His Concern for Others’ Plight Brings Bollywood Actor Bajpayee to Houston


Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpayee at the Magic Bus Gala with organizers Amit Bhandari (left) and Advisory Board member Rajneesh Chaudhary (right)

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  In the first minute that you meet him, you feel he could be your college buddy, wearing a grey Kenzo Paris t-shirt, with whom you could share a few moments and chat comfortably. In fact he was someone’s former college buddy: Rajneesh Chaudhary’s from the days of Ramjas College in Delhi University. “Though we didn’t study the same courses, we knew each other and got to become quite friendly,” explained Chaudhary who has lived in the Bayou City now for the past six years and is a practicing attorney.

After college, they went their own ways but stayed in touch. Chaudhary worked in the administrative branch of the Government and Manoj Bajypaee went where his heart was: to act and starred in a Doordarshan TV serial and then in 1994 landed a role in a couple of Bollywood movies. Since then, Bajpayee has made over 56 films and won nine awards from the movie industry. Yet he still seemed to retain his humility and accessibility as if he was still the young lad from a village in Bihar who had left to seek his fortune.

Now he was in Houston with his wife the actress Shabana Raza (formerly known as Neha) and 5 year-old daughter at Chaudhary’s request, to be the guest of honor for the Magic Bus Benefit Gala held this past Saturday (see story page 05). While here, he was going to the Asia Society Night Market (see page 08) and to meet others, He would spend a few more days here before leaving for Atlanta enroute to India. He stayed at the Westchase Marriott and agreed to come down to meet the press even though he was severely jet-lagged. He had last visited at the premiere of the 2009 movie “The Whisperers” made by Houston entrepreneur Ashok Rao.


Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpayee was in town for the Magic Bus gala. He sat for interviews with the local press the morning after he arrived on Friday, September 18

And it was quite a surprise what his reasons were to come almost 10,000 miles to attend the Gala. He was inbetween movies and had planned to take his family to Singapore when Chaudhary approached him. Later, Amit Bhandari, the President of Magic Bus Houston met with him in Mumbai, bringing the founder of the charity, Matthew Spacie and convinced him of the work that the group does in India.

“I was so taken up by Matthew’s dedication and selflessness that I could not reuse them,” said Bajpayee of the decision to come to Houston. He acknowledged that there were donors in India too, but that charities should take help from everywhere. “I am not in favor of extravagant, opulent marriages; instead we should give half the amount to NGOs!” added Bajpayee.

Asked how the Indian movies have affected society he instead disagreed. “Movies are an imitation of society, they should raise a debate. They don’t change society, they only change the hairstyles!” He went onto dispute the notion that he was a character actor, insisting that he was not, that he was “just an actor”.