OTT runs on character-driven stories: Rohan Sippy

In ‘Aranyak’, three different things are happening and three different people are doing those things, without realising who else is involved, says Sippy

Rohan Sippy
Rohan Sippy

Garima Sadhwani

Rohan Sippy, who recently co-wrote and produced the Netflix show Aranyak, strongly believes that OTT runs on character-driven stories. “You have to have characters that people would want to invest 6-7 hours in,” says Sippy.

And so, when Charudutt Acharya and Sippy sat down to write Aranyak, they started with developing characters first, and prepared the skeleton of the show around it. Says Sippy, “Charu came across a woman while he was in Himachal with his family. That woman later became the basis of Kasturi’s [the protagonist] character.”

What the duo wanted to do was juxtapose the beautiful landscape of the hills, with the dark underbelly of a heinous crime. Sippy says that no one ever thinks something so grave [the show revolves around a murder and rape case] would be happening in a beautiful tourist spot, and that was the idea they set out to explore. But they didn’t want to make a conventional whodunnit. So, the question arose on how to go about it.

The producer says, “We liked the idea of a crazy crime thriller. You think that it’s one crime, but three different things are happening and three different people are doing those things, without realising who else is involved.”

But Sippy confesses that writing the show was no piece of cake. They wrote and rewrote the plot some 5-6 times, because Sippy wanted to make sure that the audience is engaged in the plot and characters from the first episode itself.

Sippy graciously credits his co-writer Acharya for perfectly balancing all the layers their show was depending on, the personal drama in Kasturi and Angad’s lives, the crime and investigation, and the supernatural element of the Nar-Tendua (half man-half leopard). He admits, however, that the supernatural theme wasn’t prominent in the draft and developed later.

Though Aranyak shows politicians who are corrupt, misusing their powers, blackmailing others, and violating the law, Sippy is quick to dismiss any rumours saying that it is only fiction. He says, “Politicians occupy more power than any common man, and therefore make for interesting characters. That’s it. I’ve seen comments on social media that appreciated that we didn’t go into politics so much.”

But that aside, he believes that Aranyak provided social commentary without explicitly preaching it. Giving an example, he says that while throughout the show, the characters are emphasising on the importance of good education, in the end, it is proved that being a good student doesn’t necessarily make you a good human.

Another interesting thing, he adds, is how the show portrays gender reversal through the characters of Kasturi and her husband, Hari. Kasturi becomes the son that her father-in-law always wanted, but that Hari could never be.

OTT has given a new life to genres, stars, and stories alike, believes the writer and director. “It’s been such a blast working with talented actors these past few years, and giving them parts that do justice to their talents. To top it off, we got to work with Raveena Tandon, who we first worked with 30 years ago,” says he.

Sippy is now going into the production of another season of Criminal Justice and working on a few film scripts and shows. He also hopes to experiment with a crime comedy in the future.

As of now, Sippy shares that Aranyak Season 2 is also in the works. But the only thing he can say right now is that Kasturi, Angad, and the jungle as a character will play a huge role in the next season as well.

Sippy smiles, “The beauty of cliffhangers is that even we don’t know if Angad’s character is going to die or not.”

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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