Actor Anshumaan Pushkar, who was most recently seen in the web series 'Grahan', spoke at length about his experience working for the show and how the entire controversy before its release affected him.
Last month, the trailer of 'Grahan' offended some members of the Sikh community. The show is based on the incidents of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. However, some people demanded a ban on the show, saying that a Sikh character has been portrayed in an objectionable manner in the show. They also alleged that the web series rubs salt on the wounds of the Sikh community.
Technically, Anshumaan, who is just three series old, told the Free Press Journal that the makers had some kind of idea that the trailer might spark controversy as the series is based on a sensitive topic.
"People are sensitive about such issues on religion. We knew that this is a controversial subject but we were also clear about the message we wanted to put out through 'Grahan'. The message which the series conveys is beautiful and those who have watched it are loving it. No one is shown in a bad light and the makers were extra cautious while filming it because they didn't want to show something that would hurt the sentiments of the audience."
He said that he, along with the others actors and director of 'Grahan', was sad to see people reacting to the trailer and forming an opinion without watching the full show. He avers that the audience should first watch and then decide.
"It was definitely upsetting to see the reactions of some people before the series was released. Since I am new to all this, I was a bit scared. We were expecting that the audience should at least first watch the full show and then jump to conclusions. We also didn't want the controversy to overshadow the powerful message that we wanted to convey. Many people also said that we were doing negative publicity so that people watch the show, however, this is so untrue. At that time, many people just reacted by listening to what others were saying. There are a few scenes, I agree, in the show which can bring back the harsh memories of the people who survived the riots but overall, the final message is something that will win the hearts of the audiences," Anshumaan said.
The actor also talked about the threats and attacking messages he along with the makers of the show received on social media. "More than me, other actors including Wamiqa and director Ranjan Chandel received threatening messages, unfortunately. However, the same people apologised to us post the release of the show. The series was completed in December 2020 and was supposed to come out in March 2021. However. the makers decided to not release it that time and work on it just to ensure that it doesn't show anything which can hurt people. We are grateful that the people are liking the show. Those who sent us abusive messages then apologised and praised the series. They texted saying that they were wrong and misunderstood a lot of things," the actor said.
The series depicts two simultaneous but connected stories set in two different eras. It is inspired by Satya Vyas’ popular novel 'Chaurasi'. It also stars Pavan Malhotra, Zoya Hussain, Wamiqa Gabbi, Teekam Joshi and Sahidur Rahman.
When asked what challenges he faced while shooting since the show is based in the 1980s, Anshumaan stated, "Those who had read the novel were familiar with the character Rishi Ranjan. So to be the face of the character which is familiar to the audience is a challenge. Also, in today's time, it is difficult to find a character like Rishi and hence it was tough to grab the innocence of the character. We also had to detach ourselves from the present times and go back to the '80s era when in front of the camera. To sustain that was a bit challenging but our entire team managed pretty well. It was a great experience living the life of Rishi Ranjan."
"The experience was amazing. I had read half of the book sometime back and during the pandemic, I got a call to be a part of the series. I asked for a few days' time to complete the book. It is written beautifully and on top of it I got a chance to work with such an amazing director. The entire cast has been very supportive and it was fun working with all of them. We actually started feeling that we are living in the '80s era," he added.
Anshumaan, who has appeared in 'Kathmandu Connection' and 'Jamtara' before 'Grahan', mentioned during the interview that he's been getting works only for the last one-and-a-half yaar now. He added that he has worked with three directors so far and all of them have taught him different things.
"I believe that there's no limit to learning new things and one can learn anything from anyone and at any time. I am always curious to learn new things because that's what the audiences want. They want to see what new you have in store for them. I consider myself a director's actor first. So to justify the thoughts of the director has always been important for me. 'Grahan' is different from the stories I have earlier worked on. It is about emotions. It is not just a story but it depicts a dark phase in the history of our country. So the series has helped me to understand emotions. Since the show also revolves around the love story of Rishi and Manu (played by Wamiqa), it also taught me how deep love can be and how serious and sincere one can be towards it," Anshumaan said.
Talking about his journey in the industry so far, Anshumaan said, "I started from scratch after completing MBA in Mumbai. I did theatre and there was a time a few years back when I even thought of quitting. I even did a part-time business that failed. However, I didn't lose hope and kept trying. 'Jab tak low nahi touch kiya tab high ka maza nahi rehta hai' is what I always believe. We learn from failure, not from success. I am grateful for the love I am receiving today. I have been through the time when I used to wait for months for work and now I am getting 5-6 calls every day for shows. So, 'Grahan' has helped me with this and I will forever be grateful for the show. It has become an integral part of my life."
The actor also believes that the kind of opportunities and exposure he got because of OTT platforms, he would not have got the same with films or television shows for the next few years.
Meanwhile, the actor will next be seen in 'Jamtara 2'. "I have two other web series in the pipeline and the production house will make the announcement soon. I am also in talks for a film but nothing is finalised yet," Anshumaan said.