Selection Day stars Yash Dholye, Mohammad Samad, Ratna Pathak Shah on relating to their characters
Ahead of its worldwide premiere on Netflix, Selection Day's cast discuss their characters and their love for cricket.
After the success of Sacred Games and Ghoul, Netflix’s new Indian original Selection Day drops on 28 December. Based on Booker Prize-winning author Aravind Adiga’s 2016 fiction novel of the same name, the cricket drama follows the lives of two brothers — Radha (debutant Yash Dholye) and Manju (played by Tumbbad's Mohammad Samad) and their struggles against their cricket-obsessed, overbearing father (Rajesh Tailang). Anand Tucker’s Seven Stories and Anil Kapoor’s Film and Communication Network have produced the series, which also stars Ratna Pathak Shah, Mahesh Manjrekar, Shiv Pandit and Karanvir Malhotra among others. This coming-of-age tale about two teen cricket prodigies has been adapted for screen by actor-writer Marston Bloom and it's directed by Indian-born British director Udayan Prasad and Karan Boolani.
Ahead of its worldwide release, Firstpost caught up with the team and finds Shiv Pandit (best known for his film Shaitan) most amused about his part as he calls himself, “the latest god in town”. Shiv plays a quirky character of that of a God (Lord Subramanyam) who helps the teenage cricket aspirant (Manju) navigate through life. Ask Shiv if there was any reference point and he breaks into laughter saying, “You can’t use any reference when you have to play God because the idea of God is so subjective. To each of us, God has a very different visual representation. Also, the idea wasn’t to present a different take on God. It’s more of a visual representation of your innermost thoughts. He doesn’t tell Manju 'do this' or 'do that'. He kind of bounces his thoughts off him and through that process, Manju figures it out himself.”
For Mohammad Samad (Manju), who has seen in Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Haraamkhor and most recently, Tumbbad, auditioning for the part was easy but playing cricket was tough. “I’m into football and I have never played cricket. Even if I have tried my hands at the sport in the past, I have played real bad cricket, bad shots and I had got habituated to it. I had to train for two months and now I have started enjoying the sport,” said Haridwar-bred Samad.
However, for debutant Yash Dholye, who plays Samad’s elder brother, the sport was a cake-walk. “The experience was great because personally too, I love cricket. In my first role I got to play the sport in a professional space, and then I also got to act, that combination is quite rare, not every aspiring actor gets this chance in the first job,” said Dholye.
Samad and Dholye’s on-screen rapport has come across pretty well and both attribute it to being just natural during the shoot. “We didn’t try hard at building rapport; we were natural. We would never plan or decide anything and just went with the flow with our training, workshops and reading with the director. Had we planned, it would have got boring,” said the aspiring actors.
Making the distinction between big screen and web series, Samad said, “One has to hold on to the character’s arc for a longer time in a series. You can’t plan what will be shot next and it gets decided suddenly, whereas in films there is a process. Then, in films you rehearse all alone but it is easier in series. Even while we were shooting, we would sit separately and rehearse so that the next scene gets better. We have had lot of fun and hope the audience also enjoys and stays connected with our characters just as we related to our characters very well.”
Actor-writer, Rajesh Tailang, who was recently seen in Netflix’s gangster series Mirzapur and films like Aiyaary, Mukkabaaz and Omerta, couldn’t relate to the character of that of an overbearing, cricket-obsessed father of Samad and Dholye. “As an actor, I could identify my role but otherwise, I don’t relate to the character and his feelings, his wants, his aspirations. It was a difficult task,” said Tailang. When asked if he read the novel before the shoot and the seasoned actor said, “No, I haven’t because there’s a difference between the novel and the screenplay and I didn’t want to get confused between the two. I wanted to consult only the director.”
Further, talking about his role, Tailang said, “The way it is seen in the script, he is a very strict, regimented father, very military like but he is justified because if in the world of cricket, in such a huge population, if only 11 candidates get selected then they have to work very hard from the time the child is born. It was a very meticulous plan, each and everything was planned with scientific and clinical approach. Emotions were kept aside like one is detached during an operation. Similarly, his children’s emotions don’t mean anything for the father. He is treating them like guinea pigs.”
Theatre actor Karanvir Malhotra, who is making his screen debut with Selection Day, plays a complex and grey character of a cricket team captain, named Javed Ansari. “He (Javed) comes from an affluent background but he has faced a lot of tragedies in his childhood and because of that, he has shaped a certain defence mechanism where he bullies these two new kids (Manju and Radha) and makes fun of them. Because he doesn’t want to get hurt himself and hence, before they try to hurt him, he wants to put them down. He is little arrogant, a bit of a spoilt brat but a sweetheart too,” said Malhotra.
Perhaps, best known to the current generation for her role in the Indian sitcom Sarabhai vs Sarabhai and recent releases like Kapoor & Sons and Lipstick Under My Burkha, acting powerhouse Ratna Pathak Shah plays a supporting character named Nellie in the series, who is the principal at a prestigious fictitious Mumbai school. “My part was very well written. It was an unusual one because an actress my age has fairly limited options as far as television and film is concerned. Either you are some strong neta (politician) type, or a rude bitch, or you are sobbing mother and weeping grandmother. Fortunately, I have been spared those kind of roles. This one was a very wonderful ride for me, because I know Nellie very well. I've seen many Nellies; I've interacted with many. I've lived with one as well, as my aunt Shanta Gandhi was a well-known educationist and hence I could relate to my character,” said Ratna.
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