As Manoj brings to screen Jodhpur lawyer’s fight to convict self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, Bandaa’s creative producer says movie took six months to research and went through 18 drafts
In the film, Manoj Bajpayee plays lawyer Poonam Chand Solanki (left)
Manoj Bajpayee’s 29-year career is built of diverse roles, but oddly, he never played a lawyer. Now that he has donned the black robe for Bandaa, he is bringing to screen a case that had caught the country’s attention. In the upcoming film, the actor portrays Poonam Chand Solanki, the Jodhpur-based lawyer who led the prosecution against self-styled godman Asaram Bapu for raping a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh, in his ashram in August 2013.
Creative producer Suparn Varma says that the survivor’s courage prodded him to tell the story. “Her courage inspired a lawyer to stand against the country’s biggest lawyers,” he begins. At the same time, the film gave the producer an opportunity to analyse the role of faith and godmen in India. “In India, we are lucky to have a system where we have gurus and gyanis. But when some play around with faith, it hurts.”
Suparn Varma; (right) Asaram Bapu
The ZEE5 film spans five years, from the filing of the chargesheet in 2013 to Asaram’s conviction in 2018. Varma and his team conducted a six-month research on the subject before approaching Bajpayee to lead the Vinod Bhanushali production, and Apoorv Singh Karki to helm it. “Manoj usually takes a couple of days to a week to say yes. But he immediately agreed to do the film. It’s a powerful story that needs to be told. Also, Manoj is a father to a daughter.”
In 2022, before the film rolled, the team met the real-life hero who fought against the godman, even as he got multiple threats, and several witnesses were attacked. “Solanki is a quiet man, when it comes to his convictions. After meeting him, we started working on the script, and wrote about 18 drafts.” He adds that Solanki’s journey was unique because he didn’t fight the system. “The film shows how he used the system against power. The judiciary, the government, and the police worked in sync to deliver justice. He made the system work.”