Manoj Bajpayee Guns for Action Hero Status in ‘Bhaiyya Ji’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Manoj Bajpayee, known as one of India’s finest actors, is adopting a mass-market action hero persona in upcoming film “Bhaiyya Ji

Published Time: 15.05.2024 - 07:31:30 Modified Time: 15.05.2024 - 07:31:30

Manoj Bajpayee, known as one of India’s finest actors, is adopting a mass-market action hero persona in upcoming film “Bhaiyya Ji.”

The story, where Bajpayee’s character faces off against a powerful man and his henchmen to seek revenge for wrongs done to his family, is literally ripped from the headlines. The actor read the real-life story in a newspaper several years ago and it stayed with him.

“I wanted to do an independent film and really explore this mindset of revenge, where it comes from, really analyze it and find the psychology of revenge in the human mind, that fascinated me,” Bajpayee told Variety. While shooting courtroom drama “Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai” (2023), the actor mentioned it to director Apoorv Singh Karki, who was similarly fascinated by the idea.

“I just wanted his opinion on it. But this guy jumped up and said, ‘I’m a big fan of mass entertainers, and it has been my dream to make a South Indian-style mass entertainer,'” Bajpayee said.

The genre Karki is referring to, which celebrates male-centric heroism and is replete with stylized action and heightened emotion, is something that India’s southern film industries churn out to large box office numbers with monotonous regularity. However, the genre is something Bollywood appeared to have lost the art of making successfully until southern Indian filmmaker Atlee brought it back to the industry with Shah Rukh Khan starrer “Jawan,” which became the biggest hit of 2023.

Karki requested Bajpayee for the story rights and the actor “very reluctantly” agreed because he was sure that as an independent film it would both convey a message and also be engaging to audiences. Karki, who was convinced that the story lent itself to a mass entertainer, then sprang a surprise when he asked Bajpayee to play the lead.

Baypayee says that he has a problem with most Hindi-language commercial films because they are not rooted culturally, with them being set in urban locations, and “heroes don’t look like that they are coming from our society,” unlike their southern Indian counterparts. Karki promised him that the character and the milieu would be rooted and his conviction convinced Bajpayee. The actor was also nervous before commencing the film because, despite leading a disciplined life, he is in his 50s and not an exponent of martial arts.

Bajpayee, who has won best actor prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards twice, for “Bhonsle” and “Aligarh” and acting honors at India’s National Film Awards three times, for “Bhonsle,” “Pinjar” and “Satya,” found his popularity enhanced even fu -

rther with Prime Video series “The Family Man.” In the hit show, Season 3 of which is filming now, Bajpayee portrays a middle-class Mumbai-based salaryman who is secretly an intelligence officer.

The challenges were of a different nature in “Bhaiyya Ji.” The physical demands aside, “Bhaiyya Ji” meant a complete mindset change for Bajpayee. The film is set in India’s northern heartlands, where Bajpayee hails from, but the comfort ended there. “I realized that it’s better not to go internal with this one. Because if you internalize, you may ruin the whole purpose of entertainment. Because more than storytelling, the entertainment factor has to be analyzed and then executed,” Bajpayee said.

“When you are doing independent film, middle-of-the road cinema, you really immerse yourself into the character. You get into the skin of it, because you are your path, that there is a story there’s a very strong characterization, which is in accordance with the script and the flow. But here, I realized that I can get the character to me. But still, I should be able to go out of the character and do those action sequences, knowing that there are a few things that I’ll be doing, which will not be according to the character, but if I have to pull it off, I have to believe in it. I have to be convinced about it,” Bajpayee added. “It was a tough game.”

It helped Bajpayee that playing the antagonist is veteran actor Suvinder Vicky, known for Cannes title “The Fourth Direction,” Venice selection “Milestone” and, more recently, hit Netflix series “Kohrra.” Bajpayee says that it took them just three shooting days to get to the pitch of the genre.

“It demands a different kind of preparation and process. Both of us could relate to each other and our struggle to make the scenes look real and still be larger-than-life,” Bajpayee said, adding that extra rehearsals and discussions helped to overcome the challenge.

Written by Karki and Deepak Kingrani, the film is a Vinod Bhanushali, Samiksha Shael Oswal and Shabana Raza Bajpayee presentation of a Bhanushali Studios Limited, SSO Productions and Aurega Studios production. Producers include Vinod Bhanushali, Kamlesh Bhanushali, Samiksha Oswal, Shael Oswal, Shabana Raza Bajpayee and Vikram Khakhar.

“Bhaiyya Ji” releases theatrically on May 24.

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