His poignantly emotional political drama Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare Season 2 with the talented Zakir Khan has won hearts and two of his other recent directorial ventures, The Chargesheet: Innocent or Guilty? and The Verdict – State VS Nanavati, have also got great reviews. Meet the affable Shashant Shah, the man who is acing OTT content, one series at a time. Excerpts from a freewheeling chat:
Tell us something about your Amazon Prime release Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare Season 2?
I am so happy that I was called to direct Season 2 of Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare and I would like to thank Zakir Khan, Rasika Tyagi and Aliya for this great opportunity. We read the scripts and I realised that after doing three thriller web series back-to-back – this was a dramedy so would be a welcome change. But the expectations of a Zakir show is huge as his fanbase pan India is vast. So, I told my team that’s lets present this series in a way, which looks big, popular but at the same time, simple...Because that’s the essence of Zakir bhai’s world – It is quirky yet grounded.
What were the challenges you faced while shooting this show?
We faced the biggest challenge of Covid-19 as the shoot was stalled in March 2020. But then by the end of last year, following proper Covid protocols, we shot the remaining scenes. We finished well in time with a much smaller unit.
How has the journey been so far?
Honestly, I’ve never sat back and thought about my journey because I don’t think I have the time. I just move on to my next story. But I must add here that an important part of my journey have been Vinay Pathak and Arshad Syed – both I met at Channel V. I have worked with Vinay in so many films. Arshad is the writer of my films Dasvidaniya, Chalo Dilli, Great Indian Comedy Show, Sumit Sambhal Lega, my Neeraj Pandey film and most of my work. My journey would have been incomplete without them.
You also made The Verdict – State VS Nanavati...
I met Subhash Kapoor sir, who told me that they want me to direct The Verdict, which was based on the infamous Nanavati Case. My first reaction was that the film Rustom has already been made on the same. Subhashji told me to read the script (10 episodes) and then decide. I didn’t put the script down until the fourth episode! I knew this would make me challenge myself as a filmmaker because my earlier films were all about a slice of life. So, I jumped at the opportunity.
At any point, were you scared that comparisons would be made between Rustom and The Verdict?
I will tell you something very frankly – I have never been scared once I make a decision. When Dasvidaniya released, everybody compared it to The Bucket List! But trust me, I never feared the comparison and you know what, Dasvidaniya still remains in the list of IMDb top 250 films. I have learned and I believe that a filmmaker should be fearless.
Zee5 has also made Jamai 2.0 which has been directed by you. Could you tell us about this show?
The producers of Jamai (Ashwini Yardi) called me 20 days before the shoot as the designated director had left. I made Jamai the way it was written because I thought let me have fun. My DOP- Madhu Vannier told me, ‘Let’s do our best to make it look like a film’. In fact, after watching the trailer, Rohit Shetty Sir sent a message to Ravi Dubey (main lead of Jamai 2.0) saying that when he saw the teaser-trailer of Jamai 2.0 – he thought it was a film. The entire pre-production happened in 20 days where we all worked for 15 to 18 hours.
Tell us about The Chargesheet: Innocent or Guilty?
I got a call from Sir Ashoke Pandit’s office and over there, Priyanka Ghatak narrated the story of The Chargesheet to me – I humbly interrupted the narration and told her the rest of the story with anecdotes. They all got excited as I had worked on the same story for almost two years and my wife Aarati had researched and written enough material around it!
What’s next for you?
I just completed a film for Neeraj Pandey. Now it’s in the post-production stage. Also, about future projects; whatever beautiful, exciting and challenging comes across, I’ll do that. There is a plan you make and then there are plans that are already made for you, so I go with the flow!