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I feel fortunate to have such brilliant actors in Aashram: Prakash Jha

Director Prakash Jha on releasing Aashram Chapter 2 - The Dark Side in two parts, audience expectations and controversies surrounding his projects.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
November 10, 2020 5:16:18 pm
aashram 2 stills bobby deol prakash jhaPrakash Jha directorial Aashram: Chapter 2 – The Dark Side will premiere on MX Player on November 11. (Photo: Prakash Jha Productions/Instagram)

Filmmaker Prakash Jha cannot wait for the release of Aashram Chapter 2 – The Dark Side. The director shares that the second chapter will now “conclude all the stories that were set-up in the first part.” Starring Bobby Deol in the titular role of Baba Nirala, Aashram is a crime-drama revolving around fake godmen.

Aashram was lauded for its incredible ensemble cast, including Chandan Roy Sanyal, Darshan Kumaar, Aaditi Pohankar, Tridha Choudhury, Tushar Pandey, Anupriya Goenka, Sachin Shroff, Rajeev Siddhartha, Adhyayan Suman and Vikram Kochhar. In the MX Original Series, we will see Baba Nirala’s greed for political power, money and lust grow manifold.

In a candid chat with, Prakash Jha spoke about releasing the show in two parts, audience expectations and controversies surrounding his projects.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

Why did you decide to release Aashram in two parts?

The kind of subject it was and the way I wanted to tell the story involved expanding and investing in every character’s story, be it Pammi, Babita, Satti, Ujagar or Sadhu. Also, the political story and the cobweb that Baba Nirala weaves around himself, his own relationship with his right-hand man Bhopa – all of it was so interesting that I didn’t want to skim through it. The whole thing became too long for one session. So we decided that we’ll take it to a point, leave it there and in a couple of months, bring in the second part which will take you to the other side of the cliffhanger. Chapter one was almost seven hours. The second chapter will be five and a half hours.

Baba Nirala is getting more greedy and lustful in Chapter 2. What was the brief you gave to Bobby for this part?

Bobby had a wholesome preparation. He is a brilliant actor, and he has a persona which is so believable, likeable and trustworthy. But when he displays his darkness, it’s shocking. So I wanted to cast him. I’m so lucky he liked the role and has done it so well.

Bobby’s character is like all those masquerading babas who look divine and believable. But when start going deep, you find out that they are hollow from inside. Innocent people trust them and put everything down in terms of faith and trust. They are easily exploited. It’s a story which is happening all around us, and we are willingly succumbing to it.

Even Baba Nirala’s friendship and trust towards Bhopa is at stake. Tell us about Chandan’s casting and role.

Chandan is a brilliant actor. We needed somebody who would be diminutive in size but packed with power. Chandan was just the right choice. I feel fortunate to have such brilliant actors in Aashram. Just two or three of them can run a series. Even Adhyayan Suman, with a small role, shines.

Do you have any concerns about audience acceptance since the story of Aashram Chapter 2 seems to be more ruthless and gritty?

The main thing is whether my story is getting more interesting and going in the right direction. If they don’t accept it, they won’t watch it at all. Who would’ve thought that 450 million people will watch the show. That’s unheard of. But that happened with the first chapter.

Aashram is made at the scale of a film. Why did you decide to release it on the digital platform instead?

It’s always the subject that decides the scale. Before this I made Pareeksha. You would’ve seen its scale. That’s what it needed, and we couldn’t have more than that. If you see the frills of babas, it’s huge. There’s crowd and big arrangements. So we’ll need to recreate that at the same level.

bobby deol chandan roy prakash jha photosaashram 2 Bobby Deol and Chandan Roy Sanyal with Prakash Jha on the sets of Aashram. (Photo: Prakash Jha Productions/Instagram)

Aashram also has strong women characters. Do you think it is important to balance out the positioning of your characters in the story?

For me, the story is the captain. If the story will demand the emotional investment of a woman, it’ll be a woman and vice-versa. I don’t aim to balance out men and women. It all depends on the story.

With the kind of subjects you cater to, there’s always a risk of backlash. Even Aashram 2 is facing certain opposition. How do you manage to stand by your vision every time?

You can’t sit in the safety of your homes all the time. Similarly, I always try to look beyond my comfort zone. Only then we can create something. All my projects have faced some kind of controversy before the release because of the debatable subject. Even before the release of Aarakshan, it got banned in four states. Once it released, the same people came to my office with flowers, appreciating the film. There was no debate post the release of Aashram’s first chapter. Now, as soon as the trailer for the second chapter came in, some negativity began. Once it releases, everyone will watch it happily. So all this is part of life and the business. I always believe in telling good stories with proper understanding and responsibility. Whatever will happen, we’ll handle it accordingly.

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