Bejoy Nambiar is no stranger to slick thrillers and films with ensemble casts. The filmmaker, who established himself as an edgy storyteller with Shaitan, David, Wazir, and his last release Solo (with Dulquer Salmaan), has to start from scratch whenever he takes up a new project. He also says that finding people to back "his kind of movies" is always a struggle.
For Taish, starring Pulkit Samrat, Harshvardhan Rane, Kriti Kharbanda, Sanjeeda Shaikh, and Jim Sarbh, the director faced these initial challenges.
"It's because there are not many reference points to ensemble drama thrillers unlike comedies. In the drama zone, or thriller, or other narratives we don't see enough ensembles. I am glad that these actors came on board and connected to the material. It was challenging for me to get people on board, not just the cast but even convincing producers was difficult. When you go to pitch, they first ask: 'Who is the hero?' I would tell, regardless of the hero you should first listen to the story. Lot of actors I know are wary of being a part of an ensemble cast because there is no track record of so many ensemble drama thrillers. But I am happy with the actors that finally came on board," he says.
Pulkit Samrat in Taish | Image from Twitter
He continues, "Then, with every project there is a struggle to stay relevant. Taish was a very difficult film to mount and because of the lockdown we were thrown into uncertainty and chaos. We didn't know whether we would get a release. Thankfully, I have a very patient producer who's allowing me to realise my vision in a unique way " Taish is getting released both as a film and as an episodic series. I know of so many filmmakers who have done films, but are stuck midway with few days of shoot left. I am grateful that I completed it and now it is ready for release."
Nambiar is known for a wide canvas, complex storylines, multiple narratives, a format he followed with Taish. The film is about two warring families and how a moment of rage unleashes a storm of chaos on two friends. There is a countryside wedding, foreign locations, and friends celebrating their best days together, when suddenly, their life turns upside down. "I like to delve in complex storylines with multiple threads. I always get drawn to telling layered, multiple stories with complex characters. It has become inherent in my storytelling. I may have failed in the past but that doesn't stop me from attempting it," explains Nambiar.
Jim Sarbh and Kriti Kharbanda | Image from Twitter
When asked where he drew inspiration from, Nambiar says, "I have only worked with Mr Mani Ratnam. I learnt the work ethics and filmmaking process from him but apart from that I grew up in very interesting times when I was on a staple diet of a lot of good regional cinema and even in Hindi it was an interesting time for parallel cinema. I grew up watching a lot of interesting regional cinema of P Padmarajan, Bharatan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, and in Hindi I was watching Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal. My parents were huge movie buffs and because of them I used to watch a lot of movies. The films that I watched shaped me into the filmmaker that I am. Also, I am a big fan of complex dramas. I like multiple thread dramas. I am hoping one day I can write a very simple, straightforward film with just two to three characters but I always end up complicating my life."
Elaborating further on Taish's origin, he says, "The initial story was called Spark, a short story that I had written. It was about this one moment, one incident that snowballs and affects two different families, one incident from the past comes back to haunt them. I was not very sure because I had just written three to four pages on it. When I started revisiting it I still wasn't sure if there was enough for me to develop it into a feature. As part of the story I wrote one scene which comes closer to the climax in the film right now. When I wrote that scene for me that was the trigger. That scene became the driving force for me to invest my time in writing the screenplay and make the film. The film is a test of human emotion and our perseverance to fight the odds stacked against us. It's a revenge drama that surrounds two families and an accident that ignites a storm."
Nambiar clarifies that the two formats " feature film and a six episode series are distinctly different viewing experiences: "Taish was always envisioned as a film, but then the lockdown happened so we opted for an online release. However, when we held two test screenings for the film, the audience who watched it, felt it would be more palatable if it was episodic. They wanted to know more about certain characters and wanted it to be a little more immersive. It was genuinely the audience feedback that we revisited and re-edited the material giving thought on how the story would play out in both the formats and changed the structure. But my first vision was for a film so Zee agreed to let me release both film and web series which is first of its kind. Both are different and it is not that the series is the broken down version of film. This also gives viewers a choice of getting a different viewing experience."
With streaming gathering momentum, Nambiar feels it is an interesting time for filmmakers like him who are neither into artsy nor out-and-out mainstream. "Streaming gathering momentum only serves filmmakers like me because then we are not weighed down or bogged down by only box office. We have other avenues available and there is an audience there who is open to watching and consuming all kinds of stories. So, it is actually very liberating to filmmakers like me. We are able to explore and tell the kind of stories which are not necessarily ticking all the boxes required in the commercial mainstream like having a mix of comedy, song, dance..We can take some risks and such cinema is being supported by these platforms. I look at it as a good thing for us," he says. Nambiar's next project to roll soon is a Netflix show with Madhuri Dixit which is produced by Karan Johar under his digital production company Dharmatic Entertainment.
"But cinema will always be my first preference," says Nambiar, "Because I came here to become a filmmaker. I would never want to let that go. I would always want to make films for the big screen. But the availability of different avenues are definitely a welcome change and it gives me more choices to play with, and, of course, going ahead I would like to navigate both."
Taish is now streaming on ZEE5. Watch the trailer here "