Filmmaker Ram Madhvani on 'Aarya': ‘In OTT, I am your prisoner’

Master mind: Ram Madhvani insists that Aarya is not a crime thriller but a relationship drama

Master mind: Ram Madhvani insists that Aarya is not a crime thriller but a relationship drama  

Ram Madhvani’s foray into original digital series brings Sushmita Sen and Chandrachur Singh back on screen in a relationship drama

Filmmaker Ram Madhvani is audibly frazzled over the phone. “We have a show to put on, music to give and we have been doing dubbing in the last three months during the lockdown,” he sighs. As the pandemic continues and lockdown takes on a concomitant nature, the advertising veteran has busy at work with the post-production of Aarya, an upcoming original series starring Sushmita Sen. When we speak, it’s barely a couple of weeks to the release. “Don’t remind me, I’m going to have a panic attack,” he says. “I have to meet my deadline or it will be the most embarrassing moment of my life.”

Nine years since its inception, Madhvani is close to the finish line, and won’t let a pandemic come in his way. Almost a decade ago, he had watched the Dutch drama series, Penoza, with his wife, Amita, and wanted to adapt it into a Hindi film, but it never materialised. “I was emotional and cried, and now I realised that God had a plan,” he shares. Aarya is the first project under his newly launched production house, Ram Madhvani Films. Under the new banner, he plans to continue producing and directing feature films for theatrical release as well as content for streaming services.

Cultural context

Aarya chronicles the story of a mother compelled to pick up a gun to save her family. Adapting Penoza into a web series was relatively simpler as compared to rooting it in an Indian cultural context. Madhvani had a brainwave while working on a song for Aamir Khan’s television show, Satyamev Jayate. He was travelling on a train in Rajasthan, where he inquired about the flowers growing alongside the railway tracks. “It turned out to be poppy flowers, and that gave me an idea,” he recalls. Gleaning from the show’s trailer, Chandrachur Singh's character meddles with illicit substances derived from the flowers. “This is part of our culture. I have relatives who are Marwari and I know this urban milieu,” explains the director.

Madhvani insists that the nine-episode series is not a crime thriller but a relationship drama. “Like Neerja wasn’t a hijack film but a mother-daughter story,” he shares. The Sonam Kapoor-starrer and his new project an obvious commonality of a titular female protagonist in trouble. But Madhvani insists he doesn’t want to be stereotyped. “So the next one will be a male-centric comedy,” he reveals. “Although, I have been surrounded by strong women and I owe a lot to them.”

Back onscreen

Sen is one such woman who has impacted the director. Away from Hindi films for a decade, Aarya is her much-hyped return. “I worked with her on an ad film before, so I’ve known her and she’s the definition of a true star because when she enters a room, the energy shifts,” observes Madhvani. The series also marks Singh’s return from a hiatus. “It’s wrong when people call him a 90s actor and I feel so bad,” continues the director. “I wanted to cast people who looked like they had nothing to do with any crime.”

Even though Neerja was a commercial hit, Madhvani is happy that ticket sales won’t determine his success this time. “With OTT, you know it’s done well when they commission a second season,” he laughs. From advertising – famously known for his Happydent commercial – to feature films and now a webseries; it’s been a natural but slow progression for Madhvani that spans over two decades. After Let’s Talk, his debut feature film in 2002, Neerja arrived after a gap of 14 years. And now four years later, Madhvani presents Aarya. “The audience for these mediums are the same. In theatre, I kept you captive and you were my prisoner. But in OTT, I am your prisoner, and you can ask me to leave with a remote,” he concludes.

Aarya will première on Disney+ Hotstar on June 19

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 12:32:02 PM |

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