Directing a teleplay can be challenging. However, having directed quite a few of them already, filmmaker and theatre practitioner Akarsh Khurana believes he has now found freedom and flexibility within its challenging format.
Initially, Khurana was attracted to the format for its hybrid quality. “Traditionally, plays are shot in a very boring manner. There is just a regular camera set-up while the play was being performed. The level of engagement is a little distant,” he shares. Khurana has taken it upon himself to elevate the format to make it more engaging for the audience. “I have worked with the camera and I have worked on stage. So, it is about marrying these two,” he adds.
His latest teleplay Gunehgaar is a suspenseful drama that explores the themes of crime and retribution. With an interesting cast including Gajraj Rao, Sumeet Vyas and Shweta Basu Prasad, the plot reveals how an event buried in the past impacts the present and future of three intertwined lives.
Although he has delved into some aspects of the genre in his earlier works, it is for the first time that the director is attempting a full-fledged suspense drama. Khurana recalls an incident from when he was shooting sequences for the web series Jugaadistan, when someone remarked that he should be doing more of the suspense genre, since he seemed to be enjoying it so much. “When Zee Theatre approached me to make something in this space, I told them I would love to,” he adds.
Directing a teleplay in this genre has come with its own set of challenges, Khurana reveals. “You are putting a limited number of characters in one room. It’s not like a suspense movie where you can build up the tension with visuals. Here, it is all about conversation,” he explains. Keeping the dialogues fast-paced and unravelling some new piece of information every few minutes is the trick, he shares.
He had to look for a cast that would be able to hold the audience’s attention with their performances. Khurana has been keen to work with Rao for some time now and this gave him the perfect opportunity to cast him as Mr Bansal, a dubious man who invites journalist Mrinalini (Basu Prasad) to his flat on the pretext of discussing an important matter. As for Basu Prasad, her name kept coming up in meetings and having heard good things about her work, the director cast her as the female lead. Vyas and Khurana , on the other hand, go a long way back, having worked together in various films and web series.
It’s the first time that Vyas has done a teleplay. “Ever since Akarsh started making films and I got busy doing series and films, he stopped casting me in plays. I have been pestering him for a while now to do so. Gunehgaar gave us the perfect opportunity,” he says.
Khurana also feels that people living away from the metros might not always have access to live theatre. Teleplays give them the opportunity to watch a play from wherever they are. "The long term outcome I hope for is that people get drawn to theatre. These things are symbiotic. One may lead to another,” he says.
Zee Theatre’s Gunehgaar will be aired on Tata Play Theatre on 24 September and on Airtel Spotlight, DishTV and D2H Rangmanch on 25 September