Mumbai: Actor Manoj Bajpayee believes there is hardly any country that isn’t witnessing tension between locals and migrants. It is an issue which his latest drama, Bhonsle is aiming to address. Set in Mumbai, the Devashish Makhija-directed feature narrates the story of a retired police constable, played by Manoj Bajpayee. He tries to help migrants fight against local politicians.
Bajpayee said the film offers a powerful, running commentary about all things societal. It is about the prevalent religious divide to discrimination on the basis of region and crimes against women.
“The film talks about the system, the society which is so deeply divided on the lines of region and religion. It talks about the safety of the women, loneliness, and post-retirement situation of old people. It also talks about the universally prevalent migrant issue,” said Bajpayee.
“The clash between the locals and the migrants, the complete mistrust between both. It talks about so many things, in the end you have to find your own learning from it,” Bajpayee added.
‘Testimony of times’
The actor said Bhonsle aims to delve deeper into this divide by examining why people behave the way they do. “I can’t think of any country which isn’t facing this (migrant) crisis. That’s why the film becomes so relevant. It talks about what are the expectations of migrants and locals from each other. Bhonsle delves into their problems and where they’re getting divided,” Bajpayee said.
“It’s so important to look into each one’s mind, reasoning, logic. It’s a difficult time for humanity. It’ll pass. But Bhonsle will be known as the testimony of the times,” he added.
Bhonsle premiered at ‘Busan International Film Festival’ in 2018. It travelled to several festivals before finally finding a platform for release on Sony LIV, where it is currently streaming.
For his portrayal of ‘Ganpat Bhonsle’, Bajpayee bagged his second best actor trophy at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2019. The actor said through the titular character in Bhonsle, his effort was to showcase a fragile man. He is a man who crawls out of his reclusiveness when issues around him force him to step up.
“Bhonsle is a man, who wasn’t looking forward to his retirement. He had nobody to go back to. The person somehow feels that duty is all what was left for him in life and is locked down by choice. He doesn’t want any intrusion. However, he finds purpose in life when the chaos in the society push him out,” Bajpayee stated.
Director Ram Gopal Varma’s 1998 cult film Satya was the first time the actor played a Maharashtrian character. He played the role of Mumbai gangster ‘Bhiku Mhatre’ which won his first National Award.
Eighteen years later, Bajpayee embodied a vulnerable, lonely professor Ramchandra Siras who faces discrimination because of sexuality in Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh.
Getting into the skin of the character
For Bajpayee, more than getting a character’s accent or body language right, it is the ‘internal issue’ which matter the most.
“You will see the Maharashtrian accent that my characters in films like Satya, Aligarh or Bhonsle is different. They are bases on the strata they come from, their education background, and the society they live in. All these are factors which decide the kind of accent they will have,” Bajpayee stated.
In Maharashtra, there are too many ways in which Marathi is spoken. Each strata speaks the same language in a different fashion. So you have to give your interpretation to it. That’s why these Maharashtrian characters look different from each other,” Bajpayee signed off.