Kiara Advani, Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor, Ruchi Narain on making Guilty, Dharmatic's debut venture on Netflix
Guilty, a Netflix film produced by Karan Johar's new digital outlet, stars Kiara Advani and Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor, and is directed by Ruchi Narain.
One of the biggest victories of the #MeToo movement is that you have probably heard of it. The recent conviction of Harvey Weinstein in the rape cases levelled against him by multiple women just went on to prove how ubiquitous sexual harassment really is.
We have all faced it or knew someone who did. Most of the time, we kept quiet because we were scared or because we did not have a choice or because we did not even know that what happened was wrong. The movement led to multiple conversations and discussions. Suddenly, people in offices, in parties, in your drawing rooms, were talking about consent, abuse, nuance and the need to listen to different stories and perspectives.
Netflix and Dharma Productions’ Guilty, releasing today on 6 March, tries to do that as well. Starring Kiara Advani as Nanki, the movie tells the story of a girl whose boyfriend (Gurfateh Singh Pirzada) has been accused of rape by a girl in their college, played by Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor. It is the college band’s lead and his songwriter-girlfriend who are at the focus. Directed by Ruchi Narain, this movie is also Dharma Productions’ digital wing, Dharmatic’s first big venture.
Describing the movie as a “cathartic experience," Advani also believes this is the most challenging role of her career, for which she even reached out to survivors of rape to get a better perspective and understanding. Narain adds the entire process, research, and shooting of the film was an intense experience, and a response to all the unfairness faced by women in their everyday lives. Pirzada even feels he went into a bad mental space during the intense shoot because the scenes were often extremely tough to handle and the characters extreme and complicated. "The film is uncomfortable, and might disturb people but the aim is to be entertaining, and not preachy, and reach out to as many people as possible," he says.
In this context, Kapoor believes it helped that the project was largely helmed by women, given the writers (Narain, Atika Chohan, and Kanika Dhillon) and the director being women. Whether it is the dialogues or the way that the narrative looks at the female characters, she believes it was possible only because of the women-led team. She adds sometimes, before a particularly tough scene, Narain would take her aside, and would inspire her in a way she believes no male director would be able to do or tell her things that would be awkward coming from a man. “I’m spoilt now,” she laughs.
There is more understanding and emotional energy on set as well, they agree. Narain, however, has a slightly different take. “It wasn’t by design but it will always make a difference,” she says. “As women, and working women, the kind of things we are exposed to, and we have to deal with and have had to deal with so far, are very different and possibly unthinkable to men, and that is the uncomfortable truth.”
Telling the story from the point of view of the accused’s girlfriend was a conscious decision, and one meant to show that each story has multiple perspectives and multiple stakeholders. “There’s a reason why Kiara is the lead character. I chose to keep her as the girlfriend of the guy who is accused. She knows him, and he’s been accused of something that she knows is awful but at the same time, she knows him. So it’s not just looking at it from the side of say, a woman whose calling someone out but from the side of the guy, and how it affects his life,” says Narain, adding it is important for her to “create empathy for all my characters”.
“I’m looking forward to the discussions this film inspires,” says Advani, admitting she has found different layers and topics of conversation with each re-watching of the film, something that is not usually the case. “I think each person will see it in a different light. We’re not trying to make you think a certain way. Sometimes, there’s a certain messaging in a film. That this is what I want to put out, and this is what I want you to think. This film doesn’t have that. There are small things, moments, scenes, nuances, that’ll make each of us think in a very different way and that’ll probably give you a realisation that you did not probably see. I didn’t read it on a scripting level but after watching, I was like I did not think of this actually, and that, for me, was very interesting.”
As a Netflix and Dharma Productions’ collaboration, this also brings together the idea of having great content at your fingertips. “Every time Karan (Johar) would come on set, he’d just be like content is king guys,” says Kapoor, adding it is important to make stories now that appeal to a global audience because everyone has access to a film on the streaming platform.
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