Manoj Bajpayee says he is happy that his two films, "Gulmohar" and "Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai", have been embraced by the audiences and he hopes to end the year on a high note with "Joram", a story that deals with issues of displacement and environmental crisis.
Bajpayee started 2023 with Disney+ Hotstar's "Gulmohar", a family drama movie which was directed by Rahul V Chittella and also starred veteran actor Sharmila Tagore. He followed it up with Apoorv Singh Karki's courtroom drama "Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai", which premiered on ZEE5.
The two movies were screened at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here on Friday as part of the Indian Panorama section. Bajpayee attended the screening of both the movie with Chittella and Karki.
"It's so amazing that this year has been quite massive for me. Two of my films -- 'Gulmohar' and 'Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai' -- have really entertained the audience and they've really achieved the success which was miraculous for any film to achieve on OTT. And now we are ending with 'Joram'.
"So what else can I expect from my career? This has been a blessed year for me with 'Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai' and 'Gulmohar' becoming such cult films and appreciated by one and all," the actor told PTI in an interview.
"Joram" reunites Bajpayee with Devashish Makhija, the writer-director of his 2018 movie "Bhonsle" for which the actor had won the National Film Award.
In the new movie, Bajpayee plays a father, who must be on the run with his baby girl across half the country to safeguard her fate from the "ghosts of his past and the forces that want him dead at any cost".
"I said yes to 'Joram' long ago but it was taking time for Devashish to really find a way to do it and for me to find a producer for the film. I really feel so surprised and happy that Zee Studios immediately agreed to back the film.
"And once a big corporate like Zee Studios is convinced about a subject like 'Joram', you know that your journey is going to be far easier." While "Bhonsle" dealt with themes of loneliness, identity and belonging, "Joram" explores the conflict between man and nature, he said.
"'Joram' is dealing with displacement. It is dealing with the conflict between environment and man. I am so surprised that Devashish has such a great mind, he dealt with both the worlds (in 'Bhonsle' and 'Joram') and both the problems so well. As if he was an expert on loneliness in 'Bhonsle' and as if he's an environmental ambassador who knows about the problems of environment and displacement so well." There were only challenges when Bajpayee started on the project. The actor said coming up with a convincing performance was a hard task.
"You are portraying a guy whom you don't know. You have seen him but you've seen him from a distance. To really feel that you belong to that world is the biggest challenge. It's not an easy thing to portray a person who feels that he's always choked and doesn't have a voice.
"It was very difficult to find the right pitch, right sur for the character and really convince my director and convince each and everyone who was involved. It was a hard task," he added.
In the recent past, Bajpayee has received critical acclaim for playing a comman man in his movies. The actor said through his work he is paying homage to those who have "no voice in the society".
"I love playing them because these are the people whose lives interest me. Every hour their life is unsure but the confidence with which they are leading their life is something so remarkable. I'm always surprised when I look at them and see them smiling.
"How they are celebrating their own life, even though they are going through so much difficulty. I find my inspiration in them. They are my source of inspiration. They have always been. I feel that it's just a tribute that I keep giving to them through my performance and my choices," he added.
"Joram" is releasing in theatres on December 8 after a long run at festivals, including the Busan International Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and most recently, the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.
It will be Bajpayee's first theatrical release since 2020's "Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari" and he hopes the movie will be accepted by the viewers.
"I'm requesting the audience to just go ahead, watch the film and experience a world that they have never known or experienced before." The long gap in releasing a film in theatres was due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bajpayee said.
"There were no theatres running and when they started opening up, producers and directors were not very sure whether people would come to the theatres or not. It has been quite a struggle as you can't still say that people are going and watching each and every film.
"I personally feel that it's picking up and people are slowly coming out. If they go ahead and watch 'Joram', a great film, in the theatres, that will be the real sign that people are interested in getting out and watching a film in the theatres." The film also stars Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Rajshri Deshpande, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Smita Tambe.
A collaboration between Zee Studios and Makhijafilm, "Joram" is produced by Shariq Patel, Ashima Avasthi Chaudhuri, Anupama Bose, and Makhija.
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