Actor Manoj Bajpayee talks about his film Gali Guleiyan (In The Shadows – International title), a project close to his heart. An award-winning, critically acclaimed film with an official selection in over 20 film festivals worldwide. Gali Guleiyan premiered at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival in 2017. It was released in India in 2018 but struggled to get released on an OTT platform. After four years of struggle, the film was finally released on Amazon Prime in October 2022.
The film stars Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey, Neeraj Kabi, Shahana Goswami and debutant Om Singh. The film is a psychological drama about a man, Khuddoos, trapped within the city walls and his own mind. He attempts to break free to find a human connection.
Written, directed & produced by Dipesh Jain, Director’s Guild Of America (DGA) Student Award recipient and a graduate of the University of Southern California Film School. Gali Guleiyan is Dipesh Jain’s first major feature film, and getting Manoj Bajpayee to act in his movie was no small feat.
A one-of-a-kind actor Manoj Bajpayee known for choosing his roles meticulously told us how he selected Gali Guleiyan. “I am always on the lookout for unique roles that are out of the ordinary, even if a new filmmaker is involved. As long as the role is challenging and I have confidence in the filmmaker, I am happy to take risks. Dipesh had emailed me the script; I was in the US at the time. As soon as I read the script, I called him immediately, and after speaking to him for some time, I was so impressed that I said yes to the film on the phone without meeting him face to face.”
According to Manoj Bajpayee, this has been one of the most challenging roles, and it almost pushed him to the verge of losing his mental stability. He said, “while preparing for a role, I usually take down notes & start living the character to get into the character’s skin. Preparing for the role has been such an immersive experience that my wife, worried about my mental health, asked me to take a break and regroup. Later, during the shoot, I built my life around the sets, stayed there post-shooting, and even started sleeping at the sets in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, to get fully absorbed in character.”
He continued, “This took a toll on me, and I observed a sudden weight loss. My mental health also started to get affected; On the 28th or 29th day of the shoot, I suddenly started hearing a whistling sound; it was as if I could listen to and feel it all over my body. This was when I realised I was on the verge of breaking down, so I informed the director, Dipesh, and he stopped the shooting. However, due to budget constraints, we couldn’t afford to take an extended break, so I had to regather within a day and get back to shooting. This has been an excruciatingly painful and, at the same time, one of the most rewarding experiences for me as an actor.”
“This film truly falls into a noir genre which encompasses all the aspects of Mental health too! Not only it challenged me as an actor but it also made me understand the mind of the person who is going through a deep wounded mental trauma! It’s easier said than done when it comes to performing these characters! As an actor you should be ready to be back bruised deeply once the film shoot journey is over!”
Gali Guleiyan was made on a tight budget, and Manoj Bajpayee was true to his commitment to the film; therefore, to ensure this film takes shape, he cut his fees down to 1/4. However, this is not his only contribution to the film.
Manoj Bajpayee is a filmmaker’s actor, and a testament to that, apart from delivering gripping performances, is his commitment to going out of his way for the projects he selects. This is also the case with the film Gali Guleiyan. “This film has been very close to my heart, and I felt responsible for it. From talking to exhibitors & distributors, taking it to all the major film festivals, and fighting for its release on OTT, I was there for the team every step of the way & wherever my involvement was needed. It has been a fight, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it. And I am thrilled that it is released on an OTT platform.”
The lesser-known facts about this film make it even more special. Very few people know that some of the world’s best technicians have been part of the Gali Guleiyan film. Technicians who have worked on Hollywood movies & series like Lord of The Rings, Justice League, Ant-man, Spiderman, House of Cards etc., were a part of this film. These technicians include Rafa Sardina, with 13 Grammy wins; Scott Lewis, Emmy-winning sound re-recording mixer; Chris Witt, Editor of an Oscar-nominated movie & a long list of award-winning technicians from India and abroad. The film was made on a tight budget, and the technicians reduced their fees to ensure the story got the best technical support. This film has been a great team effort & people from around the world have contributed in their own way to ensure that a masterpiece is delivered.
Gali Guleiyan received critical acclaim worldwide, with around 20 film festivals making it an official selection. In addition, the film received over 16 nominations and won 4 awards from national and international film festivals.
After a long wait since the release, the film can be watched by the Indian audience on Amazon prime from October 2022. Manoj Bajpayee is ecstatic about the OTT release and said, “The film has travelled the world through national and international film festivals and won many accolades. First, however, I wanted the film made available to the audience of my country, but getting this done has been a fight, and it has finally come to fruition. I can’t tell you how thrilled and excited I am to share this with all of you, and I hope you will also love this film.”