What’s the secret behind Manoj Bajpai’s new look? Is he starting a new trend? A new role? Or does the 44-year-old actor have something to hide? In Delhi to promote his latest film Dus Tola, Bajpai dropped in to HT City for a quick visit. After a volley of "filmy" questions, we ask about his headscarf. "No, no, there’s no ‘look’. I just shaved off my hair and am hiding my head as the hair now is too short!" he says. Why the shave? "I did not have any film coming up so thought of going in for a change," he says.
Directed by debutante director Ajoy, Dus Tola is based on the life of a goldsmith in a small town, who is head over heels in love with his neighbour’s daughter. Though made by a first-time director, Bajpai has great expectations with the film. "I strongly believe that folktales make for amazing big screen adaptations and a common man can relate to them. The film will surely find its set of audience because of its simple and family driven content," says the actor, who won critical appreciation for his role in Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti.
Not much has been written about the film, and Bajpai explains that it was a strategic decision not to promote the film until a week before its release. "While the audience will get exhausted looking at other promos of other big releases, Dus Tola will be like a breath of fresh air," he says.
For the film, Bajpai not only undertook training from a local goldsmith, but also had the instructor visit the set everyday to guide him during the role. Besides this film, Bajpai has also voiced for the character of Lord Ram in the recently released animated Ramayan, directed by Ketan Mehta.
"Why me… was my first question when they approached me. They showed me sample surveys, which said that my voice is the best fit and I was honoured to take on the part," says the actor, who won a national film award for his roles in Pinjar (2004) and Satya (1999).
He interrupts us as we begin with a question about his wife, Neha. "Shabana, I insist that people call her that, because that is her real name," he points out. Shabana made her Bollywood debut in Kareeb in 1998, played a girl named Neha in the film. Okay, we rephrase our question. Why has Shabana dropped off the radar? "She is a moody girl who stays in her own world. Also as far as I am earning enough bread and butter what’s the need for her to work?," he concludes.
A Matter of Honour
While many actors share cold vibes on the sets, actor Manoj Bajpai is so respected by his co-stars that actors Katrina Kaif and Tabu touched his feet in the past after the premier of films Rajneeti and Satya. However, his co-stars in Dus Tola Aarti Chhabria and Pallavi were different and did not touch his feet.
“Guess they were not impressed by my acting. It was quite generous and humble of Katrina and Tabu to show this gesture without being hesitant and give me so much respect. It truly takes a lot of guts to do it and I am grateful to them for granting me this respect,” says Bajpai.