Marathi film director Sujay Dahake is foraying into the digital space with a dramatic web series Sex, Drugs and Theatre. The 10-episode Marathi series, created by Sujay, is currently streaming on Zee5. Dubbed in Bengali, Tamil and Telugu, the series stars Parvin Tarde, Sunil Barve, Adish Vaidya, Mitali Mayekar, Suyash Zunjuke and Sujay himself.
The director says that he has no background in theatre but he still chose to work on the subject. “Since I don’t come from a theatre background, I have always been curious about the field. Ninety per cent of those working in the Marathi film industry come from theatre background and I can see the difference between cinema-trained and theatre-trained actors,” says Sujay who always had the curiosity to see the world of theatre up close and from a cinematic point of view. In the past, he has watched plays put up by his friends and he has really enjoyed the experience. “I think there is a lot of drama to play with,” he adds.
The web series narrates the journey of six college students from Pune who are made to work on a prestigious drama competition that changes their lives. The series highlights how sex and drugs are an integral part of experimental theatre groups in Pune, which is quite a bold statement to make. But Sujay maintains that because of his friends in theatre, he got to see their life up close. “How does the director always find the lead actress as his girlfriend or how does someone who is capable of playing the lead role does not get to be the protagonist? I have seen their inter-personal relationships,” he adds.
But there is another layer to the story — can theatre be used to bring about a revolution? “If we want to have an anarchy, can theatre be a part of it? So it’s also a political story,” says Sujay. The title will attract the youth although the series is extremely serious.
The subject of the web series is universal, however, Sujay tried to give it a regional touch. “While writing the story, I did not make any conscious effort to make it universal but we, humans, are the same everywhere so if someone sitting far away can relate to that emotion, then it’s universal. Having said that, the effort was to make it more regional because the more regional it gets, the more personal it will be for the viewers,” he adds.
Sujay, who has directed films like Saala, Ajooba and Phuntroo, says that creating a web series is a high pressure job. “While making a film, we shoot two scenes a day and we can thoroughly explore those scenes from every angle and the characters as well, but it’s not so in web series,” he says. “Right now, budget constraints of making a web series allow us to shoot six to seven scenes a day, on an average. That hampers creativity and makes you focus on the mechanical job of shooting a scene,” he adds.
Writing a web series is also tough. “That’s because all the screenplay laws change, your plot points, shock effects are different,” he quips.
Most filmmakers are turning towards web because of the creative liberty it allows. The makers do not have to deal with censorship on violence, sex, dialogues etc. One might feel that a lot of time web series include violence, sex and foul language just to draw the attention of viewers without giving any real content. “I understand what you are trying to say and it’s true,” says the director, explaining, “Currently, we are in the initial stage, so let it grow further. The whole world is cashing in on it because we cannot watch it in a public forum so they want to see it here. I have no moral issues. If it’s required, then no harm going ahead. A couple of years later, it might be normal,” he says.
In a country like India, it’s good to have a platform where one can watch content related to sex or violence. “That’s because there is so much suppression about sexuality. We do not have the liberty to watch porn sites in our private space. That’s why Indian production houses like AltBalaji have taken up such content in a big way. Whoever does it in the right way will make a lot of money,” he explains.
Sujay, who is making his web debut, believes that the medium is a threat to television. “Once I get used to the format, I will continue watching it. If I am getting to watch an entire series in 10 episodes, why would I watch a 500-episode series?” he concludes.