and disappointed, walking barefoot was disheartening. "Bhonsle has arrived at a crucial period. The film is quite reflective of the times we're going through. The story might follow what is happening at a local level, something in Mumbai, but it surely has a universal approach. Everyone will be able to understand its emotional essence."
In 2016, Bajpayee collaborated with Makhija for a short film, Taandav. The 11-minute feature was about a head constable who breaks out into a wild dance to deal with the strains of keeping the peace during the annual Ganpati festival in Mumbai. However, the actor clarifies the two characters don't share many similarities, apart from a few broad motifs.
"My character [in Bhonsle] is a 62 year old cop struggling to come terms with his retirement. He is a recluse and does not enjoy social interactions. He is lonely, purposeless and battling a grave illness, all alone. But he soon finds a goal when a conflict emerges out of the chaos between the locals and the migrants. However, the cop in Taandav was shoved with a lot of familial expectations, he had responsibilities, a family to look after. I don't think he was lonely."
Makhija in an interview to Firstpost had praised Bajpayee's ability to effortlessly slip under the skin of his characters. Bhonsle, which required Bajpayee to gain and lose weight for the film, had completely immersed himself in the character. However, the actor feels it was as easy to snap out as to get in. "The film was three years in the making. I and Devashish were constantly working on the script, totally involved, so much that after three years I could easily capture the nuances and details of the character. But now that I think of it, every character that I ever play leave a part of themselves. I know Bhonsle is there, somewhere in my sub-conscious, maybe I am not aware of it yet."
The film weaves an insider-outsider tale and ever since the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, conversation around nepotism, survival of outsiders in the industry has been doing the rounds. Bajpayee says the debate has been looming around for a few years now but the this has been happening since 20 years or so. "It is time for the industry to recognise talent. You have to nurture, push and encourage the upcoming talent. We, as an industry have to be responsible enough to rectify the mistakes and make sure become a healthy and democratic place to live in".
Bhonsle, which was launched at Cannes 2018, has traveled across major film festivals. According to Bajpayee, who is also a co-producer, the team had plans for a theatrical release this year in February-March. "We had to skip it due to the coronavirus lockdown. And for a film like Bhonsle, I am glad to find an OTT platform because the kind of reach it will have be probably more than mainstream films. I am pretty sure it will do great in terms of viewership."
Bhonsle premiered on Sony LIV on 26 June
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