Bringing actor Sushmita Sen out of her hiatus—a five-year break—was no mean feat and filmmaker Ram Madhvani seems to have pulled it off. He gives a riveting Indian touch to Aarya, which is inspired by Dutch series Penoza.
Filmmaker Ram Madhvani’s dream of bringing some projects to reality seems to come post long intervals. The idea for the series ‘Aarya’ came to him nine years ago when he and his wife, Amita, saw the Dutch series ‘Penoza’ but it didn’t materialise till 2020. With the resounding success of the Sushmita Sen-starrer on Disney+Hotstar, the director can’t stop smiling.
Ask him how he felt when ‘Aarya’ finally came to fruition, Ram says, “When Amita and I saw ‘Penoza’ then and wanted to adapt it, we didn’t realise that it would take so long. But the good thing is the story stayed with us. Around seven years ago, I was travelling by train and saw these opium fields and realised how I could make the show culturally rooted in India. Nine years later, I was like wow I’m standing in an opium field actually shooting it! From the reactions we have got to the show, I think we have adapted it well.”
Bringing actor Sushmita Sen out of her hiatus—a five year break—was no mean feat and Ram seems to have to pulled it off. He had worked with her on an ad many years ago and felt he must approach her to play the protagonist. “When you meet Sushmita Sen, there’s an aura, an energy and she’s the true definition of a star. A star changes the energy of a room and Sushmita’s presence can do just that. I had a conversation with her about the show and thankfully, she had seen ‘Neerja’ and loved it. Sushmita is incredibly sincere, diligent, disciplined and she takes notes! You may not expect this from her but she’s extremely organised. I didn’t know most of this when I met her. She said yes to Aarya with such child-like enthusiasm but I didn’t believe it. Actors say yes and then often the manager or lawyer will get back and say she loves you and wants to do it but, etc. But Sushmita was genuine about it and working with her was delightful. The universe blessed us!” gushes Ram.
Unlike the Dutch series, ‘Aarya’ is focussed more on the relationship between a mother and her kids and driven by the family dynamics. “I was interested in a family and what they go through in terms of grief, teenage angst, etc. When it comes to relationships, we have invested a lot in that. In India, we are not solo people – I don’t think we get the Western concept of independence once you’re 16 and meet your family once a year. I love the idea that we’re all together though families are fraught,” explains Ram.
‘Neerja’ won Ram a lot of praise and adulation and now with ‘Aarya’ the filmmaker has established himself as the king of emotions. With his strong advertising background, Ram believes that he is in the business of emotions and feelings, and that is what he was driven by in the Sushmita Sen-series as well. “At the end of a show or ad, I’m always looking at what the expression or feeling should be. I’m in the mood alteration business and ‘predicting the feelings’ business. I’m also in some ways the ‘thali’ business – offer a little bit of thrill, romance, drama, emotion, etc, in one show. We are a culture that is relationship-oriented and we enjoy diverse dishes in a meal!” he says, referencing our eating habits.
The director’s style of filmmaking was also new to Sushmita and the others on set. “I take a 360 degree approach,” explains Ram who uses multiple cameras to capture the scene at once and often with no cuts or close-ups. But Ram says that his close association and friendship with his co-directors Sandeep Modi and Vinod Rawat had them all on the same wavelength and it was an easy working process. Co-created by Ram and Sandeep Modi, the character-driven series has a talented array of other actors including Chandrachur Singh, Namit Das, Manish Choudhary, Ankur Bhatia and Sikander Kher.