For Manoj Bajpai, Shool in which he played an honest cop wrestling with corruption in Bihar, would always be a special experience.
“We shot the film as one big family.Ramu(Shool producer Ram Gopal Varma) left it to us, Anurag Kashyap, director E Niwas, assistant director Taufeeq who was such a major factor in the film’s making …Ramu gave us the responsibility to choose the location and make Shool the way we wanted,” recalls Manoj.
He also recalls how actor Sayaji Shinde was cast. “I wanted him to meet Ramu immediately before anyone else was chosen for the role that Sayaji played. Most of the casting was done by Ramu and Anurag.Somehow we pulled it off. It was a huge responsibility.”
Manoj recalls the first screening of Shool. “Ramu had kept the screening for Mohanlal and Mani Ratnam. They were completely blown. Ramu introduced me to Mohanlal and Mani Ratnam. I still remember the compliments I got from them.Somewhere I feel the preparation for Shool was so intense and I was in character completely for so many months that it was difficult for me to get out of the character of the cop Samar Pratap Singh. I had to seek a psychiatrist’s help to get out of character.”
The role left Manoj traumatized. “I was getting these awful nightmares that left me shaken.I needed help. I constantly felt angry. I think Shool took a lot of me. The rage I felt took many months to be exorcized.”
But finally it was all worth it for Manoj. “I would say this is the hero I wanted to play after Satya and Kaun .I am grateful to Ramu for gifting me this role on a platter.”
When Manoj went to Bettiah to shoot with his crew for Shool the entire township clamoured around the locations shouting and cheering for their ‘Manoj Bhaiyya’ or ‘Manojwa’ as they affectionately address their prodigal son. Shooting on a railway station in Motihari with Raveena was like trying to hold back waves of surging emotions. It was an emotional homecoming for Manoj.
Manoj is all praise for his co-star. “Raveena Tandon gave such a remarkable performance as my wife. She was a huge star. She came on board for Shool, and just became one of us. The shooting in Motihari(Bihar) was very difficult. The DM and SP of the district went out of the way to ensure that the shooting happened smoothly…there are so many memories of Shool that I will never forget, not a single day of the shoot is forgotten. But yes, now that Shool has completed 24 years, I want to say it is one of the gems of my filmography. I got so much acclaim and recognition for this film.”