There is a thread of humanity and empathy: Hansal Mehta on adapting real stories for screen


Hansal Mehta
Image Source : INSTAGRAM/HANSALMEHTA

There is a thread of humanity and empathy: Hansal Mehta 

Director Hansal Mehta loves telling real-life stories on the screen and he says “Scam 1992”, about the rise and fall of stock broker Harshad Mehta, gave him another chance to explore the human psyche in a holistic manner.

Mehta has successfully adapted stories of real people in his films “Shahid”, “Aligarh”, “Omerta” and web-series “Bose Dead/Alive” in the past.

“There is a thread of humanity and empathy.

I try to look at my characters with utmost empathy, not just central parts but everyone else.
Many people are victims of the circumstances or their own mistakes or flaws but they are still human beings.

“Flaws are part of human nature and I try to treat human nature in a holistic manner with empathy that shows in the way my characters emerge ultimately,” he told PTI in an interview.

The national award-winning director said the test for him is whether the character or the event that he is dealing with, resonates with him in some way or not.

Citing the example of his recently released 10-episode series, which chronicles the life and times of stockbroker Harshad Mehta, the director said, coming from a middle-class family he could relate to his subject’s emotions.

“…Like in Harshad Mehta, it was his aspirations that I could relate to.
I grew up with similar aspirations.
I wanted to achieve something in life, wanted to be known, have a prosperous life.
People who I grew up with too had similar aspirations.”
The SonyLIV show, which is based on Debashis Basu and Sucheta Dalal’s book, “The Scam: Who Won, Who Lost, Who Got Away”, has been garnering positive reviews.

The director had read the book many years ago and was keen to adapt it into a film but he said it wasn’t possible back in early 2000 as no one was willing to invest in this story.

Mehta has always been fascinated with the world of business dramas, made in Hollywood like “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “The Big Shot”, “A Margin Call” and corporate series such as “Billions”.

In November 2017, when Sameer Nair of Applause Entertainment asked him to make show based on Basu and Dalal’s book, Mehta grabbed the opportunity.

“It has been quite a journey.
It has taken three years for us since the time we started writing to releasing it.
I feel happy,” he said.

The book, Mehta said, had many technical details, which made it challenging for writers Sumit Purohit and Saurabh Dey to flesh out an engaging screenplay.

“It is a combination of research and skilful screen writing.
The idea was to engage larger audience and tell the story in the most sensible way and not dumb it down.

“What has worked well is that it respects the intelligence of audience, while engaging and entertaining them, we often don’t do that.
We think them as dumb,” Mehta said.

It was a real joy for the director to go back in time and re-imagine the city in the ‘90s.

“We have managed to recreate the era without making it look artificial.
So, there are no constructed sets, everything is in actual location, it was a treat to bring out the feeling of 90s.”
Pratik Gandhi, who is popular in Gujarati films, plays Harshad Mehta in the series.
The director said having seen the actor’s past work, it was an instinctive choice to cast him in the titular role.

He credits his producers for trusting his choice instead of asking for a big star in the role.

Mehta said more than the physical resemblance, he was looking for an actor who was good at internalizing the character.

“Physically, he (Pratik) doesn’t look like Harshad Mehta at all.
But he has internalized the character so much that he makes you believe that Harshad Mehta must have been like this.

“I had liked him in Gujarati film ‘Wrong Side Raju’.
Besides, I wanted to use a Gujarati actor as a lead actor but somebody who could… Pratik is a Gujarati, he also carries Hindi with a lot of ease.
Pratik has done us proud.
When you take a risk, you gamble and if you see it succeeding, it is a big vindication.”

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