ZEE5 recently released its latest original, London Confidential, starring Purab Kohli, Mouni Roy, Kulraj Randhawa and Pravesh Rana in the lead roles. The Kanwal Sethi directorial presents the story of undercover agents trying to find a mole among their ranks, in the backdrop of a pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Purab opens up about his latest project, shifting base to London and his take on the digital medium.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Tell us something about London Confidential and how did it come about?
I was contacted by ZEE5 a few months back, but then, the movie wasn’t supposed to be based in London. Since the lockdown had just been announced, I didn’t know if I could do it. And then somewhere around mid-June, they called me again and informed me they would be shooting here. Also, I had really liked the idea of the film, and since I was training in martial arts during the lockdown, I was excited to do some action. Apart from these initial attractions, I was quite keen to work with Kanwal, the director. I have seen his work and was excited to see what he would do with a film like this. It was honestly a sheer joy to work with the team.
London Confidential is a spy mystery about trying to find the traitor among the Indian system. It’s a diplomat kind of setting, and will give a sneak peek into the lives of these agents who live a dual life. I have never lived in a world like this and hence it was an exciting time for me. Interestingly, my brother-in-law is a diplomat, and he is happy we made a film around this subject.
After the trailer was released, many believed it was a film on coronavirus.
I think the current situation was intelligently used to market the film. Hats off to ZEE5 for doing it cleverly. The film is more about these agents and a mole in their system. Since it is on an OTT platform, and has a shorter run time, there wasn’t time to play around and set up the premise. With a pandemic as the background, you automatically help the audience come into the setting, and you can kickstart your story.
You have been part of projects like Airlift, POW and now London Confidential, which have an element of patriotism. Does playing these characters make you fall in love with your country more?
Being in these projects has nothing to do with my sense of patriotism. I feel that anyway. What I actually take back from these characters are their emotions and struggles. Like in POW, the hardship that Sarrtaj goes through, I haven’t felt that personally. But I had to find those emotions to play him. Similarly, in London Confidential, Arjun (his character) works at a supermarket through the day and is a RAW agent at night. While he is on the go, there are moments where he is lonely. You can feel that in the character, and that aspect is beyond patriotism. It’s a human feeling. I feel as actors, we take some, we let go of some. Like KD in Rock On, I really loved him and tried to bring in some qualities of him in my personal life too.
You had shared on social media that you and your family tested positive for coronavirus. Was there any apprehension while stepping out for work?
So let me tell you a story about when we got the virus. The UK government had announced that the lockdown would begin from March 21, and a day before, I visited the supermarket to buy some stuff. And everything was empty, people were scared and nervous. I remember coming back home and telling my wife I can never live like this, I would rather get the virus and get done with it. And in a couple of days, we all fell sick one after another. After quarantining ourselves for three months, we stepped out with a sense of relief, knowing we might have built immunity, though we don’t know if it really works that way.
As far as work is concerned, there was no apprehension or fear. Some of the new rules were rather hard for me. You can’t see people’s faces or work together. It’s a strange world, and as much as it’s annoying, we have to adapt to it. I am a positive person, and I am hoping that by mid-2021, we will have five pills that we can pop, and everything would be okay (smiles).
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Thank you 🙏🏽 all you lovely people for your warms wishes 💜 we really left a strong bolt of love come our way. Rest assured we are very well and fully recovered now. Please remember It is important to stay indoors now. Yes it’s hard! But firstly we need to put the brakes on this pandemic, and then we have to conserve energy and rest our bodies and build strength. God forbid if you do catch the virus, your body which is the real weapon against this virus, will need loads of energy to fight it. A big shout out to all the frontline workers and health workers around the world who are risking their own health and the health of families to serve us all. Bless them 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 Take care and lots of love from Lucy, Inaya, Osian and me. This is a photo of us in Coonoor last year while I was filming Out of love. Also a reminder to me of the good times to come once we beat this problem as #OneWorld #FightAgainstCorona
In a time when people are struggling to get good parts, you moved first to Goa and now to the UK. Does it affect work, as sometimes a director would want to start immediately?
With me, it always has been that people wanted to start things in days. And I would ask them to cast someone else as I need time to read and register. So whether I am away or in Mumbai, that’s the usual reaction for me over the past 20 years. I hate jumping into projects. I regret not doing it for a filmmaker, and thus when he called me on short notice, I ran and did Typewriter with Sujoy Ghosh (laughs). And if it does have to happen, I do fly off as it’s my career and I have to work. My family also understands and has accepted it now. But honestly, I like it more if someone writes a role with me and gives me ample time to become the character. I am doing something like this with Sujoy for a film that we have been prepping up for a few months now.
The industry has been clouded with the nepotism debate again. As an outsider who has done some acclaimed roles, what is your take on the debate?
It all boils down to what the audience takes. A producers is selling a product at the end of the day, and he will do whatever it takes to sell. Also, it’s the familiarity that the audience has with a yesteryear big star that works. Nevertheless, freshness also works these days. I think I am in the worst phase, neither a fresher nor a big star. I think I will just keep working hard and deliver good work. And in between, when something like Rock On or Airlift comes, people hail you, and then with a flop, they do kind of forget you.
You are not new to the digital medium. Your last show Out of Love also did fairly well. How would you rate Indian content on web?
It’s still at a very nascent stage. However, I am proud that I was one of the first actors to move to OTT. I remember doing a show, Sense 8, in 2014, and I did not get to see it since we did not have Netflix back then in India. I was in London to meet my wife, then-girlfriend, when someone in a restaurant came up to me to asked if I was Rajan from Sense 8. My first reaction was what’s that, who’s Rajan (laughs). That was my first experience of being discovered on OTT.
I think it has opened doors to talents, and by that I don’t mean just actors, but writers, directors, everyone. I think one thing that hasn’t been appreciated largely in our industry is the writers, we never nourished and cultivated them all these years. They are finally getting valued.
Also, since the space is fairly new, it is heavily funded, and makers are not trying to turn around content for money. They rather have to cater to subscription and get new ones. So it’s a completely new business model. It’s a massive market and with internet still growing, I think it will only become bigger. Also, the digital space takes into consideration the audience which cinema has over the years started to ignore. Today, films in theaters are all about Friday-Sunday, the first weekend passes a judgment. But there are many who don’t want to rush to watch films, are busy or want to plan a cinema visit with their entire family. Commercial cinema rarely gets made for them. Now, they can sit back and enjoy films at their own pace and space.
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