Anil Kapoor, Karan Boolani on adapting Aravind Adiga’s acclaimed novel Selection Day as Netflix series
Selection Day director Karan Boolani: We have tried to develop a story that can be consumed by a family and not isolate anybody
Anil Kapoor believes in moving with the times and hence when we sit down to chat with him on his latest production, Selection Day, he is eager to know if we are enjoying the emergence of a variety of content on various OTT streaming platforms. Netflix's new Indian original series is set to drop on 28 December in over 190 countries. “I’ve been saying this for a very long time. Ten years back when I was in the US doing some job internationally, whenever I had the time I would meet people and I’d often say that we have to look at things which will resonate globally, especially with Indian talent – actors, writers, directors. It’s a fantastic time to showcase our work globally. This platform empowers; it’s like an eye-opener,” said Kapoor, who found himself in a number of international projects since his Hollywood debut in Slumdog Millionaire in 2008.
Kapoor had his first brush with television series when he acted in and produced the Hindi adaptation of 24 in 2013. One of the directors of the show, Karan Boolani, has partnered with Kapoor as one of the executive producers of Selection Day, besides directing six episodes of it. The 10-episode series is a rags-to-riches story adapted from Booker Prize-winning author Aravind Adiga’s 2016 novel of the same name. The script of the show is written by actor-writer Marston Bloom. “I got attracted to it because of the story, and in this case, I also read the book and put the right people together. Cricket forms the backdrop of this show but overall it is a coming-of-age story about two brothers and the beautiful bonding between them. It’s about the dream of a father and his kids. I'm so excited that it will be shown all over the world with Indian talent, both newcomers and experienced," said the senior actor excitedly.
“The book released early last year and we have a partner in UK who had gotten hold of the manuscript before it was released. I read it, loved it and I spoke to Anil about it. Netflix had also heard the story and we organically came together pretty quickly. We started work in September and now all the episodes are ready for release,” added Boolani.
Selection Day, a cricket drama, is the third of seven series of Netflix that they commissioned from India (the first two were the crime drama Sacred Games and horror miniseries Ghoul). Selection Day is about India’s biggest obsession: cricket. The plot involves two brothers, teenage cricket prodigies Manju (Mohammad Samad, who made a strong impact with Tumbbad), and Radha (first time actor Yash Dholye), who arrive in Mumbai with the aim of making it to the under-19 national team. Manju isn’t crazy about cricket; he wants to study science but is scared to go against his overbearing father (Rajesh Tailang, who also has a major role in Amazon Prime’s Indian series Mirzapur) who has raised and trained his sons to be future cricket stars. The other actors in the cast of Selection Day include Mahesh Manjrekar, Akshay Oberoi and Ratna Pathak Shah.
Kapoor said that in order to meet the changing taste and demands of the consumers and also to bring some uniqueness in the content, his media and entertainment company has bought the rights of several books like Herogiri, Bittora and Govindato be adapted into movies. “It is the reinvention of the consumer as well. I can’t be repeating what I did in films years back. One has to be aware of the changing tastes of the consumer. That is the reason we have bought so many rights and we are hopefully going to adapt. Otherwise, people say that the same things are being made,” said Kapoor. “We have been working on some books for last five to seven years. A book is just a boundary of your story that you want to adapt; it is the source material, something that we connect on and if you get a writer and the right mood, you get the right adaptation flow. I was reading somewhere that Life of Pi took 15 years to get there. Each has its own life,” said Karan.
While the characters in the book are quite complex, Boolani revealed that he has shown them in a simple and subtle manner in the series. “That’s intentional because book is a different medium; you read something and you create your own imagination. What is written quite starkly in a line is there over three episodes. In the series, you may not find the exact scene as it happened in the book; we just wanted the essence of it. For instance, the father is overbearing and makes decisions for his children but to what degree? We have connected and kept his soul throughout. You also want it to be relatable and not be specific to this particular family. You want it to appeal to as many people as possible. Keeping this in mind, we have tried to develop a story that can be consumed by a family and not isolate anybody,” said the series director.
While the first season has ended with the book, chances are that the story and the second season will continue beyond the book. “Yes, of course, there’s a possibility. Once you fall in love with the characters, you can navigate with them through their lives and that is the benefit of Netflix and having the ability to make content you keep moving forward with. Characters are driving it. People are connected with them. We were fortunate enough to have a nurturing team. Give them the comfort so that they feel this is home. There is not much that we had to do; they did it themselves,” said Boolani.
Lastly, when we ask Kapoor that why hasn’t he found a part for himself in the series, he says laughing, “Our casting director sees me and runs away because I keep asking her that why hasn’t she cast me? I could have played the father’s role, or that of the coach. But then I felt Mahesh (Manjrekar) was a better choice. My daughter Rhea is writing a lot of stuff but I don’t suit any role, which is fine because we want to create content that is best for the show.”
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