Manoj says he fronted Bandaa, based on the 2013 rape case of a minor by self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, to highlight issue of children’s protection
Every time Manoj Bajpayee invests in a film that has a social message, he has a singular concern — that a badly made film can render the message pointless. With Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, the actor had no reason to worry as the script surpassed his expectations. When producer Vinod Bhanushali and creative producer Suparn Varma offered him the social drama, based on the 2013 rape case of a 16-year-old by self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, they gave him the liberty to choose a suitable director and writer. “I happened to see Aspirants by Apoorv Singh Karki and loved it. I mentioned his name in the meeting. Apoorv happily came on board. The way writer Deepak Kingrani and he have written the climax overwhelmed me. It became the most attractive part of the film,” says the actor.
Asaram Bapu and Poonam Chand Solanki
But there was a bigger and more powerful reason for Bajpayee to lead the ZEE5 offering, which sees him step into the shoes of Jodhpur-based lawyer Poonam Chand Solanki, who fought against some of the country’s most powerful attorneys and had Asaram convicted. Being a parent, the actor felt deeply about children’s safety. “All of us were driven by our concern for the protection of children and minors. We are a heavily populated country, but our children are not as secure. Their safety is a concern shared by me, Apoorv and every parent. If the children aren’t safe, our future is not safe. If a child’s privacy and dignity are invaded, it means so many other children’s dignity is crushed too,” he emphasises.
Even as Bandaa chronicles the events that led to Asaram’s conviction in 2018, Bajpayee is aware that people’s faith in the country has oddly become intertwined with worshipping godmen. In such a scenario, is it risky to tell a story that shows the evil in men, who are fiercely protected by people’s blind faith? The actor weighs in, “I am a believer. My day starts with a prayer. But at the same time, I have a few concerns as a believer. It’s the believer’s responsibility to keep the bad element out [of his faith]. By [making the film], we are also protecting the belief.”