Through the lens of director N Padmakumar the web show discusses issues of homophobia, sexual harassment at the workplace.
Mumbai: Even a man can get harassed. As seen in the trailer of Thinkistan Season 2 you will witness that Satyadeep Misra is the show-stealer. He has done a bold role as a homosexual man in the imaginary ad agency MTMC who becomes a predator of eve-teasing.
Through the lens of director N Padmakumar the web show discusses issues of homophobia, sexual harassment at the workplace. Satyadeep had made his Bollywood debut with No One Killed Jessica which was commendable. Now with MX Players web series he has given everyone a new dimension to binge watch due to his unique and charming character- Aashiq Jabeer.
Apart from the fact that the show gives us a dive into the Indian advertising scenario of the ’90s where there’s a rat race for story weaving, and the complicated professional and personal life the characters muddles with; it also highlights major social issues related to sexual identity, infidelity, mental illness as viewed and criticized in the society.
In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, Satyadeep opens about his character Aashiq who is surviving in a cutthroat advertising world. He is poetry in motion who fills in scenes with his charming, puppy eyes and poised presence. A man of few words here’s what the genius of MTMC tells about homosexuality, sexual harassment faced in the corporate world, and the real scenario of ad agencies.
The show looks heavily inspired by the American show Mad Men. Did you take any inspiration for playing the character of Aashiq from Mad Men?
The show is based on the ad world in India in the ’80s and the early ’90s. Apart from the fact that it is to do with the advertising world, it has absolutely nothing to do with Mad Men. It’s been created, written and directed by somebody who's spent close to 3 years of his life in the ad world. That’s Paddy (N Padmakumar) the director. The two shows do relate to the same sort of industry, but there’s absolutely no connection. In fact, I’ve seen Mad Men but I haven’t based my character on anyone from that show.
Do you think that in the competitive world of advertising you need to compromise on your principles, ethics for the TRP? Do you think that it applies to Bollywood as well?
You know your basic objective as someone in the world of advertising is to sell things to people that they don’t necessarily need. You need to make the thing that you’re selling more exciting to the other person. Due to this reason, I feel that advertising works on certain people. There’re some people who get influenced by it and there are certain people who don’t get influenced by it. It’s the same thing, draw parallels to the world of cinema. There will be people who’ll make cinema with the sole objective of making money, creating art, being true and some provide entertainment.
Everyone’s point of view, perspective and rationale are different. It is ultimately to do with the end-user. What’re you as an end-user willing to accept readily? I don’t think I’ll be able to sit through a lot of movies because they’re like timepass and entertainment and that’s not why I want to watch movies for. I can’t speak for the whole world but I can just speak for myself.
Leading men are playing homosexual characters. We’ve had Arjun Mathur in Made In Heaven. Do you think that homosexuality needs to be given major highlights in a social setup? Can the stigma related to homosexuality can be changed through your web series?
My character Aashiq is principle oriented and follows ethics and is a bit old school in that sense. The values that one is grown up with is different. You didn’t have to sign an agreement to feel bound to a certain situation. You give your word and that’s why it’s important.
Aashiq is a man of few words and is true to himself and that’s the sort of ‘gyan’ (knowledge) that he imparts to the young ones to join. This is a story set 20-25 years ago. It’s been watched by people today. There’ll be a lot of masses who will watch this show today in a world where being gay is quite common especially in like metropolitan cities etc where everyone will have gay, lesbian friends.
It is not a specific deal. The fact that this issue gained such proportion is because the story has been set 20 years ago and at that point, people did not come out so freely. But yes to an extent a show like this is watched by a lot of people on their phones, all over the country, rural and urban India.
I had somebody telling me,” I am not a homo but I loved your character’. You’re portraying a character which people like because of how it is written and not because of its sexual identity. If that is what that’s coming across then it’s great and is a part of the reason why a character like this is created.
Aashiq embraces homosexuality. Do you feel that Indian audiences yet look at it as a taboo?
I wouldn’t make a blanket comment but there are enough people who are comfortable with it. I live in a metropolitan city. There’s greater exposure in a commonplace like Bombay.
It is not the same when I was in school for instance. I think it’s a function of where you’ve grown up, what things you heard at home from your parents which has formed your opinion about something.
Every year you move a step further. You find that you look up to certain people from the public and then you realize oh this person is gay, so the next thought with the 3 assumptions that you create both begin to change. I think that’s what is the good thing about a character in a show like this is.
In a creative field, eve-teasing is very common. Does that somewhere diminish the confidence? How would you find the strength to survive?
I think and if I speak for Aashiq then he is a person who gets his strength of affirmation from the person that he is. The life experiences that he had with the things that he has read makes him feel that he knows the ways of the world. But yes I could like ship that around in the present day context and say this to a woman in an office, in a corporate environment.
The weight today is moving towards what is comfortable and who defines what is comfortable and what is a joke between friends and at what stage that you’ve taken that to far. The sort of #MeToo Movement is not gender specific. It could be man eve-teasing woman, woman eve-teasing man, and gay man or a lesbian getting eve teased.
You know when it moves from an area of comfort. If I were a gay man I could take the same words said from a friend and not getting affected by it, and the same words said by somebody else I could find it problematic.
There’s a hidden intent behind those words and I feel the sort of tone, feeling. Whether I am feeling those words as we are friends and we can say anything to each other or whether I’m saying it with the intention to prick you. It’s not just gay or homosexuality but sexuality in specific in a working environment.
Watch the trailer below:
Besides Satyadeep Misra, the stellar cast of Thinkistan Season 2 also includes Naveen Kasturia, Shravan Reddy, Mandira Bedi, Neil Bhoopalam, Kabir Bedi.