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Ali Fazal on his character in Netflix’s Ray: ‘I wasn’t convinced about the choices as an actor in several scenes’

Srijit Mukherji, Ali Fazal, Anindita Bose and Shweta Basu Prasad talk about their film Forget me Not in the Ray anthology series, which will stream on Netflix.

Written by Lakshana N Palat | New Delhi |
June 23, 2021 1:21:22 pm
Ali Fazal (Photo: Netflix)Ali Fazal (Photo: Netflix)

Netflix’s Ray is an anthology series, which is inspired from the works of Satyajit Ray. We’ve already seen from the trailer that these are his stories come to life, but with darker twists. The series has four stories: Forget Me Not, Bahrupiya, Spotlight and Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa. They feature deeply complex characters portrayed by Manoj Bajpayee, Ali Fazal, Kay Kay Menon, Bidita Bag, Radhika Madan, Harshvarrdhan Kapoor among others, and are helmed by Srijit Mukherji, Abhishek Chaubey, and Vasan Bala.

In an interview to Indian Express, Srijit opened up about his segment Forget Me Not, which stars Ali Fazal, Shweta Basu Prasad and Anindita Bose. Talking about the original story, he said, “The original story is Bipin Chaudhary Ka Smriti Bhram. It is a fascinating story, it’s not as dark as Forget Me Not. Yet, the seed of Forget Me Not is in Smriti Bhram. The character’s memory is playing tricks on him, or so it seems. That is the general premise.”

He added that they wished to reinterpret the story in the modern world, in a corporate space. “We wanted to situate the story in Bengaluru, before Covid. We wanted a city that had a ruthless corporate side to it. This is how we reinterpreted the context.”

Giving a fresh twist to a Satyajit Ray story was quite a challenge for Srijit. Speaking about the difficulties of taking on such a project, he said, “It [The original story] was written for young adults. I would say, it was a very human story. It was the kind of a story that wouldn’t leave you in the darker state of the mind. The psychological impact is reined, because of the ending. Over here [Forget Me Not] since the mandate from Netflix and Viacom was to reinterpret it in a darker space, the challenge was how to change it, and how far do we go, and whose help do we go that far. These were the questions that were raised.”

Ali Fazal plays the role of a corporate honcho in the series, who seemingly has it all figured out. However, as the story progresses, he struggles to make sense of his new world and slowly unravels. This is a starkly different from the roles he has usually played. To get into such a dark psyche wasn’t easy for Ali. Talking about this, he said, “It was very hard. I remember we were starting with some very heavy scenes. It wasn’t much study that I needed to do, it was a study of the human mind. I was observing Srijit Da a lot. It was very important for me to see how he saw it play out. I had to bring a large part of myself into it. The character has a slow deterioration. I wasn’t convinced about the choice I made as an actor in a lot of scenes, but I suppose actors go through it.”

He added, “I hope there’s no hamming, because I delved into a different accent as well.”

Shweta Basu Prasad, who plays the role of Ipshit’s colleague Maggie revealed that she had sketched out a backstory for her character, before the filming. She said, “As an actor, you want to different kind of characters, and push the envelope. With every character, you discover something about yourself and human psyche. I have a habit of writing a backstory on each character, and so I did that for Maggie. I sent it to Srijit sir, and I wanted them to review it. It was about where she was from, what were her formative years, etc. That’s the sort of prep that I like doing.”

Shweta also added, “It’s very important to take up different characters and not judging them. We live in an era where characters are flawed, unpredictable and very human. It’s a rare privilege to be a part of a series like Ray, and I’m a huge fan of Ali, Srijit Da. I’ve always wanted to work with Srijit sir. It’s a very interesting take on Ray, and I’ve grown up watching Satyajit Ray. I read this particular story that Forget Me Not is inspired from, and Forget Me Not is a modern, twisted take on it.”

She was quite fascinated at Ali’s preparedness on sets. “Ali comes quite prepared on sets, he has these running notes on scripts. He is very prepared and is a fantastic co-star,” she said with a laugh.

Anindita Bose plays the role of Rhea Saran, another cog in the corporate wheel.  She revealed that this was the first project that she started after the lockdown last year and was excited about ‘everything.’ “I was just excited about everything, an added bonus that it is Satyajit Ray’s world and that I was working with Srijit Da again. We worked together ten years ago. I have been a huge fan of Ali and of course Shweta.” She said that she felt intimidated by both of them, but that changed overtime. “I just didn’t know what to expect. Both of them are such sweethearts.”

Trying not to reveal too much about her character, Anindita said, “It was a very interesting character that Srijit Da wrote. Rhea is workaholic, independent and enjoys a drink by herself.”

There was a lot of ‘masti’ that used to happen on the sets, which alleviated the stress of acting in such a dark film. Amid jokes and laughs, Ali recalled how everyone could speak Bengali around him, and he felt intimidated at first. With a chuckle, he said how he ‘hated’ Srijit Da and Anindita the first day. “Day one, we started with a very heavy scene. I hated Srijit Da and Anindita that day, I was like this is all over the place. Over time, I realised the baggage of the entire piece. Gradually, on set masti used to happen.”

The team laughed about how Shweta got a free ticket to see Ajanta and Ellora, where they were shooting several scenes. “While shooting in Ajanta and Ellora, Shweta went around as a tourist. She got a free entry because of all of us. I had a lot of fun with Shruti, who plays my wife, as well as the guys who played my friends in the show, toh kuch na kuch kameenapan hota tha.”

Srijit said that all three of his stars “are blessed with a terrific sense of humour”, something which was  very important for a dark shoot like this. He said, “For me, it was a fantastic experience, but unusual. Coming out of Covid, doing readings in glass compartments, going to shoot in PPE kits.” To which Ali Fazal added, “No one could hear anything, at first!”

Netflix’s Ray drops on June 25.

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