If there is one National award this year about which there can be no dispute or sniggers, it is Manoj Bajpayee for his sterling performance as an upright retired Maharashtrian havaladar who stands up to cultural bullying in his chawl when a Bihari migrant girl and her brother are threatened.
Playing the retired cop Ganpath Bhonsle Bajpai, in another sterling performance, takes on the role of an unlikely hero, as he protects a young Bihari girl and her kid-brother from the wrath and disdain of a political henchman who want to use the ‘Marathi Manoos’ card to send all migrant labourers back to Bihar.
Bajpai’s character of the gruff dying cop who finds a reason to live in protecting the violated siblings, is a large cliché, deconstructed and rejuvenated by Bajpai’s deeply nuanced pain-lashed performance. This is a man who has nothing to lose, who decides he might as well go with a bang rather than wither in his shanty room with a whimper. Manoj Bajpayee anchors the proceedings with a portrayal that is in many ways the opposite of a performance. No dramatic high points are created to accentuate the performance.”
Speaking hours after the National award was announced Manoj said, “I was fast asleep when my phone started buzzing. I had no idea that anything has happened. This Covid has left me weak and sluggish. The cheering news comes at the right time.”
Manoj remembers with gratitude the hard work put in by the entire Bhonsle team . “My director Devashish Makhija for daring to make a film on such a bold and non-conventional theme, and all my wonderful co-stars who contributed to my performance and to my film. Thank God for something positive at time like this.”
Manoj is thankful for being honoured by the National award jury. “In the past so many of my good performances went unrecognized. I am grateful for being recognized in Bhonsle. It was one of my toughest most challenging roles.”