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Right on TARGET

"I knew the Intricacles of the novel and the character... I search for new challenges.  

EVER HEARD of a man who takes pleasure in torturing himself. One met such a person who till date answers to the call of Bhiku Mhatre but is sure he will now be rechristened Rasheed in the Hindi film industry with his latest act in "Pinjar" outlining his presence in the essence of those tormented with the relentless skin show.

Contrary to a section of media, Manoj Bajpai says that Rasheed is his most positive character till date. "I could not understand why some media people are calling Rasheed a rapist. Indeed, he abducts a Hindu girl, Puro, forcibly marries her, renames her as Hameeda because of family animosity with Partition chaos providing the opportunity but he loves her and the film portrays the pain that this character goes through to win the acceptance of Puro."

On the role selection, Manoj acquaints, "Being a theatre person I have read all major classics in Hindi literature. In fact, when I was doing theatre I wanted to stage `Pinjar' so when Chandraprakashji came with the proposal I didn't ask for script as I knew the intricacies of the novel and the character. Also, I love to torture myself, again a theatre trait. I search for new challenges. After `Shool' I was looking for one and in `Pinjar' found one such opening."

Were there any difference of opinion with the director?

"It is time we take small film festivals to people of small towns of U.P. and Bihar."

"It is time we take small film festivals to people of small towns of U.P. and Bihar."  

"We devised a rule that whenever there is any divergence on views, we will go back to the novel."

But then fictions are all about interpretation. Aren't they?

"Yes, but I asserted on certain things about Rasheed like his innocent love in the beginning, his frustration, which he could not help, like going through the temptation of sleeping with a wife who is not willing and finally his growth as an understanding husband."

Manoj promises to continue with his suffering surfeit in "LOC" and Makrand Deshpande's "Hanan". "`Hanan' is a story of a theist with a child like IQ, who becomes an atheist after losing his memory in an accident. It is an experimental film and Sonali Kulkarni is cast opposite me. In `LOC' I am playing PVC Yogendra Singh Yadav, stubborn patriot, who survived a rain of bullets for his motherland and family. But here I stuck to what J.P Dutta told me, no personal experiment or research."

Manoj Bajpai... A well-fleshed out character in "Pinjar"

Manoj Bajpai... A well-fleshed out character in "Pinjar"  

Then he is also doing roles which allow him to "chill out". "I am doing Pankaj Parashar's `Inteqam' and Dharmesh Darshan's `Bewafa' where I have an item number with Shamita Shetty," informs Manoj with a gingerly smile.

And what about "Jaago"?

"`Jaago' is based on a real life incident of child rape in a Mumbai local train. I play an honest but shrewd cop, who questions the existing rape laws." But why doesn't he put it in the same league as "Hanan" or "LOC"? "Because, it is being directed by Mehul Kumar, who till date is known for the so-called commercial cinema. Let's see how the film shapes up." Manoj still doubts the intentions of those who are turning to small budgets and offbeat themes out of market compulsions. "Because of multiplexes and some filmmakers' efforts to offer something different the small budget productions are doing good business but the intentions have to be right, budgets can't guarantee success. People say that this boom is because of change in tastes but isn't this the same country where films of Balraj Sahani and Motilal were accepted by the masses? Point is that in the `80s most filmmakers just didn't move beyond a set formula. I feel blessed to arrive in profession during this period."

"It is time we take small film festivals to people of small towns of U.P and Bihar besides the regular ones at Delhi or Goa, where it remains limited to the press and film fraternity. Viewers are always ready to experiment; it is us, who limit them."

Nice thought but then ordeal and pleasure are hard to put on a single stage and who but Manoj can vouch for this!

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