Manoj unplugged!

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By Hindustan Times

MUMBAI, Oct. 27 -- What's the secret behind Manoj Bajpai's new look? Is he starting a new trend? A new role? Or does the 44-year-old actor have something to hide?

After a volley of filmy questions, we ask about a headscarf that he has been sporting of late. "No, no, there's no look. I just shaved off my hair and am hiding my head as the hair now is too short!" he says. Why has he shaved? "I did not have any film coming up, so just thought of going in for a change," he says.

Directed by debutante director Ajoy, Dus Tola is based on the life of a goldsmith in a small town, who is head over heels in love with his neighbour's daughter. "I strongly believe that folktales make for amazing big screen adaptations and a common man can relate to them. The film will surely find its set of audience because of its simple and family driven content," says the actor, who won critical appreciation for his role in Prakash Jha's Rajneeti.

No promotions

Not much has been written about the film, and Bajpai explains that it was a strategic decision not to promote the film until a week before its release. "While the audience will get exhausted looking at promos of other big releases, Dus Tola is a breath of fresh air," he says. For the film, Bajpai not only undertook training from a local goldsmith, but also had the instructor visit the set everyday to guide him during the role. Besides this film, Bajpai has also voiced for the character of Lord Ram in the recently released animated Ramayan, directed by Ketan Mehta.

Great role

"Why me... was my first question when they approached me. They showed me sample surveys, which said that my voice suited the part and I was honoured to take it on," says the actor, who won a national film award for his roles in Pinjar (2004) and Satya (1999).

Bajpai interrupts when asked about his wife Neha. "Shabana, I insist that people call her that, because that is her real name," he points out. Shabana made her Bollywood debut in Kareeb in 1998, played a girl named Neha in the film. Okay, we rephrase our question. Why has Shabana dropped off the radar? "She is a moody girl who stays in her own world. Also, as far as I am earning enough bread and butter, what's the need for her to work?" he smiles.