Actor Kunal Kemmu made his digital debut with ZEE5’s Abhay last year. The show is here with the second season, which is darker and edgier.
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Kemmu spoke about the new season, playing intense roles and the growth of OTT space.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. How excited were you to come back as Abhay with season 2?
Honestly, I was very happy with the kind of response Abhay got last year. When I started it, I wasn’t really sure. It’s a different thing to like the genre and the character, and to be liked and appreciated for the same by the audience. However, at the end of season one, I had a fulfilling experience. I really enjoyed playing Abhay, and was happy to get into his shoes once again.
Q. Apart from multiple and scarier villains, what sets season 2 apart from the first outing?
For starters, the main story is quite different. Like in the first season, the threat and drama came from Abhay’s personal life. However, now it’s Ram Kapoor’s character that has made him kind of a hostage, and gets him to do various tasks. So the threat is more external this time for Abhay.
Q. The last season of Abhay was criticised for being gory. As an actor and audience, what’s your take on the same?
Universally, audiences like watching gore and horror. Personally, I am not a big fan of it but having been in the industry for long, I can make out what’s real and what’s not. Similarly, Abhay is a show aimed at the audience who likes watching this genre. There is definitely no conscious effort to make you uneasy, rather it portrays things as they are.
Q. Why do you think crime and horror has become the go-to genres?
It’s been around for a long time, and people have always enjoyed watching it. Be it Sherlock, Elementary, CSI or even CID and Savdhaan India, each of it has been successful. However, it’s not that anything and everything will work. The story too needs to keep you hooked. Also, given Abhay is based on true stories, it catches the intrigue as you know something like this has happened.
Q. When you do such intense dark projects, does it get difficult to come out of it? Or are you a switch on-switch off actor?
This question would be best answered by people around me (laughs). Honestly, I believe that I can switch off but there have been times when Soha (wife Soha Ali Khan) has told me that you do behave like your characters even after coming home. She didn’t get into details though. As actors, when you go to the set, you take off everything that’s you and don the character, and vice versa post cut. It’s easier and tougher for different people. As for me, mentally I like to think that I do leave my characters on set.
Q. In a time when most shows are aiming at being a binge-watch, Abhay has a different format of releasing a few episodes at intervals. What do you think of such a creative call?
I would have loved it if all episodes could have been dropped together. In season one, it was a conscious choice to release one episode at a time. However, this time we wanted to release the whole show but while we were still shooting, Covid-19 hit India. Since the marketing was already in place and people were anticipating the show, a call was taken to go ahead. We are still shooting the last bits right now. Going forward, if we do season three, which I hope we do, I would be happy if we release the whole show at once, and let people binge-watch.
Q. You had to shift to a hotel while working for Abhay 2 as a safety measure. How are you coping with the new normal of work?
It was tough initially, given I spent so much time with my family in the last few months. Thankfully, work keeps me busy the whole day, and technology has been a saviour. I can always facetime and see my daughter whenever I want. Also, from not even leaving my building, to suddenly travelling to Nashik to shoot, it was a different experience. I think the smell of sanitisers has become nauseating for most of us now. The initial couple of days, there was nervousness about going back on set but now everything has become a muscle memory. So as soon as the cut is announced, the mask automatically comes in the hand, and you know what you have to do (laughs). I think once we get through this phase, this habit will stay for a while. Now all my shorts, jeans or even sweatshirt pockets have a mask. It’s become a way of life.
Q. While your daughter is too young to watch Abhay anytime soon, one project of yours that you can’t wait for her to see?
She doesn’t even know that either of her parents are actors and come on TV. Right now she has started watching Peppa Pig, and gets her 20 minutes of screen time twice a day. For her, Frozen is the world, and Anna, Elsa and Kristoff are her heroes. I think once she is ready to watch films, I would love to see her watch Golmaal or Lootcase.
Q. She might not recognise you, but Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke would also be a good option.
Of course, thanks for reminding me. I think that would be the first film I would like her to see.
Q. Talking about films, you are either known for intense or comedy roles. Do you have an issue with romantic films?
My issue with anything is that it’s not coming my way. Every time someone has asked me what kind of roles I am looking at, I have never chosen a specific genre. I only want to do good films with strong characters. And now with time, I have also understood the importance of associating with good makers and studios so that it’s made and released in a certain way. I never got a great romantic film. When I did Kalyug and Traffic Signal, people thought I could only do serious roles. And after doing comedy, they forgot all about it. Thankfully, people did accept me back in intense roles in Abhay, Kalank or Malang. Similarly, I am waiting for someone to give me a chance in the romantic genre.
Q. Abhay, of course, garnered positive response, and Lootcase too was appreciated. Has their success strengthened your faith in the OTT medium?
I am very happy it has happened. Although I always knew that this medium would work for both the audience and the talent involved. There are so many genres and subjects, which otherwise may not get a theatrical release. There is a lot happening, and so much talent to promote, from actors, directors and technicians. If not for a lot of web shows, the audience might not have known about them.
Abhay 2 is streaming on ZEE5.
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