Unpaused on Amazon Prime: Actors, creators of the anthology discuss using the 'lens of hope' in telling their stories
Unpaused on Amazon Prime Video is an anthology of short stories inspired by the lockdown and the resulting predicaments, impact on behaviour, paranoia, humanitarian crisis and emotional cost.
The five film anthology, Unpaused, starts with Glitch. Ahan (Gulshan Devaiah) is a hypochondriac on a first date with the slightly odd Alizah (Saiyami Kher). So far, so normal, you may think but via these two characters directors Raj & DK present a highly stylised, satirical take on the ‘new normal’.
Kher says the message in Glitch is subtle. “Though it’s a quirky, funny film about love, like a lot of their work, Raj & DK use humour to say make a bigger point.” Devaiah’s character is the extremely cautious Ahan, who goes to extreme lengths to keep the virus at bay. When asked what was his most extreme action during lockdown, the actor replied, “In the early days, about 30 people were playing volleyball behind my building so I called the cops. When the cops showed up, they all ran for their lives. It was funny.”
Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nitya Mehra and Avinash Arun join Raj & DK to tell short stories inspired by the lockdown and the resulting predicaments, impact on behaviour, paranoia, humanitarian crisis and emotional cost. “The theme was new beginnings and all the films have attempted to use the lens of hope in these testing times,” said Mehra whose film Chaand Mubarak stars Ratna Pathak Shah as Uma and Shardul Bharadwaj as rickshaw wala Rafique, two individuals who form an unlikely friendship in spite of their class and age differences.
Mehra said she found it hard to step out of lockdown and get back on set. “I was not able to trust again. The idea for the film was born out of the polarisation we were seeing, and the need to learn to trust again.”
Shah however, was keen to get back to work. “I didn’t like the idea of being in an enforced homebound situation, but I also realised I am a bit at risk considering my age. Lekin abhi risk nahin lenge to kabhi lenge? (If we don’t take a risk now, then when?),” said the 63-year-old actress. “Shooting this was fantastic as it got me out of the house and onto the streets. This is Mumbai, with all its grit and glory.”
Advani’s Apartment, starring Richa Chadha, Sumeet Vyas and Ishwak Singh, explores the impact of lockdown on mental health. “One of the fallouts of lockdown was the increase in domestic violence and depression. The idea of this short film was what would happen if your life was completely shattered, but you were stuck in your house,” said Advani.
On the casting of his film, he shared that he needed a solid actor like Chadha who could pull off the solo scenes and thought of Vyas as he needed to cast someone against type, someone you would never suspect of such gross indiscretions. As for Singh, Advani said, “I loved him in Paatal Lok and he is the lead in another show we are making. I needed an actor who would not be intimidated playing opposite Richa.”
Tannishtha described getting back on set during the pandemic “unnerving and scary”. After over five months, she unpaused for the three days that she went on set for the shoot. “COVID tests, sanitisation, PPE kits etc were the new reality and everyone was adapting,” said the actress who went behind the camera, to direct Rat-A-Tat the story of two women of different ages who, confronted with loneliness, find hope through an unexpected friendship. Though they come from completely different schools of acting, Chatterjee felt that actors Rinku Rajguru (Sairat) and Lillette Dubey brought “bindaas, positive energy”.”
Kher too unpaused for the shoot of Glitch, heading straight from her family home in Nasik to the set in Madh Island. “We were in the unlocking phase and I was so excited with everything on set.”
If Advani, Mehra, Chatterjee and Raj and DK have located their stories in the urban middle class, Arun has used the backdrop of class divide, Mumbai’s aspirational high rise buildings and the darker side of the lockdown to explore intangible human cost.
“I took an old idea I had about a couple that works on a construction site and adapted it to the pandemic,” said Arun, adding, “I have the security of my own home and the privilege of staying put during lockdown. But I wanted to explore the chaos on migrant workers and daily wage workers who were confronted with the trauma of lockdown, without warning.”
In Vishaanu, Abhishek Banerjee and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan play a couple that, along with their young son, is trying to find its way back home. “We were all motivated by the opportunity to tell this story via a platform with this reach,” said Arun who is looking forward to seeing the other four films in the anthology. “Each filmmaker has a different perspective, different tastes, philosophy and aesthetic,” he said.
All the talent spoken to for this feature were looking forward to seeing all the other shorts that combine in this thematised anthology that looks forward to new beginnings. Advani said, “I am looking forward to Raj & DK’s film, which is an interesting futuristic dystopian idea as well as Tannishtha and Nitya’s. I have been a big fan of Avinash Arun’s since Killa. His film is deep and thought-provoking.”
Shardul Bharadwaj’s top choice is also Arun’s film. “Also because Shubham, the the writer of Vishaanu, wrote my earlier film Eeb Allay Ooo!.” His co-star Shah picked Glitch for Devaiah’s casting. “He is the most entertaining and unusual actor,” she said. Chatterjee added, “Each film has a distinctive language. I love Raj and DK, Nitya, and Nikkhil’s work. I am a huge fan of Avinash. I admire all these filmmakers and am looking forward to seeing what got each one unpaused.”
(All images from YouTube)
Unpaused is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Watch the trailer here –
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