Hankaar – Tapping the grey areas of everyday life
Gone are the days when movies were only screened in cinema halls or series were made exclusively for TV channels. The current talk of the town is the Digital platform. Recently various short films starring well-known actors and shot by renowned directors were released online and got an amazing response. The web series Hankaar, that raised eyebrows by claiming to be the first Indian web-series to be fully crowdfunded. By crossing their target of raising an extra lakh is one such example. Hankaar’s director Ravi Iyer and Producer Yogi Chopra share everything about this web thriller.
How did the whole idea behind Hankaar originate?
Ravi – Yogi (Chopra) who has produced the series got in touch with me about the idea of Hankaar. And he asked me if I’d like to direct it. So it is a collaborative venture. Around five months back we decided to do something like this. We then contacted Wishberry and thought of going the crowdfunding way. We were approached by others who were interested in producing the web series but we knew that it wouldn’t have given us much freedom.
Yogi – I do watch a lot of series and was completely amazed with stories that talk about multiple characters and their journeys. Also my idea started with stories of five people but the premise was different – I started evolving the story once I had my characters which is a bit unusual. So characters drive me and my story. The final draft is very different from what I initially wrote.
Tell us about the story of Hankaar.
Ravi – Hankaar is India’s first thriller web series that is the story of five people who go through extraordinary circumstances, unaware that their lives are inter-connected. Hankaar in Gurmukhi means ahankaar in Hindi. So there are these five characters that are brought together by circumstances and one particular person who brings them together. All this is part of the first season and we may move on to a second or third season as well. There is one story which deals with Mumbai’s underworld and another that deals with the red light areas of Mumbai.
Why did you choose thriller as a genre as opposed to drama or comedy web series that are doing the rounds and gaining recognition?
Yogi – I believe that a story is a story which can be told as a film, series or even a short film. As a producer and writer I want to say this story and no one can stop us. So genre is not our concern. Our aim is to be honest to our art of storytelling.
And when you have a great team like Talkaholics Productions and Pocket Films and actors who vouch for you, the energies flow.
Were you confident about the crowdfunding process? What are the factors that made it a success as it is not only the first Indian web series to be fully crowd funded but has also raised an extra amount.
Ravi – When we started doing the crowdfunding process, I was out on a holiday and when I came back I found that the money collected was around 80 thousand rupees, which was very less. It was quite challenging. But once we understood how to approach people, we personally started calling our friends and sent the promo to a lot of people. When they started seeing the promo, they became so supportive that we had to eventually tell some friends that they were putting in much more than expected. A lot of people supported us because Yogi and I were involved it. Crowdfunding majorly happens because of your goodwill. It won’t work otherwise. And we were overwhelmed by the support. The point of crowdfunding is not only the money – we have 154 supporters and these 154 supporters have supported an idea, which means that they are the ones who are already accepting it. They are going to spread news about the series, so these people are much larger than a producer.
And now I’m pretty confident that people will support you if you have a good idea. It is all about what you are capable of doing. Even after collecting nine lakhs, there were people who wanted to contribute but we had to tell them to wait, perhaps for season two.
Was the casting process easy? How did you zero in on various actors who are part of it?
Ravi – We have a brilliant cast comprising Sanjay Bhatia, Rajesh Balwani, Ram Menon, Sharda Nand Singh, Yogini Chouk, Jay Singh Rajput, Ankur Vikal, Aman Grewal, Ramesh Nair, Priyadarshini Pulikonda. Some of the actors come from a theatre background as well. Each of the characters in the series was defined and after we did that we started looked for them through our friends. Sanjay Bhatia works for a theatre group and has a group of actors whom he recommended. In fact we have re-written some of the characters as per the cast as well. Yogini Chouk was one of the finds in the whole process. Sanjay recommended her to me and when she came for the audition, we knew at first glance itself that she could play the role beautifully. When you see Yogini, you’ll actually believe that she is caught in such a situation. We shot one small scene in the red light area, which was a very indie kind of shoot.
Yogi – Casting is a very complicated process. You cannot follow any one process. In our case I had identified few actors and was even imagining them while writing. And we were lucky that they agreed to work with us. Though we write many characters while creating the story, often there are good actors who can help you tweak the character based on their personal personality and this takes the character to a different level.
What kind of challenges did you face while shooting Hankaar?
Ravi – The location, treatment and lighting have been the most challenging because that is what sets the difference. We cannot take the script for granted; it has to be surprising at every level. It should be believable yet people should wonder how it all happened. But the situations have to be believable. For Hankaar, we have three different collaborators – Yogi who has brought in the main story, me who as a director is going to question it at every level and the third one is the editor Anshul who has his own inputs. Also our cast has been brilliant and have brought so much to the table.
It seems that your experiences at the 48-hour project have helped a lot. Please elaborate.
Ravi – Definitely. We went around a serious location recce before shooting the promo and looked for places which were dark. Even the way we have shot the film is very different. I have shot on the streets of Mumbai very regularly and our DOP Charudatt Rane is someone who has done similar work with me earlier. We do lot of this run and done shooting. Also, we haven’t used too much of light and there is a grey tone that you can see. These things are done purposely with a vision to create a certain look that not many people have tried earlier. Had it been for a cinema hall, the demands would have been totally different.
There is a scene in the series where a drug peddler is selling drugs outside a police station and I have seen that happening. There was a time when underworld and cops were totally different but today there is a grey area where anybody is capable of doing anything. And that is where Hankaar’s whole story touches upon. The grey areas are about characters and those characters can be anybody. For instance Yogini is fighting against a bad world that she wants to come out of. These are the kind of struggles of individuals – how they go about it and how circumstances change them is what we’re trying to show. It’s about real situations and what do people do in them. If you read Hussain Zaidi’s ‘Byculla to Bangkok’ or ‘Dongri to Dubai’; that is the kind of feel you get out of it. These are the books and people that inspire us. In today’s age the gangster is different, he could be just a normal looking guy. Those are the things that we’ll touch upon.
What stage is the project at right now? When can we hope to see it?
Ravi – The promo was shot over three days. When we shot the promo we were clear about who would play which role as the back story was ready. The promo is more like a back story and the episodes will be an extension of the promo. It may not be completely like the promo but the promo captures the feel of it. The episodes will be more tight and pacy. As of now we don’t know about the length of each episode, it could be ten or twenty minutes. But we don’t want to be bound by duration. The advantage is that we can experiment as much as we want. As long as it holds the audience, the duration doesn’t matter.
Yogi – We are at a pre-production stage and in the midst of finalizing our script and plan to shoot three episodes sometime in December with the money we raised through crowdfunding. As soon as we crack a deal with the channel (platform) we will start shooting for 10 episodes probably in January.
-With Inputs from Nandini Bhatia