Mumbai: Actor Manoj Bajpayee believes there is hardly any country that isn’t witnessing tension between locals and migrants, an issue which his latest drama Bhonsle aims to address.
Set in Mumbai, the Devashish Makhija-directed feature narrates the story of a retired police constable, played by Bajpayee, who tries to help migrants fight against local politicians.
Bajpayee said the film offers a powerful, running commentary about all things societal: from 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 the post-retirement situation of old people. It also talks about the universally prevalent migrant issue.
“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 told PTI in an interview.
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 crisis. That’s why the film becomes so relevant. It talks about what are the expectations of migrants and locals from each other, their problems and where they’re getting divided.
“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 and 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, three years after winning the award for biographical drama Aligarh.
The actor said through the titular character in Bhonsle, his effort was to showcase a fragile man, a has-been 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. He somehow felt that duty is all what was left for him in life.
“He is locked down by choice. He doesn’t want any intrusion but finds purpose in life when the chaos in the society push him out.”
Bhonsle is one of the many on-screen explorations of Marathi men by Bajpayee, who moved to Mumbai from Bihar in the early 1990s to pursue his acting dreams.
Director Ram Gopal Varma’s 1998 cult film Satya was the first time the actor played a Maharashtrian character, Mumbai gangster Bhiku Mhatre which won him acclaim and even 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.
For Bajpayee, more than getting a character’s accent or body language right, it is the “internal issue” which matter the most.
“The Maharashtrian accent that my characters in films like Satya, Aligarh or Bhonsle have is according to the strata they come from, their educational background, and the society they live in. All these are factors which decide the kind of accent they will have.
“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 and that’s why these Maharashtrian characters look different from each other,” he added.