In a way, The Family Man could have been a fitting title for Manoj Bajpayee’s next. While the popular web series has less to do with familial bonds and more to do with spies, it is in his upcoming film Gulmohar that the actor explores the realities of a dysfunctional family. What drew him to the family drama? Director Rahul Chittella’s fresh voice, he says. “I loved the way the characters’ interpersonal dynamics are written. It will move you,” begins Bajpayee.
An interesting mix of artistes makes up Gulmohar’s world. Veteran actor Sharmila Tagore, who is making a comeback 13 years after Break Ke Baad (2010), plays the matriarch in the Disney+ Hotstar offering, while Bajpayee portrays her son in the inter-generational drama. Add senior artiste Amol Palekar, south star Simran, and Suraj Sharma of Life of Pi (2012) fame, and you’ve got a dependable and delightful cast.
Tagore plays his mother in the film
How was the experience of two National Award-winning actors sharing the frame? “Sharmila ji has spent 50 years [in cinema], and has an enviable filmography. As the leads, Sharmila ji and I created an atmosphere where [every actor felt free] to explore his character. There was no hierarchy on the set. If any young actor had trouble getting the lines right, he would approach me,” says Bajpayee, going on to praise co-actor Simran. “She would come on the set prepared. When you have such professional actors, you don’t need workshops to get to know each other. They know how to crack a scene even with a stranger.”
While Chittella’s script gave him a solid foundation, the actor says that he only had to look inward to do justice to his role. At heart, he is a complete family man, he maintains. “I don’t have a life beyond my family. I’m not an event person, I feel uncomfortable attending them. I don’t know most people [at parties], and feel uncomfortable striking up a conversation with someone I have just met.” He admits there is another reason he hates socialising. “I hate choosing outfits for an event. Then you have to go, pose for photographs and behave in a certain way. It is too much work,” he laughs.