Bambai Bloodline: In conversation with  the team of 'Bambai Meri Jaan'

In the Shujaat Saudagar-directed 'Bambai Meri Jaan', which will stream on Prime Video on September 14, the city will get other mythologies that will replace earlier underworld sagas.
'Bambai Meri Jaan'.
'Bambai Meri Jaan'.

Playing gangster is an offer most Indian actors nowadays do not refuse. This is because Gangsta films have become an archetype Origin Myth in the story-telling about Mumbai—of not just how a man turns good from bad, or how good begets evil, but also of a city whose shiny exterior as India’s financial capital obscures the hardscrabble lives lived in its slums, its streets. In the Shujaat Saudagar-directed Bambai Meri Jaan, which will stream on Prime Video on September 14, the city will get other mythologies that will replace earlier underworld sagas. From the Bombay of dock worker-to-smuggler Vijay in Deewar; to the Bambai of Dadar Kadri, all are engaged in the oldest struggles known to man—of a son coming of age by rebelling against his father and his attempt to make a new world by burning down the old one. Kay Kay Menon, Avinash Tiwary, Kritika Kamra, and Amyra Dastur play lead roles in this 10-part web series. Excerpts of TMS’ conversation with the team of Bambai Meri Jaan:
What were your cues for playing Dadar Kadri?

Avinash Tiwary: Shujaat gave me the script and he said it will answer all your questions. At its core, the series has to be understood as a father-son relationship; a case of a man versus another man with different ideologies and how that affects their world. Dadar is a man with certain dreams and desires and how he works these out can be seen by how he responds to his family and they to him.

There seems to be a problem of plenty when it comes to gangsters in films or on OTT. You’ve just played Chandan Mahato in Khakee: The Bihar Chapter, what did you do to try to play Dadar differently?

Avinash Tiwary: From the outside, you see a certain character on screen and you respond to him as a cop, or as a gangster or a lawyer. An actor does not look at the profession, he looks at the human being. It is the human being that the actor has to bring to life. Mahato was a different character. I have relied on my imagination, my craft and my skill to portray Dadar. Both showcase two different types of gangsters.

Most gangster films open with a cry that there is a ‘new King of Bombay’ or ‘Mumbai meri hai’, but what does the protagonist really feel about the city? It’s ultimately about who controls the city isn’t it?

Shujaat Saudagar: I’ve shown a post-independence India, a city that is coming to terms with its good, the bad and the ugly. The series also builds the ‘character’ of the city and that of the Kadri family. So while on a micro-level it is about the trials and tribulations of this family, the parallel track is that it is about the city as well. This is my ode to the city, I’ve seen it as a vault of growing ambitions for itself and its people. The film is set in the ’60s and ’70s. The family portrayed belongs to a certain socio-economic strata, these are not people of the DC/Marvel-verse. They are poor. Local thugs are inspirational, they look up to people who they see can afford luxury in some form, though their means to get it may be suspect.

Bambai is a frontier like Tokyo or New York. Here, dreams can come true and the rewards are big. The narrative is built around a character who has ambitions. Dadar wants to feel part of Bambai, yet the city also makes him feel insecure. Whether he wants to rule it or not, it cannot be explained simply. It’s not about sitting on a throne and people bowing before you. It’s about identity, which produces strong feelings.

What is the sister-brother dynamic in Bambai…?

Kritika Kamra: Habiba is the family’s only daughter. I play her as a confident, resourceful woman with her own share of struggles. In Habiba’s eyes, Dadar is the provider and she is on his side. He too seeks her opinion, she provides him with strategic insights on his way to the kind of power he wants. It’s a series that covers three decades, She has her journey and her own ambitions but she is pretty much an enabler where her brother is concerned.

How did you choose your cast?

Shujaat Saudagar: I had only one criterion—I needed fantastic actors. I wanted those who would have a towering presence on screen. I was not looking for a specific look, other than they should look like they belong to the same family, usually, they look like the neighbour’s children. For Dadar, I needed a streamlined face, a slightly longish face so that the father and the son look authentically like family. Or, people should be able to believe that they belong to the same family.

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The New Indian Express