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Randeep Jha’s Craft in ‘Trial By Fire’ and ‘Kohrra

For someone originally from Bihar, who spent several years in Delhi training under theatre teacher Barry John, it was not a big deal to work on a web series in Punjabi…reports Asian Lite News

In ‘Trial By Fire’, he stunned his audiences with a spectacle of honesty and purity that can inspire an inner silence.

In ‘Kohrra’, the pace, the silences and the unsaid conveyed more than words and movements. In both, thoughts were conveyed through a delicate vengeance.

Even as filmmaker Randeep Jha, who directed the web series ‘Kohrra’ and co-directed ‘Trial By Fire’, is all set to work on a big-budget film being made by a major studio, which he insists is an interesting space that he has not touched in terms of craft, he admits that while ‘Trial By Fire’ was critically acclaimed, but it was ‘Kohrra’ that stunned everyone and precipitated several major names in the film industry to call him and show interest in working with him.

For someone originally from Bihar, who spent several years in Delhi training under theatre teacher Barry John, it was not a big deal to work on a web series in Punjabi.

“Punjab and Punjabis are an intrinsic part of Delhi. Almost every day, you encounter someone from there. You are bound to get very familiar with their sensibilities if you live in the national capital. I have always been interested in reading about current affairs, and the many contrasts of Punjab have forever fascinated me,” he tells IANS at the recently concluded CineVesture International Film Festival (CIFF) held in Chandigarh.

Even as he gives credit to the writers of ‘Kohrra’ — Gunjit Chopra and Sudip Sharma, Diggi Sisodia, Jha maintains that he wanted to experiment with craft and sensibilities… not following a linear pattern, not getting into the trap of cliches Punjabis are portrayed as in Bollywood.

“I will be honest — for me, it was a theatre set. I brought in my training as a theatre person and executed the project. It went seamlessly as most of the actors were from a theatre background. For every scene, there was a certain ‘setting’ I had in mind — how the actors will react, how they will move.”

While ‘Trial By Fire’ was verbose, he wanted silence in ‘Kohrra’ to talk.

Admitting that it was a risk he took, Jha says he has always believed in the intelligence of the audiences.

“There are times when pauses and quiet convey way more than what is spoken, especially in wounded societies that have witnessed dark times,” says the director of the critically acclaimed films ‘Halahal’ (2020) and ‘Kartaa’ (2018). But did he imagine that ‘Kohrra’ would invite much critical acclaim and a huge audience?

Jha smiles, “Not at all, we just went with the flow. The writers had been working on it for two years, but the moment I read the script, I knew the potential was huge. I was working on ‘Trial By Fire’ when I read the story. At the first given window, I just went ahead, and everything started falling into place. For me, it was important to pay attention to the pace of the show. The ‘fog’ deserved a semicolon, and I was willing to take that risk. I could do it because it was a web series and not a film. In many ways, this show has proven that being slick is no guarantee for success. Slow burn brings out more meanings and metaphors. Not just in urban areas, those in rural Punjab, who are fed on commercial Punjabi films also enjoyed the show, thanks to the honesty of the language and the various facets of the Punjabi society we managed to convey.”

Crediting the show’s success to the offers he has been getting from major studios, Jha feels that most producers are impressed by the range he demonstrated in ‘Trial by Fire’ and ‘Kohrra’.

“Many producers confessed that it was hard for them to believe that the same person had directed those two shows. Yes, they both have been instrumental in catalysing my career.”

The director, who has worked extensively with Anurag Kashyap (‘Ugly’, ‘Mukkabaaz’, ‘Raman Raghav’) and Dibakar Banerjee (‘Shanghai’), stresses that he learnt a lot from both of them.

“Anurag has this unique ability to solve problems immediately. He will improvise, and not make a fuss. His quick decision-making ability would surprise everyone on the set. Dibakar is brilliant when it comes to planning. Everything is crystal clear in his mind,” he recalls.

Crediting OTT platforms for giving a chance to directors like him to tell stories the way they want to, Jha says not just him but many other young directors have benefitted immensely from digital platforms.

“OTTs have allowed writers and directors to be honest to the craft and themselves, without the stress of box office.”

“And I have always believed that whenever you tell stories from the soil, they resonate with people. In the past few years, so many young directors have made a name for themselves by telling different stories differently, all thanks to digital platforms,” he stresses.

And now that he is a name to reckon with, Jha just hopes for one thing, “I pray that I keep encountering new stories and do not hold back from telling them the way I want to,” he concludes.

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