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\Abhishek Banerjee, whose portrayal of villainous characters Compounder in Mirzapur (2018) and Vishal ‘Hathoda’ Tyagi in Paatal Lok (2019) earned him critical acclaim, is playing an awkward but relatable character in his latest series The Great Weddings of Munnes. The actor, who has previously also done such off-beat characters in Stree, Dream Girl, and Bala among others, says the project has come to him at the right time as people had forgotten those roles after watching him in Mirzapur and Paatal Lok. Also Read| The Great Weddings of Munnes trailer: Abhishek Banerjee is a bachelor like ‘Sallu bhai’
The Great Weddings Of Munnes, starring Abhishek and Barkha Singh in lead roles, premiered on Voot Select on August 4. The Sunil Subramani directorial, which marks the OTT debut of writer-producer Raaj Shaandilyaa, also stars Sunita Rajwar, Aakash Dabhade, Paresh Ganatra, and Sunil Chitkara, among others. In a recent conversation with Hindustan Times, Abhishek and Raaj spoke about the series, as they also recalled the struggles they faced in their own weddings.
Abhishek said about The Great Weddings of Munnes, “The show is basically about this guy called Munnes, who is struggling to find a bride. Luck plays a role and he gets a beautiful wife– this girl Mahi, played by Barkha Singh, who loves him and wants to marry him. They are about to get married when Pandit stops them because of some issues with the ‘Kundali’. Now he has to get married to another girl in order to marry Mahi. The problem is, that he wasn’t able to find one wife, now he has to find another wife. The boy whom women reject twice, how will he be able to convince a girl for a one-day marriage.”
While Abhishek’s character had a tough time finding a wife, the actor has been happily married to Tina Noronha since 2014. However, even he had to struggle a lot when he was trying to marry Tina. The actor recalled, “To begin with, she was older than me. It’s a big deal for families to accept that. Then it was an inter-religion marriage so that became a problem. I am a Bengali, she was from Karnataka. It was a two-year-long struggle to make them accept the whole thing, but eventually, everything gets alright. Miya biwi razi to kya karega kazi (when a man and woman want to marry, how can the priest prevent them).”
Raaj Shaandilyaa, who tied the knot with Vershaa Kashyap in 2019, also had to face resistance from his family when he wanted to marry her. The filmmaker said, “Mine was a love marriage after 13 years of relationship. Love marriages in small towns face a lot of issues, I faced them. Slowly people understood that we are mature enough and they know how to proceed in life. Then things got sorted out after many ups and downs. I felt I would definitely make a film on it one day.”
In the series, Abhishek reunites with his Stree co-star Sunita Rajwar. She played his mother in Stree, and is seen as his ‘bua’ (aunt) in The Great Weddings of Munnes. Abhishek revealed that he feels she is his aunt in real life as well, and recalled how she would get upset with him during the filming.
He said, “Sunita ma’am is like house on fire. At some point, I started feeling that she was actually my bua. Our relationship became like that. She would even get upset with me sometimes and then I will have to please her. There are long hours of shoot and sometimes it gets difficult. Also, I can’t control my laughter and would start laughing at the tiniest things during scenes. And she would get very angry. But she also loves me like that. I know her from the time of Stree, in which she played my mother, so it’s an old relation.”
The actor had a good time filming with his other co-actors as well. He said, “There’s Sunil Chitkara Sir, a very fine actor who plays my ‘Taya ji’ (uncle). Akash Dabhade has done amazing work. Friends are actually like his character, not like the ones we see in films. The real friendship you will see between Munnes and Suresh. And Barkha Singh was phenomenal, she is very dedicated. We formed a friendship very easily. We had some mutual friends as well, because of which we started enjoying our work more.”
Abhishek had mentioned in his previous interviews that his mom had gotten angry with his portrayal of criminals in Mirzapur and Paatal Lok and did not like to see that avatar on the screen. However, she is happy upon seeing him play Munnes. He recalled, “My mom had genuinely asked for the number of director and producer. Aise kaise dikha diya hamare bete ko. But she will be very happy to watch The Great Weddings of Munnes. Finally, she is seeing me happy and playing.”
Abhishek noted that he had played soft characters like Munnes earlier as well, but it was important for him to do such roles again after his recent projects. He said, “Before that, I played Mahinder (Dream Girl). I have played Ajju (Bala). So I explored those roles. But because of those characters (in Paatal Lok and Mirzapur), people forgot the old ones. So it was very important that I appear as Munnes. Because there is a Munnes inside me that I want to show to the world. He (Raaj) was convinced that I can do this part, so that felt really great.”
Raaj is marking his debut in the OTT space with The Great Weddings of Munnes. The writer, who holds a 2013 record in the Limca Book of Records for having written 625 scripts– several of them for Comedy Circus, made his debut as a director with the 2019 film Dream girl. His recent work as a producer was in recently released Janhit Mein Jaari, which has become the most-watched on the streaming platform Zee5.
The film, which starred Nushrratt Bharuccha as a condom-seller, earned ₹43 lakh at the domestic box office on its opening day on June 10 but had almost a 100% growth on the second day with positive reviews coming in. The film grossed ₹2.50 crore. Talking about the film’s box office collections, Raaj said, “We made this film only for OTT, initially. But then we thought maybe we should explore it on the big screen. It was my first film as a producer, and I thought we need to show it on the big screen. Collections didn’t matter to me at that point and don’t matter to me even today.”
He added, “And I knew that people are definitely going to watch and love it when it comes to OTT. Even though people weren’t going to watch cinema at that point, those who went appreciated it 100%. No one said that the film was just okay, everyone appreciated it. And with the response it got on OTT, I feel very glad. I feel proud of picking this brave subject and turning it into a film that you can watch with your family.” Also Read| Janhit Mein Jaari box office day 2 collection: Nushrratt Bharuchha-starrer records 2x growth
Abhishek, who had done small roles in several films including Rang De Basanti before he became a popular name, has also been working as a casting director in the entertainment industry for several years. Naming some of the actors he spotted during casting before they found fame, Abhishek said, “Rajkumar Rao, Jaideep Ahlawat, Siddhanth Chaturvedi. So many actors today who are doing good work, I had seen them 10 years ago during casting. Some of them were my friends, some were acquaintances, but almost everybody.”
He also spoke about how he approaches his work as a casting director when he has to reject a candidate. Abhishek said, “I never asked anyone to continue struggling. That’s not the kind of motivation I would like to give. But I always told them to keep training. If you are not getting selected, then there may be some lack in your training or craft. If you are entering performing arts, you need some basic knowledge of it. And whenever I felt someone was lacking, I told them to do training, join groups, then come back. Because sometimes people forget to learn amid struggle.”
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