Home Editor Picks Manoj Bajpayee says audience rejecting Bollywood over RRR, Pushpa, Kantara is a message: ‘They want to…’ | Exclusive

Manoj Bajpayee says audience rejecting Bollywood over RRR, Pushpa, Kantara is a message: ‘They want to…’ | Exclusive

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Manoj Bajpayee says audience rejecting Bollywood over RRR, Pushpa, Kantara is a message: ‘They want to…’ | Exclusive

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Manoj Bajpayee talks his new release Bhaiyya Ji, and lessons Bollywood can learn from RRR, Pushpa, and Kantara

Manoj Bajpayee is turning into a superstar, a desi superstar if you will. His upcoming film Bhaiyya Ji sees him in a never-seen-before avatar of an action hero in a mass film. Bhaiyya Ji follows the grammar of south’s mass action films, bringing Bajpayee’s desi hero persona in a very North Indian setting. In conversation with DNA, the actor opens up about borrowing from south films, what he hopes to achieve with Bhaiyya Ji, and more.

Bajpayee does not agree with the tag of ‘desi superstar’ that director Apoorva Singh Karki has included in the film’s title card. “I never chased stardom,” he says with a laugh, adding, “I chased good stories and good filmmakers. I would even call people myself and ask for work and good roles.”

But the what convinced the man who has done Joram and Bandaa in the last twelve months to switch gears and opt for this high-octane actioner? The answer, Bajpayee says, is the director. “Bhaiyya Ji, I did, just for Apoorva Singh Karki’s passion for this genre,” he explains, “I received several offers from mainstream filmmakers but I always felt their intention was just to make a film that works. But Apoorva’s passion for this genre is immense. He had watched Tamil and Telugu films as a kid and dreamt to make something similar. I enjoyed the process because of that zeal of Apoorva.”

Bajpayee points out that the grammar of cinema used in Bhaiyya Ji is very much influenced by the Tamil and Telugu mass cinema, which was popularised in the northern belt through cable TV in the 90s. Post-pandemic, that popularity has stretched to the theatres as well with many south films outdoing Bollywood releases at the box office. Bajpayee calls this trend a message from the audience. He explains, “Today, the audience is giving us a message. It’s up to us to read it. In this film, I was certain that we have to get the culture of north India, which is missing for so many years. We have been busy making urban stories. Mainstream cinema is all about glitz and glamour and yes, those films have done very well. But there was a message coming from the audience when all the south films were doing well.”

The multiple National Award winner says that Bollywood makers need to understand what the audience wants. “You have to find stories from the heartland and package it for the mainstream audience, and people will come. They want to watch their representation, their world on the screen,” Bajpayee asserts.

But doesn’t that run the risk of herd mentality and following the trends? Bajpayee responds, “You can’t run from trends. They work here because the investors also go for tried-and-tested formula, so that their money is in safe hands. But the reason I want Bhaiyya Ji to become successful is because if this becomes a trend that we have to put out very indigenous and local stories with characters that are rooted, that will be a big success.”

The actor says there is a lesson to be learnt from the success of south films over the past few years. “After watching Kantara, RRR, and Allu Arjun’s Pushpa, I felt that we have to tell a story that is very much rooted in your culture. People are staying away from urban stories and characters,” he says.

Bhaiyya Ji, directed by Apoorva Singh Karki, also stars Zoya Hussain, Suvinder Vicky Pal and Jatin Goswami in key roles. Billed as Manoj Bajpayee’s 100th film, the action adventure will release theatrically on May 24.

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