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Digital Release Is A Life-saver: ‘Bhonsle’ Director Devashish Makhija

Bhonsle, starring Manoj Bajpayee in the titular role, is set to have its release on the OTT platform SonyLIV on 26th June 2020

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Murtaza Ali Khan
Murtaza Ali Khan
An award-winning Film & TV critic and journalist.

INDIA. Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle is set to have its release on the OTT platform SonyLIV on 26th June 2020. The film is inspired by actual incidents of violence against Bihari migrants in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Bhonsle is a story of a retired Marathi sub-inspector named Ganpath Bhonsle, essayed by the veteran Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee, who becomes a witness to the atrocities that the Bihari migrants living in a locality are subjected to at the behest of a Marathi politician. Bajpayee’s award-winning performance in Bhonsle is much different from his previous work. He hardly speaks any dialogues in the film. The performance is more internal than external. The audience will be really surprised to see a very different side to Manoj Bajpayee in Bhonsle.

Bhonsle co-stars Santosh Juvekar, Ipshita Chakraborty Singh, Virat Vaibhav, Abhishek Banerjee, Rajendra Sisadkar, Kailash Waghmare, and Shrikant Yadav. It’s co-produced by Bajpayee, Piiyush Singh, Abhayanand Singh, Saurabh Gupta, and Sandiip Kapur. Digital releases are proving to be a real savior for films in COVID-19 times. “Digital release is a life-saver. Theatre owners and that particular distribution paradigm have no interest in or regard for artistic, independent films. Digital is still giving us some time and opportunity. No idea how long this will last. But right now, it is a life saver for films like Bhonsle,” rejoices Makhija whose last release was Ajji (2017), produced by Yoodlee Films.

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The film’s trailer was released on YouTube a few days back. It can be watched here:

Bhonsle’s first look was launched at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and after that the film was screened in major international film festivals like MAMI Film Festival, the 2018 Dharamshala International Film Festival, the 2019 International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Bengaluru International Film Festival and the Singapore South Asian film festival. It won the Best Screenplay and Best Director Award at the Asian Film Festival, Barcelona. But, it hasn’t been an easy journey for Makhija. “From the time Mirat Trivedi and I wrote that first proper draft that I took to producers to this release it’s been 9 years. I guess that math explains how difficult it can be to get a passion project like Bhonsle made and released,” recounts Makhija whose debut young adult fiction novel will be out later this year.

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The subject of Bhonsle is very close to Bajpayee’s heart who himself hails from Bihar. “My heart bleeds whenever such conflicts take place. It makes me sad that in your own country you are not wanted by your own brothers and sisters. It makes a person feel like a refugee in one’s own country. Yes, I am from Bihar; every time the Biharis get subjected to such violence I feel really helpless and sad. However, I strongly believe that violence cannot be dealt with violence. While dealing with such issues, you can’t react in the same manner. You respond to it with words, you respond to it with the most beautiful protest. One just cannot let go of reason at any point in time and that really is the key,” Bajpayee had told me in an interview I did with the Satya actor for The Hindu ahead of Bhonsle’s premiere at the 2018 Dharamshala International Film Festival.

The producers were initially planning to release Bhonsle theatrically but the nationwide lockdown made it impossible. “Initially, we were going to release it in theatres by April 2020 but due to the lockdown situation we are releasing it on the OTT platform as every movie has a shelf life and its release cannot be on hold for a long time,” reveals Sandiip Kapur who has previously produced films such as Jugaad (2009) and Anaarkali of Aarah (2017).

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