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Right on target

Manoj Bajpai feels Rasheed of `Pinjar' might finally lay the ghost of Bhiku Mhatre to rest



Photo: Anu Pushkarna

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, and renames her Hameeda. But he loves her and the film portrays the pain this character goes through to win Puro's acceptance."

On selecting the role, Bajpai says, "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 the 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 differences of opinion with the director?

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

But then fiction is all about interpretation. "Yes, but I insisted 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."

Bajpai 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, a stubborn patriot, who survives 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."

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," he comments with 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." Bajpai 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, 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 Sahni 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 Bajpai can vouch for this!

ANUJ KUMAR

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