Tahir Raj Bhasin with Shweta Tripathi and Anchal Singh in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein'
Tahir Raj Bhasin with Shweta Tripathi and Anchal Singh in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein' Image Credit: Instagram/AnchalSingh

In most love stories in the world of Hindi-language films and web series, it’s often a man doing all the chasing and convincing his chosen one to put a ring on it.

But actor Tahir Raj Bhasin claims his latest show on Netflix ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’ turns that tired trope on its head.

The aggressor in this eight-episode series — named after Shah Rukh Khan’s iconic song ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen’ from his career-defining thriller ‘Baazigar’ in which he plays a master manipulator and a girlfriend killer — is a wicked and wily woman. She wants her man and won’t apologise for her desires despite his emphatic objections.

“It’s an interesting take on love and love triangles. Normally, in a love triangle you see a man who’s passionately in love with a woman. But when you flip the tables and see it from a female gaze, it can get incredibly interesting,” said Bhasin in a Zoom video call with Gulf News.

This gender-swap narrative with a hapless man finding himself as the sole object desire of a wealthy and well-connected woman, played ably by Anchal Singh, has received mixed reviews.

Tahir Raj Bhasin and Anchal Singh in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein' Image Credit: Netflix

Here are a few key takeaways we gleaned from the principal cast, which also includes Shweta Tripathi Sharma and Anchal Singh, about their latest web show streaming on Netflix now:

Love is complicated and gloriously messy:

‘Yeh Khaali Khaali Aankhein’ revolves around Purva (Singh), who is from a prominent and politically well-connected family. She harbours an obsessive love for Vikrant (Bhasin). They were classmates as young kids and she begins to hold the proverbial torch for him as a kid, but it was always a one-way street with her. Her infatuation grows into a desperate need for his attention and adoration when she meets Vikrant again as a 20-something-year-old woman. She’s all grown-up but her obstinacy at acquiring what she wants unleashes a torrent of life-altering events in their life. What gets her goat is that she knows somewhere in her subconscious that Vikrant doesn’t reciprocate her love, finds her attention annoying, and feels trapped.

Tahir Raj Bhasin as Vikrant in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein' Image Credit: Netflix

“Purva is thoroughly charmed and enamoured by this guy since childhood … All she wants and desires is that he should be with her and be a part of her life under all circumstances … But it appears complicated because you see in the series from Vikrant’s point of view alone and therefore the audience is likely to view things from his view point. It all plays out from his perspective. Having said that I am not rationalising what she does in the series,” pointed out Singh. In the series, Singh isn’t always likeable and makes Kabir Singh (the toxic male hero played by Shahid Kapoor in the titular blockbuster) look relatively tame.

Anchal Singh in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein' Image Credit: Netflix

“I just want to be with the man of my dreams and I wasn’t deliberately trying to destroy lives in my defence,” said Singh about her character. Little did she know that she would have a reluctant sweetheart/groom who would rather jump off a bridge (which he truly does in the series) than race her to the altar, she claimed.

To make matters worse, her sweetheart’s sweetheart entering the picture in the form of a doe-like pretty young thing Shikha is a complication that she didn’t factor in when she went all aggressive on her chosen man.

Shweta Tripathi Sharma in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein' Image Credit: Netflix

From the word go, it’s clear that her character isn’t always reasonable and can be a manipulative sociopath. She’s enabled by her powerful family filled with trigger-happy politicians who will go to insane lengths to guarantee her happiness. She’s like a spoilt brat who has a set of indulgent parents who are willing to kill for her joy. Even though the film is set in a small-town and is teeming with corrupt politicians who kill and maim their opponents, they are never reduced to a caricature, claims the male lead Bhasin.

“‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’ is set in a fictional town, but is representative of the microcosm of a small town in India,” said Bhasin.

Every love triangle worth its salt needs a lovable and vanilla third wheel:

The twist comes in the form of Shikha (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), who’s the object of Vikrant’s desire, love and fascination. She has that typical girl-next-door appeal, unlike her adversary in love and actor Anchal Singh’s character who comes across as aggressive and adamant.

“Emotions like love are the same across the world. But what’s interesting about ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’ is how our story unfolds … Sometimes, I feel I need to thank Purva for bringing some mirch masala [spice] to her simple and sweet life … But jokes aside, she brings in a lot of commotion and emotions ... We are forced to make tough choices and it isn’t easy for her,” said Sharma during the Zoom video call.

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Shweta Tripathi Sharma as Shikha in 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein' Image Credit: Netflix

You might know Sharma from popular projects such as the hit gangster drama ‘Mirzapur’ and the stirring film ‘Masaan’.

For this actress, the thought of playing someone sweet and simple made the series compelling.

“I am very happy that I am playing someone like Shikha because I have never played a part like this before. All my other roles were layered, complex … and it took a toll on me. If I had to associate Shikha to an animal, I would think of her as a deer,” said Tripathi Sharma.

‘Deer’ is a great analogy for her character. When compared to Singh’s powerful and diabolical role, Tripathi Sharma seems to have less agency. Her role is also relatively leaner in screen time than others. But that isn’t a deal breaker for an actress like her who views her projects as a collaborative exercise. While she would have loved to play the iconic role of Guddu in ‘Mirzapur’ played by Ali Fazal or Purva’s character in ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’, she’s secure in her space.

“The length of the character or how many scenes my character has does not make me insecure and it doesn’t bother me at all … What we do is like making a dish and if the salt or masala [spices] becomes too much, the dish is ruined. I came on board to play Shikha hoping that I would be able to do justice to the character that I was approached for,” said Tripathi Sharma.

A love story that’s complete with a hero, but an emasculated one at that …

Vikrant isn’t a quintessential Bollywood hero who’s hyper-masculine, claimed actor Tahir Raj Bhasin. In this romantic thriller that does a gender flip on its narrative, Bhasin does not have it all figured out.

“What was interesting about playing him was that Vikrant wants a simple life. He comes from a small town and his biggest dream is to settle down in a town of his choice with the girl of his dreams, get a dream job, and have a pet dog together … But none of that works out because a very powerful man’s daughter is passionately and obsessively in love with him. So it’s exhausting,” said Bhasin. The series is also a searing portrait of how wealth, influence, and class divides can make the world go round.

Tahir Raj Bhasin in 'Yeh Khaali Khaali Aankhein' Image Credit: Netflix

“The woman who’s so attracted to him represents the power that back her … If she doesn’t get what she wants, things get complicated. Here I am, a simple guy who wants to simply go with the flow but he is force to bow down to power structures. The question is how does he react when pushed against a wall? … He finds his life being constantly controlled and he’s forced to fight back.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein’ is streaming on Netflix now.