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Ashutosh Gowariker on returning to acting with Kaala Paani: Didn't want to miss this opportunity

Updated on: 18 October,2023 01:19 PM IST  |  Mumbai

Ashutosh Gowariker marked his return to acting with the Netflix series, Kaala Paani. He plays a central role in the show co-starring Mona Singh and Amey Wagh

Ashutosh Gowariker on returning to acting with Kaala Paani: Didn't want to miss this opportunity

Ashutosh Gowariker. Pic/Yogen Shah

A fascinating character and a rarely-attempted-before genre like survival drama inspired filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker to return to acting in Netflix series "Kaala Paani". Gowariker, primarily a filmmaker who has acted in "Circus", "Chamatkar", "Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa", and "Ventilator", said he just could not say no to the show as it had a great creative team behind it. Set in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the seven-episode show is described as "a grounded story about the fight for survival". The series comes from Sameer Saxena, best known for acclaimed shows such as"Panchaayat", "Kota Factory", "Gullak" and "Permanent Roommates". He serves as a showrunner and co-director on the project alongside Amit Golani.

The story is penned by Biswapati Sarkar, Golani, Sandeep Saket and Nimisha Misra. "You must get the material that you can vibe into, you must get a character that you will not only do justice, but contribute and take it ahead of what the writer has imagined, the team has to be right and the creators. When this part came to me, I had four tick marks," Gowariker told PTI in an interview. The filmmaker, known for his lavishly-mounted period dramas such as "Lagaan" and "Jodha Akbar, plays the character of Lieutenant Admiral Zibran Qadri, lieutenant governor of Andaman and Nicobar, in the series. Gowariker said when the creators met him, he told them that he was already a fan of their work in the OTT space. "So, it was a fanboy moment to be with them, second was: it is a survival drama, it is one of the firsts on Indian OTT screens, third is Netflix, and the most important thing is the character, which I found most fascinating. I didn't want to miss this (opportunity), so I found myself saying yes to it," he said.

The series is set in 2027 and is about an evil entity that, in the form of a disease, is slowly killing the residents. The island is also cut off from the rest of the world and the residents are trying to find their way out before disaster befalls them. Writer Biswapati Sakar, best known for writing and appearing in projects like "Permanent Roomates", "TVF Pitchers, and "Panchayat", said the germ of the idea came to him during his trip to Andaman and Nicobar during his formative years. "It's the place that gave us the idea, it is not the other way round. I was on a holiday and this idea came to me. This was when I was a child. It was a basic premise... "The basic idea of people being in cellular jail and they (the guide) are telling you 'There's no way (to go), the actual walls are six feet high, the real wall is the water, so nobody could escape, not because the walls are high, it is because there's water everywhere'. I felt, 'wow, what if this happens to us and what if we can never leave this place'. That thought stayed with me for quite some time." For Sarkar, it was "interesting" to tap into the moral dilemmas that individuals face in times of crises.

"The moral dilemma of the characters really interested us. We felt there are not a lot of stories and shows that show people as humans. We tend to categorise them as good or bad guys. But everybody has an interest for which they are working. This is something that we got to capture through the show. So that was an interesting point for us," he said. "Kaala Paani", which is a new kind of show for Saxena, presented several challenges, from scripting to filming to execution. "From the writing stage, it was very complex to write (this story), there are multiple characters and multiple stories, a different genre for us, so that in itself was challenging and new. Besides writing, the execution of the show was a mammoth task. "From rains, the extreme weather, the cyclones, the ever-changing schedules, all that was too difficult to work around with. We could manage to pull it off because we had a fantastic team and a great set of actors. Then post (production) was a challenge, the sound design, the edit, the VFX, etc. It is a show that is mounted on a huge scale but at the core, it is an emotional story." Actors Mona Singh, Amey Wagh, Sukant Goel, Arushi Sharma, Radhika Mehrotra, Vikas Kumar, Chinmay Mandlekar and Poornima Indrajith round out the cast of "Kaala Paani". Popular Marathi actor Wagh thinks the show has an international feel and will connect with viewers throughout the world.

"Apart from the fact that it is an amazing script, it is a great character that I get to play in the show. As an audience, we are living in exciting times because I watch shows like 'Money Heist' (Spanish), 'Into the Night' (Belgian), 'Dark' ('German), films like 'Capernaum' (Lebanon), 'Roma' (Mexico), which are all in their own mother tongue. "Even though I don't understand the language, there's something about the content that appeals to me. 'Kaala Paani' is in the same league, the writing is so strong, that even if we are doing the show in Hindi and some parts in English, it is a show that will appeal to a global audience." Sharma, who has appeared in supporting roles in "Tamasha", "Love Aaj Kal", and other films, said she was happy to be reuniting with Saxena, Golani and Sarkar after their 2022 film, "Jaadugar". She plays a nurse, Jyotsana Dey. "There are so many characters but every character has an arc and is justified, which is rare to see. It is a survival drama not done before and to see myself in a set up like this, I had never imagined to be part of a show like this. When I saw it, I was like, 'to do something like this would be challenging'. I wanted to give my all," she said. The show will be released on Netflix on Wednesday.

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