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‘Looking forward to Rashmi Rocket addressing the trolls and making a statement’: Director Akarsh Khurana

Rashmi Rocket director Akarsh Khurana spoke about the unconventional casting of actors Priyanshu Painyuli and Abhishek Banerjee and why the film would be a reply to trolls that called Taapsee Pannu "masculine".

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
October 16, 2021 8:24:14 am
rashmi rocket director akarsh khurana taapsee pannu priyanshu painyuliRashmi Rocket will premiere on ZEE5 on October 15. (Photo: Instagram/priyanshupainyuli)

Director Akarsh Khurana says making Rashmi Rocket was also an “eye-opener” for him about the exploitation female athletes face in the name of gender testing. “We started writing it two years back and sadly, nothing has changed. Same incidents are happening even today. It’s been a learning experience for me,” he told indianexpress.com.

Rashmi Rocket, that revolves around the archaic system, is already turning heads due to little awareness around the topic. It stars Taapsee Pannu in the titular role of a national-level sprinter who fights for her dignity. She gets banned by the athletics association after undergoing gender testing and is declared “not a woman”.

“There was a basic awareness about the topic from what I’d seen in news. But not in detail. There were some cases in Tamil Nadu around which Nandha Periyasamy wrote a fictionalised story. When it came to me, I read more about it and realised it’s widespread in India,” Akarsh shared in an exclusive chat.

Akarsh, who’s helmed Karwaan and High Jack, picked journalist-turned-writer Aniruddha Guha because “he was a perfect mix of a storyteller with a research mindset, which I lack,” the filmmaker said. “Things that we eventually shared were a real eye-opener,” he added.

rashmi rocket behind the scenes taapsee abhishek akarsh khurana Akarsh Khurana along with actors Taapsee Pannu and Abhishek Banerjee on the sets of Rashmi Rocket. (Photo: Instagram/akvarious)

Rashmi Rocket also stars Priyanshu Painyuli as an army man and Rashmi’s love interest, along with Abhishek Banerjee who plays a human rights lawyer.

Talking about the casting, Akarsh revealed that he goes back a long way with Priyanshu and Abhishek. ” If you think it’s a big risk (casting them), it actually isn’t. Priyanshu comes from an army family so he always had a desire to play such a character. I knew I won’t need to do any homework for him as he’ll manage it on his own,” he said, lauding the way Priyanshu imbibed the army behaviour in his character Gagan.

Abhishek and Akarsh have known each other since their Delhi theatre days. Akarsh asserted that despite Abhishek doing comedy roles or villainous parts like in Paatal Lok, he knew what the actor was actually capable of. “I remember in one of the first scenes he did in Rashmi Rocket, I asked him why he was going away from himself. He should remain Abhishek. That’s when he also started seeing it in a new light. According to me, he could’ve had a lot more fun with the character, because he was holding it completely. Of course there are little wonderful things that he’s added to his character Eeshit, a lawyer, who’s also an underdog.”

 

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Stressing on how Taapsee Pannu got into the skin of Rashmi Vira with utmost honesty, Akarsh also expressed surprise when the actor was heavily trolled for looking “masculine” in the film. The director said seeing all those comments and “old school thought process”, he was assured why the film is relevant.

“It’s about questioning the regressive mindset. So it was interesting seeing all this. It’s just underlining what the film is also about. In fact I won’t reveal much, but Abhishek’s introduction scene is a reply to such trolls. I’m looking forward to all these things getting addressed through the film without being preachy, by making a statement how everybody needs to grow up,” Akarsh concluded.

Rashmi Rocket also stars Supriya Pathak, Chirag Vora, Akash Khurana, Manoj Joshi, Mantra and Supriya Pilgaonkar. It released on ZEE5 on October 15.

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