Actor Manoj Bajpayee says he wanted to channel the nostalgia and pride of migrants for their home in "Bambai Main Ka Ba", his hit Bhojpuri rap highlighting the plight of people who leave their native places to move to big cities in search of employment.
Bajpayee, one of the finest contemporary actors in Hindi cinema with films such as "Satya", "Gangs of Wasseypur - Part 1" and "Aligarh" to his credit, said it is sad that migrants' issues are not highlighted enough by news channels.
The politically-charged song, written by Dr Sagar and directed by Anubhav Sinha, gave Bajpayee the chance to combine the medium of rap with his first language, Bhojpuri, to talk about issues that bother him.
The actor, who hails from Belwa village in West Champaran, Bihar, said he wanted the rap to reflect the pride he has for his birthplace.
"Rap is a great way to protest, to express your anger. I improvised a lot while performing. The most important thing that I tried to bring was that whatever anger you want to show, you also show the pride, the pride of the village I come from," the actor told PTI in a telephonic interview.
Days after the coronavirus-induced lockdown came into effect in March, lakhs of migrants and daily wagers landed on the highways, walking, cycling or hitchhiking to their home states hundreds of kilometers away as living in cities became impossible due to lack of work.
The images of their long walk home in the face of tragedy and death shook the nation and hit the headlines in the national and international media but their issues have now disappeared from the news, something that the actor finds unfortunate.
"It's sad that migrant issues and their problems have been sidelined by the news media. They should talk about it. There should be discussions and debates so that these things don't happen again.
"Migrants leave their home in search for a better life in the big city but they end up living a pathetic life," Bajpayee said, emphasising the need for job creation in small towns.
The 51-year-old actor said headlines today don't reflect questions related to the growth and the development of the country.
"From 5 o' clock till 10 o' clock, you are reading things and seeing things which are completely not relevant to the country or its growth and development.
"In the name of journalism, what we are seeing is nothing but a mockery of journalism. I hope we start talking about something that's relevant and matters to the common man," he said.
Bajpayee said he added a tinge of nostalgia in his performance that comes from his love for his birthplace, while a lot of it already existed in Dr Sagar's lyrics, which have been composed by Anurag Saikia and translated into English by senior journalist Sankarshan Thakur.
"I am a proud Bihari, village person and farmer's son. I sincerely feel blessed I was born in that place. I am proud of the culture, language and upbringing that I had. I give a lot of credit for my performances to the place I come from.
"It has contributed a lot in making me the actor and the person I am today. The nostalgia does not just come from the lyrics but also from the way I have performed the song," the National Award winner added.
Asked about the lack of good Bhojpuri content in mainstream media, Bajpayee said he always wanted to do something in the language but actors have to depend on other creative people for such collaborations.
"When Anubhav offered this to me, I immediately said yes. This is my mother tongue, my first language. The response to the song has been encouraging. It gives me hope about future projects."
The actor also believes the grammar of the visual medium is gradually changing with people from small towns and from places like Poorvanchal, UP and Bihar, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh coming to the industry.
"They come to this industry with their stories and experiences. When they start putting out their stories, people relate to it. And that's why the local becomes global.
"In the last 20-21 years, the storytelling has changed because of these people who came from their own strong cultural background and they tried putting out their stories and cultural experiences."
Bajpayee, meanwhile, is enjoying one of the most creatively fertile phases of his career with back-to-back projects.
"I am always buzzing with ideas. If I get more challenging stuff, I will throw myself into it because I love this art. This is the first time in my entire career that 365 days of my life are given to people. I don't have any dates left. I am scared of reading more scripts because if I like something and I can't do it, it will give me stress," he said.
Bajpayee, who is now looking forward to the second season of "The Family Man", promised a "more intense and thrilling" follow-up chapter to the popular Amazon Prime Video series.
While "The Family Man" should be ready by December, "Suraj Pe Mangal Bhaari", a Zee Studios production, will see the actor in a comedic avatar.