'The story chose me': Ranjan Chandel on making the web series Grahan
The recently released web series, Grahan, starring Zoya Hussain and seasoned actor Pavan Malhotra, is earning a phenomenal response. Inspired by the novel Chaurasi by Satya Vyas, the eight-part Hotstar Special series features a love story set in the backdrop of the 1984 riots and is being hailed as director Ranjan Chandel's best work so far.
UP-born Ranjan, who also made the award-winning film Jaan Jigar (2018), takes us through the making of the series and why he feels that it was the story that chose him and not the other way around. Excerpts:
Q: How has the response been to Grahan?
The response has been overwhelming, to say the least. Everybody, whether from the industry or outside, friends or acquaintances have sent messages of appreciation for Grahan. It is very motivating.
Q: It’s a very strong story set in a volatile backdrop...
The film is inspired by the novel Chaurasi which had originally inspired me to turn it into a film but somehow, it was just not happening. However, a few months later, my producer told me that he has got the rights to a novel and to my surprise, it turned out to be Chaurasi! So, it’s the story that chose me; what I was seeking was seeking me too. And that’s an incredible feeling.
Q: How long did it take for you to write and shoot it?
It took one year to make the series. We shot it between October to December 2020.
Q: How easy or difficult was the casting process?
The characters are very distinctive and I wanted to work with actors who are close to these characters in real life. And, therefore it took me a lot of time to cast for Manu and Rishi (played by Wamiqa Gabbi and Anshuman Pushkar, respectively). Anshuman comes from Bihar and he knows that dialect and the same is true for Wamiqa who is from Punjab.
When we were writing Amrita, the first and only choice was Zoya Hussain. We had worked together in Mukkabaaz (2017) so I was aware of the kind of actor she is and the energy she brings. She is a subtle actor. And, Pavan Malhotra was an obvious choice for the role of Gursewak Singh.
Q: How challenging was it to adapt a story from a book?
The writing was a challenging process here. We took out fifty per cent of the book and developed the remaining half. The novel is very beautiful, and I was aware that I will have to justify the book while translating it into a screenplay. This is a love story but there is a socio-political atmosphere at the periphery that we had to deal with sensitively.