Walking down the corridors of the fourth floor of Hotel Tulip Star is sure to give you the creeps. You almost walk on tiptoe, for fear of unsettling the dust. But walk we do, as this is where Anil Kapoor is shooting for his television show 24, that’s all set to air on Colors channel from October 4. The highly-anticipated crime-based thriller that stars Kapoor as Anti-Terrorism Unit’s chief Jai Singh Rathod, is the Indian version of the American series. Kapoor, incidentally, was also part of the American show where he essayed the role of President Omar Hassan, and later, bought the rights for the Indian adaptation.
The room at the end of the long corridor has a surveillance unit set up. The cast and crew have been shooting since 7 in the morning and when we arrive in the evening, we find them deep in discussion about the next scene. There’s Kapoor, of course, and Mandira Bedi, who plays the role of Nikita Rai, his second in command.
Although Abhinay Deo is the director, today, it’s Renzil D’Silva, the writer of the show, who’s helming the episode. “I think I’ll be directing around eight episodes or so, for the show,” he tells us. The scene being shot now is that of a surveillance set-up, where Kapoor and Bedi are monitoring an operation. Once the discussions about the scene are over, the actors do one rehearsal to make sure they’re on the same page as D’Silva.
“Is this the intensity you’re looking for Renzil?” shouts out Kapoor from the room where the actual shoot is taking place, while D’Silva looks on from the monitor. After getting a thumbs-up from him, the actors proceed with the shoot, which is okayed after a couple of takes. There’s not much happening on a physical level, but a whole lot of drama and intense acting on their part. You can see that Bedi and Kapoor share a good working rapport, with the latter good-naturedly making fun of the way Bedi runs, as she was required to do for one scene. “It looks like you’re jogging,” he guffaws, and she retorts with, “That’s how I run!”
When they do take a much-needed vada-pav and coffee break at 8 pm, Bedi is surprised at the hours gone by. “I thought it’s still evening. It’s all so deceptive in this lighting,” she says. The actor recalls how she had brought her two-year-old kid to the sets the last Sunday they were shooting.
“So there was a baby on my hips, while I was wearing a holster!” she laughs. She’s clearly enjoying her stint, recalling how she’d been thrilled to get a call from Ajinkya Deo, the co-producer of the show. “I loved Nina Myer’s role in the original, so I turned up in a vest, jeans and boots. Imagine then, that they wanted to cast me for some other role. I was like, look at me! Aren’t I Nina Myers?” she laughs.
Luckily for her, she got the role she had in mind for herself. “I’m doing fiction after so long. I think after cricket, people just forgot that I’m an actor as well,” she says. Today, she’s glad she got a chance to shoot at a location other than the usual at Kurla and Filmcity in Goregaon. “Just look at this place man, it’s freaky!” she exclaims.
D’Silva in the meantime, has been sharing anecdotes with his assistant directors in between the shoot. “Doing this show is as good as writing and directing a movie,” he says. The writer admits that he has retained at least 50 per cent of the original show. “But from episode 12 onwards, there are substantial changes and the ending is completely different,” he tells us. The writer is full of praise for the cast, specially Kapoor, who he believes lends the much-needed intensity to the role. Along with actors like Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Richa Chaddha and Rahul Khanna doing cameos in the show, there are rumours of either Kamal Haasan, Rishi Kapoor or Naseeruddin Shah too making a guest appearance. So who’s it going to be? “If we tell you, we’ll have to kill you!” is all we get from a laughing D’Silva.
The day is far from over, but another hour soon goes by and it’s pack-up time. The humidity is getting to everyone and we join Kapoor in his vanity van. If the actor has been shooting for 13 hours straight, he shows no signs of it, and greets us with a loud ‘hello’ as soon as we enter. How does he keep his energy levels up, we wonder aloud. “I think in the 36 years I’ve been working, there has been something or the other that has kept me excited about my work. Whether it was films like Woh Saat Din, Pukar, Viraasat, Slumdog Millionaire, then doing 24 in America -- things which I’ve felt were beyond my reach but I did them,” he says.
The actor’s sure the audience must be skeptical of his reasons to do a fiction show on television now. “But it’s the excitement of doing something I’ve never done before. That’s what makes it doubly exciting for me,” he says. And just like any of his other productions, the actor’s completely involved with it. “I wanted to make my job easier because I knew that if I tried to do everything, it would fall flat on my face. So I got the best in every field -- Abhinay, who’s young and understands aesthetics, there’s Renzil, a wonderful cast and a channel that is working with us like a team.
My job became that much easier. Varna main mar gaya hota heart attack se! (I would have died of a heart attack),” he laughs. And on that humourous note, we decide to take leave. The actor, who’s been shooting continuously for the shoot, has to report to the sets early in the morning again and we don’t want to stall him any longer. It looks like even the actor’s waiting for us to finish the interview. As soon as we’re done, he jumps into his Mercedes and rushes off. Guess there’s no stopping this man, whether in films, television or life.
‘24 is a huge leap’
24 takes a gigantic leap from the existing fiction shows on Indian television, with a unique real-time narration format providing action, thrill, suspense, drama and the exhilaration of solving complex cases in 24 hours. I sincerely believe India has reached a stage where the ever-discerning viewers are willing to accept and adapt to change and newer genres of content just as they have been open to watching newer and different genres in films. The success of the show will only encourage other broadcasters and producers to acquire rights to some popular fiction shows.
- Raj Nayak, CEO, Colors