Exclusive: Rajeev Khandelwal and Aahana Kumra talk about their latest web-series, Marzi
VOOT SELECT’S ORIGINAL web series, Marzi, revolves around a first date that goes horribly wrong. While the woman accuses the man of rape, the man asserts that it was consensual sex. In their attempt to prove themselves right, Marzi’s ‘he versus she’ narrative (similar to those in Section 375 and Guilty on Netflix) makes it a gripping tale that you will end up binge-watching. Bringing this tale to the fore are actors Rajeev Khandelwal (playing Dr Anurag Saraswat) and Aahana Kumra (playing Sameera Chauhan), offering compelling performances, making you second-guess their motives constantly, thereby keeping you hooked till the very end. In a chat with Indulge, the duo opened up about their roles, preparation and what’s in store for the audience. Excerpts from the interaction:
Q: What brought you on board for Marzi?
Rajeev: When I read the script, I missed a beat. I was travelling when they told me about the series. I told them, ‘Conceptually, I am in but I want to read all the episodes’. They sent me a gist for each episode, and I remember reading them at night when I would reach the hotel and had access to WiFi. By the time I reached Mumbai, I was super excited to meet the production house. I thought to myself that this is going to be a game-changer in many ways.
Aahana: When I read the script, I remember thinking, this is a great conversation! It is an interesting show and is filled with suspense. It features a man and a woman and delves into the dynamics between the two. Both of us are single, and we meet because my sister (in the series) is trying to set us up. When we finally go on a date, things go wrong at night. The next morning, my character wakes up and says that she is raped, while the man says, ‘No, she has not been raped. It was consentual mutual sex’. Now, who is lying? What happens in a room between a man and a woman is a very personal thing. Who would you believe? I think it is a very interesting conversation and a very interesting show.
Q: Rajeev, you have always worked on interesting projects, be it Aamir, Shaitan and Table No 21. What makes you think that Marzi is a game-changer?
They all have been very interesting projects. But when I say ‘game-changer’, I mean that there is so much content coming out every day across so many platforms, and yet we like so few of them. I believe this one is going to attract people with the conversation that it will spark. This is the kind of content that I would want to be a part of in the digital space.
Q: Take us through your preparation for the web-series?
Rajeev: Since it was very different from what I have done, the role wasn’t easy for me. We took part in a lot of workshops, and that’s also the only way I can prepare for a role, since I am not a method actor. Although I am playing a doctor, it is not so much about the profession, as it is about the relationship between a man and a woman, so there wasn’t much that I could borrow from anywhere. Our director, Anil Senior is also very, very good at his job. He kept me away from seeing things from my limited perspective, and kept asking me for more. There were times when we would have disagreements over how a particular scene should be enacted. I would ask him to shoot two takes — featuring both our versions of the scene — and then take a call at the edit desk. We have done two takes for many scenes (laughs).
Aahana: When I read it on paper, I knew this was going to be a very emotionally draining and that was what happened. We had scene after scene where I was crying, there were times when my eyes would get swollen because of constant crying — while my character tried to prove herself and nobody believed her. I would listen to a lot of sad, instrumental music, which would take me back to a place in my childhood, a space where I didn’t want to be and did not want to tread on once again.
Q: Aahana, you also called this your toughest role so far. Why?
What happened was that somewhere, I was getting stereotyped. Everybody would give me ‘strong women characters’. We have to understand that even strong women have weak moments. While we can be as strong as possible, situations can really break us. At that point, when there is nobody around you to hold your hand through it, it can be really difficult. These situations get the best of us. I think that’s what happened to me during the show.
On the set, everybody is usually having a good time, but there were so many moments that weren’t pleasant for my character, and for them, I had to be in that unpleasant space. I would watch a lot of unpleasant content to be in that zone. I watched a lot of war films, documentaries on Syria, even ISIS videos — content that made me uncomfortable and made me question humanity.
Q: How did you feel when it got over?
Aahana: I remember saying, ‘Oh my god, it is over!’ But it felt like a vacuum from the very next day. I had to be pleasant and I didn’t know how to go about it. Thankfully, there was a friend’s wedding immediately afterwards, and it helped me get back into my normal life. However, I lived with that character for a very long period.
Q: Rajeev, why do we see you so rarely? Are you very choosy about your work?
I am not choosy. It is just that my life is not only devoted to the work that you see on a screen, and that’s probably why people think that — since I do only one project in six months or a year — I am choosy. They don’t know that I am not paying attention to work for the remaining six months. I take a break. I pursue hobbies like travelling, doing a lot of small things in my personal life and growing as an individual. I always wanted to be at that position where I can do everything that I want to do in life, and that is not limited to work. It is also about my other dreams. Thankfully, since day one, I made one thing clear — I will not confuse myself with how people perceive me. I will always be true to the way I look at myself.
Q: Tell us, what’s next?
Aahana: I am doing a Netflix Original webseries titled Betaal. It is India’s first zombie show and I am playing a CRPF official in it. Then, there is an action film titled Khuda Haafiz, where I play an Arabic agent who wears a hijab. We shot it in Uzbekistan.