Inside Edge 2 showrunner, director, cast on raising the stakes in second instalment of their Amazon Prime Original
Inside Edge 2 is a step-up on the first instalment, by mixing politics into the blend of franchise cricket and entertainment.
The second season of Inside Edge, a show with cricket as the backdrop, dropped on 6 December.
The 10 episodes of the first edition of Amazon Prime Video India Original, starring Vivek Oberoi, Angad Bedi, Richa Chadha, and Tanuj Virwani in pivotal roles, revealed the dark side of cricket. The second one gets murkier, thanks to a new entrant – politics. Also, if match-fixing and betting were part of season one, the second one focuses on intake, use, abuse, and misuse of performance-enhancing drugs, primarily known as doping.
“The whole show was scaled up, and the pressure was essentially to write something that was bigger and better. As they say that reality is always stranger, and at times even outrageous than fiction, we kept borrowing things that happens in real life, and dramatising and incorporating them in the script, like we have this doping angle. If you see something like the World Cup final that just went down so a lot of times, we had to water down the script to make content more palatable for the viewers,” says Karan Anshuman, the show creator.
The challenge is essentially in the writer’s room, says Anshuman. “I always tell the writers that don’t hold back anything that is good. So we threw everything in into the first season that was worth it. It is no longer about the Mavericks (fictional T20 cricket team). There are two teams now, and more characters come in. Bhaisaab (powerful man with many grey shades, played by Aamir Bashir) was such a phenomenon, and we decided to get him in season 2. The challenge was how do we write something because we had no saved up ideas, we had to write from scratch like a whole new show."
Reinvention of each character to avoid any kind of dull moment was a challenge on its own. “We had great actors who did a phenomenal job of owning the parts, and we were already familiar with them. Vivek, in this season, is down and out. He was drunk on power but now all that has been taken away from him. So it is a reinvention of his character like a dark phoenix rising, and he will go after the guy who betrayed him. Richa’s graph in the first one... she was exploited, and it was a reflection of how men in power treat women, and how she beats all that and becomes a hero but now, what happens on the top... that is her journey after she has got the taste of what power feels like. Also, nuances of the performances come in the interpersonal relationships that each character has with another,” explains Anshuman.
Further, the unique blend of the sport and entertainment in franchise-driven cricket possibly made the makers to unearth lot of scandals and several behind-the-scenes stories. “With both worlds colliding, the show captures and unravels secrets behind the game, and you hear lot more stories about sportsmen, especially cricketers because there is lot more money involved. There is fame, glamour, and instant gratification. Obviously, when in any industry, there is so much attention and so much money, there will always be elements trying to corrupt the system,” says Gurmeet Singh, the director of the second season.
"That was the germ of the idea when we started writing that you know so much about Bollywood actors but sportsmen are equally big, and it is exciting to know (what goes) behind the scenes. It makes for a very compelling drama to fictionalise, what happens behind the scenes with cricket, and especially with T20 leagues," adds Anshuman.
"For research, I had to spend a lot of time with a lot of people, and drink a lot of alcohol (laughs). I heard some crazy stories from some players and management of teams, which I couldn’t put in the show. I had to water that down, and just take 10 percent of it to make it more believable. Of course, we can take liberties on digital but the viewers will not be able to believe it. It was extraordinarily unbelievable. You can’t really show lot of stuff even if it is true in fiction," says Anshuman.
The makers also felt the best way to shoot was to discard the normal shooting techniques, and approach it as if they were shooting a real match. “Now, there is so much live cricket for everyone to watch. It is a challenge to create cricket matches on screen that are fictional, and we realised early on that our normal shooting techniques will probably have to take a backseat. We got an actual broadcasting team with multiple cameras, and shot the way like we would see on television. The complication was that our brilliant actors had to actually go and play cricket themselves. All the sixes that Vayu Raghavan (Tanuj’s character) or Arvind Vashisht (Angad) hit are the actual sixes. The wickets that Amit Sial and Siddhant Chaturvedi’s characters have taken are the actual ones. The complication was just that the director had to be patient,” says the show director.
The web show has also given strong female characters to the audience, which is a rarity in Indian cinema. To this, Sayani Gupta, who plays an analyst, says, “All the women characters in Inside Edge are extremely empowered. They are all smart, and doing very well in their respective careers. Cricket is a men-driven world, and you still see characters like Zarina Malik (Richa), my character Rohini are very much part of the game. They are not like flower pots sitting pretty by the side of the frame.” Sayani, who has another strong character, Damini Rizvi Roy from another Amazon Prime Video India Original show Four More Shots Please!, adds, "The web series has a lot to offer. My character is kicka*s. She is in my spine, and the moment I get into those pair of shorts and T-shirts, I just get her, and it is really fun to just slip into Rohini’s world.”
Adds Anshuman, “We thought it was time to not stereotype gender roles, especially in a show that is testosterone-driven. I didn’t want a single female character to be just an eye candy. We wanted them to do something to make a difference to the story. Richa’s character is something I identify the most with. I would have cast someone like me because that is who I am.”
One actor who is definitely looking forward to reprise his character is Tanuj, who portrayed the bada*s cricketer on the show. His character will see more challenges as more layers been added to it in the second season. “It was tricky for me to reprise a role because I have never been part of any sequel. There was zero expectation with my character in the first season. I just interpreted it in a way that I was told to. But now, with people liking this or that, for instance, girls find it cute when I am making chai-coffee for character Meera, and guys like all the naughty stuff that I do. But I don’t want to rob the character of its purity if I give the character what viewers liked. Then it would just become a product, and not remain organic anymore. So we had to keep as real as possible, and the writers cracked a good path for Vayu without spoiling much, and he really has his back against the wall this season in many ways,” says Virwani.
Sapna Pabbi's character Mantra, in her own words, is a very grounded woman, out of all the other empowered female characters. "She is lot more delicate. She is a lost little lamb in this jungle. She also kind of brings warmth to the show. She is like a breath of fresh air, and a pure character. She is definitely not a manipulator. She isn’t shady, and the only one who is educated. She is a subtly empowered young businesswoman trying to learn the ropes,” says Pabbi, who has worked with Angad earlier in TV show 24, and with Sayani in Four More Shots Please!.
Since there is no set pattern like in two-hour movies, the creators say they enjoyed the liberty on building each character. As Anshuman concludes saying, “There is no conflict, journey, resolution. As a creator and showrunner, you live with the show for a very long time. Just the post(-production) process is eight months. Before that, you shoot for about four to five months. Then you prep for two months before that, and you write it for six months. It is like in your blood. I feel I can anytime pick up threads of Inside Edge. And the best part is that every actor-character gets to shine in their moment.”
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