Bollywood actress Sonkashi Sinha, who made her acting debut with Salman Khan in the 2010 blockbuster ‘Dabangg’, is poised for her career’s first web series with an eight-part crime drama ‘Dahaad’, releasing on May 12.
Premiering on Amazon Prime Video, and directed and co-produced by Reema Kagti along with Ruchika Oberoi, Sinha plays the central role of a cop, Anjali Bhaati, who’s tasked with an investigation about a series of mysterious deaths of young women in her small-town.
At first, those deaths are written off as suicides, but Sinha’s character is determined to prove that a sinister serial killer is behind those gruesome murders. The series also features compelling talents including Vijay Varma, Gulshan Deviah and Sohum Shah — all actors who have made it this far in the entertainment industry through merit alone.
“‘Dahaad’ is the beginning of great things and new things … Reema and Zoya [Akhtar, creator of this series] came at such a right time in my life. I was really waiting for a role like this to sink my teeth into,” said Sinha in an interview over zoom with Gulf News.
The wait has paid off. ‘Dahaad’ was received warmly at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.
In a separate interview, actor Varma of ‘She’ fame, called it a career-defining moment in his life.
“I have seen two episodes at the Berlinale this year. It’s very prestigious moment because it’s the first series to ever play at the Berlin International Film Festival. We saw a positive response in Germany and we are confident that this series will connect with the audience,” said Varma. As the trailers indicate, Varma plays a benign-looking serial killer, who’s as slippery and elusive as they come.
“Serial killers are often incredible at lying and deceiving, hiding and lurking in the darkness. I observed the minds of psychopaths to understand better about my role,” said Varma. He devoured English-language crime procedurals series such as the Southern gothic ‘True Detective’ and classics like ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ to get a grip of his devious role.
“Now with ‘Dahaad’, we have our homegrown serial killer right here,” exclaimed Varma in a mock-menacing tone.
Sinha and Varma admit that they were navigating an unfamiliar terrain with this project. Shot and set in Rajasthan, they had to learn the local dialect for this Western adventure-feel series. It’s also the first time that the daughter of actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha and former actress Poonam Sinha was playing an underdog cop.
To my utter surprise, I heard ‘seetiyan’ and ‘taaliyan’ [whistles and claps] in Berlin. Sinha had a triumphant moment when she appeared in the scenes. It was a Bombay Galaxy-theatre response in Berlin. Everyone at the festival connected to the story of ‘Dahaad’ completely at the fest
So what was the brief given to her by her directors Kagti and Oberoi? Often, there’s a tendency for actresses to play cop roles in a hyper masculine way. But Sinha appeases us saying that she doesn’t fall into that familiar trap.
“My brief was not play the role in a masculine or a feminine way. Play it straight … But I have seen many police officers who are usually hardened because of their experiences at work and the kind of people, environment they work in. And that hardened nature can be mistaken for masculinity … Sometimes, their job requires them to be stern and tough to be taken seriously,” said Sinha. In her case, stepping into the khaki police uniform made her feel instantly empowered and bold.
“That uniform just brings such a sense of authority and power. That doesn’t come on with anything else,” she adds.
She also reminds us about a sobering statistic about female officers in Indian police force that she heard from retired top ranking Indian police official Dr Meeran Chadha Borwarka, a special guest at the trailer launch of ‘Dahaad’.
“This extraordinary police officer, whose accomplishments are many, was saying that only about 11 per cent of the force is women – which is still a very small number. So these women are not at all masculine, they are just hardened by their job,” said Sinha. Interestingly, this series doesn’t suffer from the same issue of women being a minority. Created by some of Bollywood’s top talent Zoya Akhtar (‘Gully Boy’, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, and ‘Luck By Chance’) and the talented Kagti (‘Talaash: Answer Lies Within’ and ‘Gold’), this series is backed by a string of female trailblazers in Bollywood. Kagti along with Ruchika Oberoi are the two directors behind the eight-episode series.
“As female directors, both Kagti and Ruchika, bring a different sensitivity to the way they approach subjects. This is the second time I have worked with a female director, the first being ‘Khandaani Shafakhana’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. A female director’s perspective is very different,” said Sinha. According to this actress, their singular focus is to come up with something creatively beautiful.
So was she nervous about her web series debut?
“I have been feeling the same excitement that I felt when my first film was releasing. I am doing something new and it’s just on the brink of release. Right now, I am just glad I am making my debut with a series led by makers like Tiger Baby and Excel,” said Sinha. She signed the series back in 2019 just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the globe.
“We started shooting in 2020 … I was instantly floored by my role and I badly wanted to play this character! It has been three years in the making,” said Sinha. As this journalist jokingly points out that actors like Shahid Kapoor faced the same predicament, Sinha cheekily responds: “I was the first actor to sign a web series … But in all seriousness, art is supposed to evoke some emotions.”
Interestingly, Sinha who has joined hands with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for his epic period web series ‘Heeramandi’, about queenly courtesans, doesn’t care much for reviews.
“I actually stopped reading reviews a while back … Initially, my films were big in terms of blockbusters, but the reviews of it were always bad. So I just stopped reading that. I just want people to enjoy my work. I want to move forward with that belief … My blockbusters got the worst reviews, so I was very confused. Am I supposed to enjoy the blockbuster part of my films or feel bad about the reviews? So now I just don't read them,” said Sinha.
Her reliable co-star Varma has to make peace with a contrasting predicament.
“Recently, there was a roast of me and someone described me as a supporting actor. But I want to believe that I am an actor who gets that extra star in any review. I am that star,” said Varma with a laugh.
Don’t Miss It!
‘Dahaad’ is out on Amazon Prime Video on May 12