By Radhika Bhirani
New Delhi, Sep 9, From actor Ashutosh Rana’s moustached look to the sporty girl protagonist’s zeal, the similarities between a new TV offering, “Kaali – Ek Agni Pariksha”, and the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case that shocked the nation are hard to miss.
But writer Mrinal Jha says no specific case in the country has inspired the STAR Plus show, which attempts to highlight sexual harassment, especially against independent and bold girls. The channel in fact calls it “clutter breaking content”.
“We are very clear that it isn’t about it (the Ruchika molestation case)…that’s not the show at all. The basic idea was to depict the reality around us. There will be elements that you find in reality in a number of cases, but there’s no one case we have picked,” Jha told IANS.
Why then is the protagonist a young girl who wants to make it big as a badminton player?
Fourteen-year-old Ruchika was a budding tennis player in 1990 when she was molested by then Haryana Police chief S.P.S. Rathore in Chandigarh. She committed suicide three years after the incident.
“We were very sure about one thing since the beginning – what kind of a girl should the protagonist Rachna be. And one of the issues we wanted to tackle was that the moment a girl is a little outdoor kind and wears skirts, she is said to be ‘inviting trouble’. That was an issue we wanted to specifically tackle – therefore the character of a sports girl.
“There is a completely different logic to the show. If it is because our character Rachna is a sports girl that certain comparisons are being drawn, it is completely speculative. Just wait and watch, it is a completely different story,” assured Jha, who is among the best known writers for the small screen.
In fact, according to channel spokesperson Gaurav Banerjee, the character Rachna can be said to have been inspired by India’s badminton star Saina Nehwal.
“Like Saina, our character desires to go and win medals for the country and make it big. And it is about a powerful man who tries to create menace in the life of this kind of a girl and how she fights back,” said Banerjee.
Another similarity that hits the eye the moment one watches the trailer of the show is the curved moustache sported by actor Ashutosh for his role of Thakral – and the moustache of Rathore, who has been convicted for the crime and has been lodged in Burail jail in Chandigarh since May 25.
But the writer has her defence here too.
“When Ashutosh came in for a look test, he had his own moustache and the way he looks in the show is how he looked when he walked in. He looked so perfect for the role and his look was so in tune with his character that we decided to retain it.
“His character Thakral is the typical man from the north belt in India…they usually keep a thick moustache,” she added.
“Kaali-Ek Agnipariksha”, produced by Fox Star Studio India, will premiere Monday.
Gaurav Banerjee, the head of content and strategy at STAR Plus, says the show is a part of their new strategy “Rishta Wahi, Soch Nayi” and tries to depict how a girl shows the grit and determination to fight back sexual harassment nowadays.
“It was important for us as a channel to address social issues. Why should kitchen politics or love stories only be shown on the small screen. We have brought new protagonists to TV and Rachna is among one of them. She has professional dreams, doesn’t want to fall in love, is not involved in anything to do with saas-bahu.
“This is the kind of clutter breaking content we are now looking at.”
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)