On February 23, their fifth wedding anniversary, Manoj and Shabana Bajpayee, welcomed daughter Ava Nayla into the world. She was delivered by Dr Reshma Pai, in a private nursing home in Santa Cruz. Bajpayee, who had been given a two-day break from the Aarakshan shoot by producer-director Prakash Jha, admits to feeling as excited and nervous as any new parent. “We always wanted a daughter, but having not done any sex determination tests, she came as a wonderful surprise. I had locked on two names, Ava meaning bird and Nayla or a great beginning. Shabana liked both so much that we decided to call our daughter Ava Nayla,” says Bayjapee, pointing out happily that he and his wife share the same birth date, April 23.
The week-old baby already has her proud father wrapped around her little finger. “She’s so tiny,” marvels the actor, and doesn’t even complain over the fact that she sleeps all day and wakes up around 1 am to give her parents sleepless nights. “But I wonder how Shabana will cope once I go back to Bhopal.”
Aarakshan is going great, he says, thanks to the presence of the biggest star, Amitabh Bachchan. “After Raajneeti (2010), we know that people’s expectations are high, so we’re riding on Mr Bachchan’s broad shoulders. He has a magic wand in his hand and I know we will be safe,” he laughs, recalling their first film together, Aks (2001). “No one understood Aks when it was released but today it is considered a classic. Mr Bachachan has always been very warm and encouraging.”