Updated: August 27, 2021 3:16:18 pm
With menacing eyes and eccentric mannerisms, actor Dino Morea has upped the ante as Uzbek leader Muhammad Shaybani Khan in the Disney+ Hotstar series The Empire. The first time the actor heard the story from director Mitakshara Kumar and producer Nikkhil Advani, he thought of it as “an opportunity of a lifetime”.
Talking about playing a historic character, Dino shared, “This is the first time that I am playing a character like this. To play a character you have to understand his/her mindset and his world. So, when I heard the story for the first time, I thought it was an opportunity of a lifetime. It is a devious, cunning character with many shades. He believes you don’t inherit the throne but you have to earn it.”
Dino has played diverse roles in over two decades of his Bollywood career, but to portray Shaybani Khan with authenticity, the 45-year-old actor had to bring out the animal instincts of his character. He, along with director Mitakshara sat down and tried to compare the traits of Shaybani Khan’s character with that of an animal.
Elaborating on the same, Dino said, “Whenever I play a character, I compare it to an animal. So, I told this to my director Mitakshara and she agreed that we have to bring out some animal instincts in a character, So, she suggested panther and I thought of lion for Shaybani Khan. But then we decided this character is more like a panther since it is agile, stealthy and fast and he is menacing. So, I watched the National Geographic channel to just see the movement and understand how does a panther functions.”
To do justice to his character, Dino not only did his research and homework, but he also did special prep to get the ‘mood and energy’ of the character right. “For every scene, I made a playlist for myself. I used to listen to a certain melody and beat to get into the mood and energy of a scene. I created a playlist just to shoot the scene where I meet Babur (Kunal Kapoor) for the first time. My walk and energy, when I meet him, came from the tune that was playing in my head at that time. I also read the script 15 times to understand the nuances of my character. That was the preparation I did,” Dino explained.
Mounted on a grand scale, The Empire also features actors Shabana Azmi, Kunal Kapoor, Drashti Dhami, and Aditya Seal, among others. The series marks the directorial debut of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s prodigy Mitakshara, who has also co-written this epic saga with Bhavani Iyer.
Actor Kunal Kapoor, who plays Mughal emperor Babur in the series, spent time understanding his character instead of looking at references for his role as he feels, “It is counterproductive to see someone else’s work.” For him what was interesting about his character was, “He was physically very strong but had moments of great emotional weakness. He becomes the king but is wracked with a great amount of self-doubt about whether he is worth it or not.” Kunal enjoyed his journey of transformation from a “spontaneous young Babur” to a “mature, confident older Babur.”
Apart from choosing an apt ensemble cast for the historical drama, the makers of The Empire did everything to make it the “biggest show India has ever seen”. Producer Nikkhil Advani shared that to maintain the authenticity of the eight-episode series, they shot it “at places where this dynasty was born like Uzbekistan, Samarkand and Bokara”.
Drashti Dhami, who plays Babur’s sister Khanzada Begum, feels while other period dramas only showcase a king on the throne or his struggles at war, The Empire also emphasises the role of women in making a man become a king. She described her character as “strong yet very emotional.” Though it’s a huge leap for Drashti from television to web series, she still credits her success as an actor to television. “I credit whatever I am to my television background, the hundreds and thousands of hours I have worked there. I would never say no to TV. I just want to work on great content irrespective of the medium,” Drashti said while promoting the series.
Director Mitakshara, who has been trained under filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, ensured that a lot of hard work has been put in to make the series a visual spectacle. She said, “We have tried to be honest to characters and storyline with a lot of hard work, love and detailing.” Asked if The Empire, given its grandeur, would have made for a great silver screen release, she replied, “A story is a story whether it is told on a big screen or on a platform. And the times we are living in, I guess platforms have come at par with the big screen.”
The Empire, created by Nikkhil Advani of Emmay Entertainment, starts streaming on Disney+ Hotstar on August 27.
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