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Director Sidharth Sengupta: Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein is a complete masala entertainer

Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein creator and director Sidharth Sengupta talks about making the show, challenges of creating it and reveals his favourite character.

Written by Sana Farzeen | Mumbai |
January 26, 2022 7:14:50 pm
yeh kaali kaali ankheinYeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein is streaming on Netflix.

Netflix’s latest original Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein, which premiered last week, is already in Netflix’s Top 10 list. The ‘pulpy’ drama stars Tahir Raj Bhasin, Shweta Tripathi and Anchal Singh in the lead roles. In a chat with indianexpress.com, the creator and director Sidharth Sengupta speaks about making the show, challenges and working with Netflix.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What made you zero in on the title ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’?

It came from the line from Othello — ‘For she had eyes and chose me’. We wanted a title equivalent for a show where the man is pushed to the corner. Also, it’s an iconic track and I am a big film buff. I think I never thought of any other title. We always had to go for something on similar lines given the character sets her eyes on the man, and changes his life.

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I read somewhere that you preserved this story for a long time not wanting to make a TV show. Were there no fears that the story might get dated?

Anahata (Menon) and I go a long way, and we would discuss multiple stories during our TV days. Now, we all know TV is a very different format and was just not right for a story like this. We couldn’t have explored it as a film given the time crunch. Even now, with the first season, we have just put across one aspect. Yes, we did feel a little restless but there were no fear as it’s a contemporary subject. It’s an evergreen topic. A tale about matters of the heart. So when OTT happened, we met Monica Shergill and then we were on Netflix.

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For those who are yet to catch the show, would you share more details?

It’s complete masala entertainment. It’s also very twisted in its own way. It’s a love story and not some dark crime tale. Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein is about mayhem and beauty, and not the other way round. The idea came from what happens if you find yourself on the wrong side of the powerful. And then you are in deeper trouble when they love you but you don’t love them back.

 

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A post shared by Shweta Tripathi Sharma (@battatawada)

 

Netflix is for the niche audience. Do you think a pulpy tale from the heartland will find an audience?

Netflix is now in India. Even a McDonald’s sells aloo tikki here (laughs). I have earlier done two web shows, Apaharan and Undekhi. I understood that the web does connect with the masses. It has its own appeal. When we met Monica, she was also very clear that she wanted something massy but within the parameters of the platform. Netflix does have a lot of local content, be it Fargo, Narcos, or even Breaking Bad. They are all masala shows, and Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein is also very Indianised masala content. However, we have made it keeping the Netflix audience in mind too as we understand its reach. It’s definitely made with that sensibility.

When you are working with a big studio like Netflix, how much liberty do they give its creators?

I think it’s the other way round. They not only gave me the liberty but also pushed me to explore more. I think Netflix has been like an experience. When you enter its office, everybody knows the script and is invested in making it more successful. There have been times when they told me that I should take more time. That has never happened before. It was a collective approach for the good of the show. We were working on it during heavy Covid times and I actually stayed at a 5-star hotel for 100 days to edit the show. They have supported me completely not just as a creative but also producer.

How did you decide on the lead cast?

The story is about the journey of the lead guy’s mental state. The audience needed to be in his shoes and sympathise with him. The entire story is seen through his eyes. To get into that frame of mind, one needed to do a lot of homework. I have seen a lot of Tahir’s work and needed the same intensity. And then I am grateful to Shweta for agreeing to do the film. I have been a fan of Shweta since Harmkhor days and she is a sweetheart. We wanted a simple girl caught up in complicated situations and I am very happy that she accepted the role. Coming to Anchal, we have worked with her in Undekhi and Varun (Badola) suggested we take her. She was exactly what I was looking for. As Purva, she has innocence in her eyes but it’s the power that she has that makes her character interesting. There’s also Saurabh Shukla, who needs no introduction, and we also have an amazing ensemble cast of Surya Sharma, Hetal Gada, Anant Joshi and Sujata.

 

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A post shared by Shweta Tripathi Sharma (@battatawada)

 

If you had to pick your favourite character, which one would that be?

It’s very difficult as it’s taken me years to write them. However, yes, Vikrant was the most difficult one. The whole journey is through his eyes and his mental journey. Thus, it was quite difficult to write him.

Now that you look back, what was the biggest challenge while making the show?

I think it was Covid-19. We would be shooting at places when lockdowns would be suddenly announced. We had to continuously shift places. While you may not notice, there are multiple scenes that we shot at different locations. In one scene, we moved to Patiala, Manali or Mumbai. That was the biggest challenge apart from of course writing.

The show says it’s about ‘love and desire’ — how would you describe both these emotions?

I think we can only define love as that is the root cause of every emotion. It is also the most complicated emotion. In Pink Floyd’s words, ‘it’s ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’. You don’t love someone for a reason and love is also what sets desire. Purva truly loves Vikrant, with all honesty. And that’s the problem which complicates everything. Love always has multiple facets and one can go about telling stories on it.

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