It has been a busy 2018 for award-winning Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee. He featured in smash Bollywood hits “Baaghi 2” and “Satyameva Jayate,” and in acclaimed independent films “In the Shadows,” “Missing” and “Love Sonia.” Bajpayee stars in and is a co-producer on “Bhonsle,” which had its world premiere at Busan Oct. 5 and is a nominee for the Kim Ji-seok Award.
In “Bhonsle,” directed by Devashish Makhija (whose “Ajji” played Busan in 2017), Bajpayee plays a reclusive Mumbai policeman who stands up against divisive factions. It is the actor’s third film in recent years at the festival after “Aligarh” in 2015 and “In the Shadows” in 2017. For Bajpayee, wearing the twin hats of an actor and a producer has been a balancing act. In the case of “Bhonsle,” he had to step in as a producer when existing producers backed out.
“I’m a reluctant producer and a co-producer, I don’t want to produce films,” Bajpayee told Variety. “But when situations like ‘Bhonsle’ arise, one has to involve into it and back the project to give support and confidence to the other producers. It is a very difficult task to do one of the [most] challenging films of your life and also organize money at the same time. ‘Bhonsle’ is a film that needs to be told and I thought it needs to be told now, so I took up the challenge.”
“Bhonsle” is produced by India’s Manoj Bajpayee Prods., Golden Ratio Films, Promodome Motion Pictures and Singapore’s Indie Muviz.
Bajpayee is also one of the few Indian actors who strike a balance between commercial and independent cinema. “I’m a realistic person,” said Bajpayee. “To be alive in the audiences’ minds one needs to do commercial films like ‘Baaghi 2’ and ‘Satyameva Jayate.’ And when films like these become blockbusters, my market credibility as an actor and commercial value as an actor increases in the minds of the distributors and producers. This eventually will not only help me personally and professionally but, yes, it will also help me to contribute and support the independent films I’m planning to do in future.”
That future lineup includes feature “Sonchiraiya” and “The Family Man,” an original series for Amazon India’s Prime Video streaming service. There is also an untitled film with Makhija in the works.
“Independent films in India are a challenge because you don’t have any support coming from any corporate [players] and distributors,” says Bajpayee. “You know that it’s a long journey and I think I’m used to enjoying it now. I take it as a challenge, as a duty and a contribution towards independent cinema by helping and supporting a talent like Devashish Makhija.”
After Busan, “Bhonsle” will have its Indian premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival in October.