Actor Manoj Bajpayee is still receiving accolades for his character of Virendra Pratap Singh in the blockbuster RAAJNEETI. This twice over National Award winner actor has accepted films for their wholesome storyline and good directors. Like RAAJNEETI, next film DUS TOLA too is set in a small town, but this is where the similarity ends. While RAAJNEETI dealt with the cruelty of human nature, his Aryan Brothers Entertainment produced DUS TOLA showcases rural India in all its innocence, quirky temperament and inherent greed. It's a funny story with funnier incidents that shall keep the viewer tied up in the story. In conversation with Manoj Bajpayee.....
What prompted you to accept the film DUS TOLA? Director of the film Ajoy was in touch with me since past 6 years for this film. He kept coming and disappearing with uncanny regularity. At one point I thought that he was doing this as futile activity but then he finally came with the script. He gave me a narration and I was sold.
What did you think when you heard the title DUS TOLA? I never thought that there will be a gold smith at the center of the story. I thought that it would be some story about some gold necklace. Initially I did not like the name but when I heard the story I thought this is the best and most suitable name. Infact, when I was small, I used to sit at the jewellary shop of one of my closest friend Shroff. He would allow me to do small things and attend to the costumers too. And now in this film I am actually playing a goldsmith.
"Aarti Chhabria's detractors will eat their words when they watch her in DUS TOLA"
Tell us about your character in DUS TOLA? My character's name is Shankar. He has the responsibility of a sister, mother and ailing father. Inspite of all this, he is very ambitious and wants to open his own Jewellery store in town. He is street smart and completely different from others in that small town. He is innocent at heart. To balance that innocence with street smart personality was very difficult for me. His simplicity creates quite funny situations in the film.
So how did you manage to get this contradictory personality in your character? I completely depended on the script. I kept going through the narration again and again. I even called Ajoy to Bhopal during RAAJNEETI shoot. After my workout and shoot, we would sit with Ajoy for 2-3 hours every day. That is how I could meet the two extreme ends of character. I realized that Ajoy is so much like Shankar. He is very simple and innocent at heart. His heart is in Kochi. He bought his first home in Kochi but he wants to establish himself in Bollywood and is very ambitious. He became my reference and inspiration. I copied his hair style, the way he smiles, his entire mannerism for Shankar. My director is my reference point. When I told him and showed him my character pictures towards the end of the shoot, he was shocked.
Can you really make jewellery? (Laughs) Not exactly. Although I did take lessons from a professional sunar to understand the nuances of jewellery making to playact it convincingly on screen, I cannot make it independently. It is a different art. However I do understand it quite a bit now and know how much of effort and labour goes into handmade pieces.
Tell us about your co-stars? Aarti is somebody who is very hungry as an artiste. Somebody who kept trying but did not get what she wanted. Somebody who stopped acting and waited for the right role. She is so good in DUS TOLA that her detractors will be eating their words. Pallavi Sharda, on other hand, is very intense, well read, educated and she puts that all in the acting. She is fantastic actress & very inquisitive.
Apart from them other star cast comprises of strong actors. Ninad is a good friend. Bharti Achrekar, Asif Basra, Dilip- all are very good actors. With Govind ji I have worked in so many films. It makes so much of difference to the film. Asrani ji is fantastic in DUS TOLA, it is his kind of film, he is so believable in the film.
Why do you think audience should come and watch this film? Because this kind of folk tale is not told. This kind of film is not made. In the time of fast paced cinema, here is a film that you can watch with entire family and be proud of watching something worthwhile. It's witty and comical and still manages to convey a message. Something that is a complete entertainment and paisa vasool.
Comment on your producer Kunwar Pragya Arya? We all were taken in by the kind of moustache that producer has. We always kept our distance from him because he comes from Rajwada and all the time he would come on sets in a suit. For a few days he was completely outcast, we could not relate to him. We thought he would be feudal. But as & when we came to know him, we realized he is a child at heart. So full of life. We would pull prank on each other.
We heard you were very naughty on the sets? Well, acting is serious work but life cannot be serious. You have to add fun element in everyday life. So yes I did play some pranks but all were healthy. In fact we had a big get together wrap-up party where even the spot boy was invited. I took it upon myself to serve everybody dinner and drinks personally. So I managed to get everybody drunk totally and then I quietly left the party. Next day there was news of great fights amongst the cast and crew in drunken state. But once sober, all were friends.
About your new projects? I have two films on the floor. One is Prakash Jha's next AAKARSHAN and another is Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of WASEYPUR. Then there is CHITTAGONG UPRISING that is complete.
You have alos dubbed for Ram's voice in RAMAYANA? Yes, and it was a very different experience. Giving voice to lord Ram was most difficult part of my career. I was shown the animated graphics that they had worked on and I realised that it will be a path breaker for animation cinema. So I said yes. It was very difficult to dub about somebody else and I did not even have a reference artiste. We had to make it mild but still make it very commanding because that is the character of Ram. We took so many days to finish dubbing which otherwise I am quick with.