Sushmita Sen’s web show Taali was released last week, August 15, on Jio Cinema and has recorded huge viewership. Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to creators and producers of Taali, Arjun Singgh Baran and Kartk D Nishandar of GSEAMS, about the response and a lot more.
EXCLUSIVE: Krutika Deo, who played the eight-year-old version of Sushmita Sen’s character in Taali, is a 27-year-old married woman in real life; Creators Arjun Singgh Baran and Kartk D Nishandar share details
What kind of feedback have you got for Taali?
The feedback has been very encouraging from people. We are non-stop getting feedback. Every time, we open our Instagram handles, we realize that we have got at least 5-6 messages from the aam junta, raving about the show.
Who from the industry reached out?
Shilpa Shetty, Divyanka Tripathi, Shakti Mohan etc praised Taali. Just before this interview, we got a call from Avadhoot Gupte, the famous music composer. Then Suparn Verma and Aamir Ali reached out. Pooja Chopra sent us a very sweet message.
In an interview with The Telegraph, both of you mentioned that you had approached other actors along with Sushmita Sen…
Honestly, we did approach a few other actors. She was, nevertheless, always up for it ever since she read the story. We were also clear that we don’t want to cast a male actor. Until now, male actors, who have played transgender, have been shown as grungy, over-the-top and extra-temperamental, be it Akshay Kumar in Laxmii (2020) or Paresh Rawal in Tamanna (1997) or Sadashiv Amrapurkar in Sadak (1991).
When Sushmita read the story, she agreed to do it. But she wanted time to absorb the central idea. She also asked us to share the screenplay and dialogues which we did. This made us sure that she’ll definitely agree to do it. The day she showed interest, we stopped talking to all the other actors. Knowing Sushmita, she takes our own sweet time to say a yes. She also had some valid inputs. She asked us a question that when her character Ganesh turns into Gauri after the operation, how will we show her wearing a bra? We added this scene in the show.
Today, you don’t feel you are seeing Sushmita Sen. You feel like you are actually seeing Gauri Sawant. That is the feedback I’ve gotten from many viewers.
An important cast besides Sushmita Sen is Krutika Deo, who plays the young Ganesh. Honestly, I felt that a male child actor had played the part…
You won’t believe it; her real age is 27! She is a married woman (laughs)! No one knows this. You needed a brilliant actor to pull it off as it’s such a sensitive part. During the casting process, we decided to look at actors from the Marathi industry. This is when Krutika Deo’s name cropped up. We knew her age was 27. But when we saw her pictures and when she did the look test, we realized she’s apt. She went and cut her hair. For a woman to chop off her hair for a role is a big thing. She got into the skin of her character totally. Hats off to her for taking up the challenging role and then transforming and how.
Taali, however, has received a mixed response from critics. Was that expected?
In today’s times, everyone has an opinion, as it’s a social media age. And people should have the right to have an opinion. Yes, we have had mixed reviews but it’s in the ratio of 80:20. If 80% of people are saying it’s extremely good, 20% of the viewers are finding it disappointing. We have a population of 140 crore people, out of which 80 crore of them are on Jio Cinema! Obviously, we can’t make all the 80 crore people happy. We take their critical response with a lot of respect.
Even before the show, we got criticism from a section of people that why we didn’t cast a trans actor for the lead. If we had done that, only 10,000 people would have seen it and moreover, they would have treated it like a documentary. Today, crores of people have seen it. It’s the no 2 show after Made In Heaven Season 2 within 3 days of release. This is possible as we cast an actor and a Miss Universe with global appeal. They need to appreciate that someone like her, who is so polished and posed, learned the leheza. She wore the crotch guard, which cricketers wear so that she can walk like a man. She even bandaged her chest.
Making a biopic is tricky, more so in India. Did you guys cut off certain episodes of her life to avoid issues? For instance, the character of Guru (Chetan Shinde) seemed interesting but didn’t get much screen time…
A lot of things were inspired by her life. A lot of things were possible with the help of a proper legal support system. For example, we took a NOC from Gauri’s sister. In today’s times, attempting a biopic means giving people an opportunity to point fingers at you like ‘Aapne humko galat dikhaya’. This happens more in India. Internationally, people are okay with these factors. There, you can criticize the President and it’ll be alright! Hence, we took the NOCs. Some of them refused to sign the NOC document and hence, they weren’t shown in the show at all. Hats off to her legal team of 3 people. They went and chased people for NOCs and other things. We also took NOC from the person who is shown as Naveen in the show.
An important part of the show is that Gauri Sawant never meets her father, at least until the Supreme Court judgment. The question playing in my mind ever since I saw Taali was whether both met later in life?
No. She couldn’t meet him. Her father passed away a few years ago.
Taali is somewhere in the zone of Alia Bhatt’s Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022). It was also about a person who faces challenges and becomes a messiah of sorts for her people. Did this film play in your mind, and did you guys ensure that Taali doesn’t look like it?
Absolutely it was. We went on floors on September 23, 2022. Gangubai Kathiawadi had already been released by then and it had done extremely well. However, it was cinematic while ours was a web show. Moreover, Gangubai Kathiawadi was shot on a set and our show wasn’t. We shot in real-life locations. Shreegauri Sawant used to stay in Malvani and in the present day, it doesn’t look like the way it used to. So, we shot in a similar kind of place in Naigaon. We even filmed in Budhwar Peth, a prostitute lane in Pune. Hence, we were clear we wanted it to be different visually from Gangubai Kathiawadi because the comparison is inevitable as both are fighting for their community. Story-wise, we anyway knew that their plot was very different.
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