Manoj Bajpayee Talks Sony, ZEE5 Film ‘Dial 100,’ Future Projects

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After the resounding success of the second season of Amazon Prime Video India’s “The Family Man,” acclaimed Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee is back with direct-to-streaming film “Dial 100.”

In the thriller, which unfolds over one night, Bajpayee stars as a middle-class Mumbai police officer who supervises an emergency call center. A seemingly random call from a woman gets Bajyapee and his family embroiled in events that get murkier and murkier. 100 is the Indian police emergency phone line number.

The film is written and directed by Rensil D’Silva (“24: India”), who has India-Pakistan spy thriller “Panthers,” produced by Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP, in the works.

“It’s a regular thriller that you’re watching and suddenly, there is such a massive amount of emotional aspect to it, which hits you very hard,” Bajpayee told Variety. That aspect was something which was very attractive to me when when when I read this script. I feel that it is never about the uniform, it is also is always about the person who is wearing the uniform.”

“That one call actually makes him not only edgy, but it also questions everything about him as a father and a husband,” adds Bajpayee. “So in that way, it’s not only a thriller, there is much, much more to it.”

“Dial 100” was one of the first projects to shoot when India emerged, temporarily, from its first wave of coronavirus and lockdowns. “It was very difficult,” says Bajpayee. “It was a novel experience for us. But, everyone was so excited to get back to set, get back to work. The passion to shoot, the need to shoot, all of the energy, everything was so positive, and everything was, I would say, hopeful.”

However, the devastating second wave of the pandemic hit India in March 2021. Between the lockdowns, Bajpayee spent nearly seven months with his family in the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand.

“It’s so amazing that when I was stuck after the pandemic lockdown in Uttarakhand, me and my family were the only ones who were not complaining – we were just enjoying the the terrain, the life there in the mountains,” says Bajpayee. “And we were so easy, as easy as now I’m in Mumbai. So, living life every day, without any plan, without any ambition is the best thing that that has happened during the lockdown.”

Large parts of India are still under partial lockdown and a significant percentage of cinemas are yet to reopen. “Dial 100,” produced by Sony Pictures Films India and Alchemy Films, was originally intended for theatrical release. Given the current scenario the producers decided to entrust the release to the streaming platform which was “showing the most conviction and belief in the film,” Bajpayee says. ZEE5 won the mandate. Given the streamer’s recent global expansion, Bajpayee is confident that the film will resonate with the Indian diaspora who will then recommend it to non-diaspora audiences, much like they did with the second season of “The Family Man.”

Meanwhile, the busy actor has completed around 80% of the shoot for Kanu Behl’s investigative thriller “Despatch,” produced by RSVP, and Raam Reddy’s “Pahadon Mein” (In the mountains), the plot of which is under wraps.

Behl and Reddy were the toast of the festival circuit in the 2014-2015 time frame for their respective debuts “Titli” and “Thithi.”

“I’m very sure that people will get to see two sides of Manoj Bajpayee, which they have never seen earlier, because these two directors have a very different interpretation of cinema and the performances,” says Bajpayee. “So they have really put me through the grind, questioned me every hour of the shoot. I broke my bones for them.”

Next up for Bajpayee is a project that will reunite him with Abishek Chaubey, who directed him in “Sonchiriya” (2019) and his segment of recent Netflix anthology “Ray.”

“Dial 100” streams on ZEE5 from Aug. 6.

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