After a near decade-long hiatus, Neha – born Shabana Raza – will return to acting, come May this year.
For starters, the actress who made her debut in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Kareeb, (1998) opposite Bobby Deol, will play the lead role in a short film produced by her husband Manoj Bajpayee.
“That’s right,” confirms the actor who rarely speaks about why Neha quit the Bollywood scene, adding that the short is currently being scripted by its director Suparn Verma.
"“It wouldn’t be right to reveal the storyline. All I can tell you is that it’s a social drama, which is in keeping with the kind of projects which Shabana would like to be associated with. Down the years, she kept getting endless offers to be in ads for jewellery and consumer products which are associated with house-makers.” " - Manoj Bajpayee
It also seems that there were offers for TV and web series which could be refused, since the roles verged on the hackneyed.
"“See, Shabana has been a hands-on mother. Our daughter (AvaNayla) is now six years old. As a mother, she can now manage time. She can double-task, resume her profession and spend time with her daughter as well.” " - Bajpayee elaborates.
Manoj Bajpayee, who is gung-ho especially about two of his upcoming films Aiyyary, and In the Shadows which has been screened at the MAMI, Busan and other film festivals, believes that the audience is more receptive than ever before to feature and short films which tread off the beaten track.
These, he contends are finding more funding, thanks to the growing traction on digital platforms and satellite channels.
"“I never asked Shabana to quit. It was her decision. Now, is the right time for her to return to work. Small but thematically strong films,in whichever medium, don’t lose any money at all. They may not earn Rs 100 crore, but they do recover some investment and decent to good profits. For an actor, I believe, it’s the creative satisfaction that counts rather than the greed factor. I’d like to think that I haven’t been greedy. Shabana and I may not lead a lavish lifestyle but we can take off on holidays once in a while. We’re comfortable.” " - Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj and Shabana Raza Bajpayee married in 2006. She had featured in nine Bollywood films till then, and one each in Kannada and Tamil. She was last seen in the thriller Acid Factory (2009) directed by Suparn Verma.
"“I want to experiment to the hilt now. I’m looking forwardto roles which reflect the contemporary woman. As for my screen name, at thispoint I’m not sure whether I will go with Neha or Shabana.” " - Shabana Raza Bajpayee
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