Life Navrangi speaks loud about waste management and gender empowerment
The show features TV actor Krishna Mukherjee and Aamir Ali of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki fame
BBC Media Action’s latest drama series Life Navrangi was conceptualised to create awareness about faecal sludge management, but addresses several other social issues of grave importance as well. Featuring Aamir Ali and Krishna Mukherjee in lead roles, the series contains seven episodes and is a follow up series of 26 episode television drama Navrangi Re!. Supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Life Navrangi sees Aamir don the character of Vishwas, while Krishna has stepped in as an aspiring YouTuber Saloni who goes by the screen name #SimplySaloni. In a turn of events, Vishwas and Saloni end up launching their own YouTube channel from Bhopal, which addresses societal issues faced by common people around. Helmed by Debatma Mandal, the show also touched base with women empowerment as it portrays women of different ages, and social strata deal with issues single handedly. The show also includes Tiku Talsania, Swaroopa Ghosh and actors from Bhopal with a rich theatre and performing arts tradition. We caught up with Aamir, Krishna and Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor of BBC Media Action for a candid chat on Life Navrangi.
What is Vishwas and Saloni representative of?
Radharani: Vishwas and Saloni are both very representative of today’s India. They are ambitious like most of the younger generation today and their aspirations are of a higher order. Inspite of the success Viswash has had or the early success that Saloni is facing as an YouTuber, they still decide to do something that is more meaningful. They are like many of today’s people who want to live life on their own terms, without losing out on their ideals, without making compromises.
Krishna: Saloni is someone who wants to do something with her life and refuses to give in to family pressure. She is a YouTuber who goes by the name of #SimplySaloni and meets Vishwas after running away from home. They pick up on something unique from there. I want to specially thank Aamir because, owing to my television background, my acting initially for Life Navrangi was a little stereotypical. Aamir’s continuous guidance helped me tone down a lot, and fit into the shoes of Saloni. The difference was evident when I saw the episodes.
Radharani: Vishwas and Saloni actually come up on many issues in the show, which are faced by people daily. They expose issues like a real estate scam that in turn threatens their channel, but they don’t get bogged down. They encounter problems on different levels as they have to behave as a married couple in the eyes of the society personally as well, which again addresses the social mindset even in today’s time.
Digital media is a recurrent theme in Life Navrangi, and the show also took a digital route in real life for this season. Is entertainment media and consumption evolving?
Radharani: India will always be a country that has many different types of screens. There’s a type of screen for each type of entertainment you seek. People will continue to go to the halls for movies, and then they will watch television to unwind at the end of the day. Equally, smartphones as it is getting momentum post-pandemic as an entertainment medium will remain too. We at BBC Media Action looked at the media landscape very carefully ahead of Life Navrangi and then made decisions about where to put the content. We specifically chose YouTube this time to reach out to tier 1, tier 2 towns where YouTube consumption has exponentially grown in the past few years.
Aamir: I have acted on television and shifted to different platforms over the past 3-4 years. This is entirely because I want to explore my opportunities as an actor. Shifting from television to films has only been like climbing a higher mountain. But, at the end of the day quality matters and if some really interesting opportunity comes up for me on TV, I might be back there as well. I picked this because it has a cause involved, and it was an honour to be a part of a series by BBC Media Action that’s supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Television will always be there as long as cricket and soaps will be there.
What are some of the other issues you have explored through Life Navrangi?
Radharani: BBC art of storytelling is run by a few principles, first of which happens to be entertainment. We believe viewers will not come back to your show if you cannot engage and entertain them. Second, we ensure excellence and impact. So our shows balance carefully on a tightrope between entertainment and achieving impact. We have explored shades of gender empowerment through the show as well through different characters. There are very strong female characters, from different generations and social strata.
How was it shooting in Bhopal amidst the third wave?
Krishna: It was shocking to see nalas still in use, instead of septic tanks. I am glad to be a part of Life Navrangi as it spreads awareness against these grave issues we are still dealing with in 2022.
Radharani: Getting the production design right was difficult amidst all the restrictions. We worked with a very tight, small team in a concentrated manner within a very short span of time. I am quite proud about how things turned out even amidst so many impediments.
Aamir: Even amidst so many restrictions, it has been a learning experience to have worked with so many great actors. I remember we had to wrap up the shoot within 16-18 days, and it was quite difficult as Omicron had just started and people were falling sick all around. Nevertheless, on a lighter note I was awestruck by Bhopal food. It was amazing!
Radharani: At BBC Media Action, we wish to continue telling stories on civic issues. We really wish to work more on gender issues.
Aamir: I shot a couple of projects last year, and am expecting them to be released this year. It is going to be released on the OTT platform and was shot extensively in South Africa. It is helmed by Hansal Mehta and Jay Mehta.
Krishna: I am currently shooting for Dangal TV’s Shubh Shagun.