Abhay Deol, Rajshri Deshpande, Prashant Nair Unbox Netflix India Hit ‘Trial by Fire’ (EXCLUSIVE)

The Netflix series “Trial by Fire”, which began airing on January 13, has become a hit for the service, appearing in the top 10 in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Based on the book of the same name by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, the series details the 25-year fight for justice of the couple whose daughter and son were among the 59 people killed in a negligent fire at Delhi’s Uphaar cinema. in June. . 13, 1997.

In 2018, the book was acquired by Sidharth Jain’s book-to-screen company, The Story Ink, who quickly landed an offer for the rights to the Krishnamoorthys. However, after meeting the Krishnamoorthys in person, Jain had a change of heart.

“I realized that this is not an ordinary story. I can’t treat this like any other book-to-screen deal. The story needed to be told with responsibility and sensitivity. So after much contemplation, I called off the deal and decided to develop and produce it myself. I connected with the Krishnamoorthys on a very emotional level and they blindly trusted me. He couldn’t let them down or just give away the rights for commercial gain. This had to come from the heart,” Jain said. Variety.

Jain spent a year figuring out how the issue should be handled and came to the conclusion that he needed an international style of treatment that was restrained, sensitive, and not overly dramatic. At the time, Prashant Nair, director of the Sundance-winning “Umrika” and Tribeca-winning “Tryst With Destiny,” had just finished directing episodes of the Amazon Prime Video series “Made in Heaven.”

Nair was moved by the Krishnamoorthys book, but did not immediately see a series there. However, he was drawn to the subject matter and took on the project as executive producer and lead director. “The incredible resilience and strength of the Krishnamoorthys, after such an unimaginable and devastating loss to be able to stand up and fight for over 25 years for justice against a system that is designed to wear you down, I felt if all of us could find even a fraction of that strength and determination, the world would be a different place. Furthermore, public safety and the judicial system are the basic pillars of any functioning society and this story sheds light on the urgency of reform in both areas,” said Nair. Variety.

Simultaneously, The Story Ink and Endemol Shine India were putting together a project slate to co-produce and the latter tackled the project. And we pitched it to Monika Shergill, who had recently joined Netflix India as Head of Content at the time and it was an instant yes from her.

For Nair and his co-creator Kevin Luperchio, developing a structure was tricky as the case is ongoing, spanning 25 years, there were no twists and turns, and the main antagonist was inertia and gridlock in the Indian judicial system. Some 50 million cases are pending today. Knowing that the conclusion was going to be that the Krishnamoorthys were still fighting, the structure was built around that with time jumps and multiple perspectives. The book was supplemented by various meetings with the Krishnamoorthys, investigations, interviews, court documents, government reports, and the incorporation of the stories of all the other lives that were affected by the incident.

Seasoned leads notable for globally acclaimed performances were cast. Rajshri Deshpande, known for “Sexy Durga”, “Mantle”, “Angry Indian Goddesses” and “Sacred Games”, plays Neelam Krishnamoorthy. Abhay Deol, whose eclectic career includes starring roles in “Hey Lucky! Lucky Oye!”, “Dev.D”, “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” and “Shanghai”, plays Shekhar Krishnamoorthy. Nair was clear that he did not want his actors to wear prosthetics or imitate the Krishnamoorthys, so he did not meet with the real-life characters before filming.

Rajshri Deshpande, Abhay Deol – “Trial by Fire”

Deol related to the dynamic between the pair with Neelam being vocal and passionate and Shekhar being calm and seemingly calm and collected. “I had to find the tragedy of losing her. She had to find the sense of alienation he felt. And I got to play the dynamic that he shares with his wife,” Deol said. Variety.

Deshpande added: “I went through a journey of really believing that this is what is happening to me and feeling that pain that this is what really happened with my family. And this is how my processes always work, I take it so internally because even the silences should have your monologues inside, the silences should speak.

Both actors gained some weight for their roles. “It was necessary for Neelam, and that’s how you show that physically she’s changing, but her courage is still there and it’s affecting her body, it’s also affecting her health, but her spirit is there. Deshpande said.

The fire, around which the series revolves, is hinted at throughout, but is examined in depth only in the last episode.

“The decision to show the fire was one of the most difficult. We didn’t want to exploit it and we were very hesitant, but ultimately we felt that building towards it at the end and having the audience relive it after having heard all the various perspectives on what happened that day would be the most effective way. to make them connect with the indignation felt by the relatives of the victims. And then juxtaposing that with those final images of the Krishnamoorthys still fighting after all these years would provide not just an intellectual but an emotional connection to the importance of their fight,” Nair said.

Apart from audience acceptance, “Trial by Fire” is also one of the best reviewed shows on Netflix India, led by a praise from Variety. For the team, especially Deol and Deshpande, the validation of the Krishnamoorthys was the most important thing. “I wanted his validation more than anyone else’s,” Deol said.

Nair added: “After the show ended, we shared it with them and that was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. At first they couldn’t see it, they had to turn it off after 15 minutes. But, after several weeks, they finally saw everything because they are incredibly strong people and they knew that people would be talking about it. His endorsement of the series means more than anything else.”

“Prashant Nair’s unique filmmaking style is inspiring and honest, and the incredible performances by our talented ensemble have created a truly captivating series. The response from critics and audiences alike has been phenomenal,” said Monika Shergill, Vice President of Content at Netflix India. Variety. “Our goal was to create a series that recognized the injustices suffered by the families of the victims of the Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy and we are pleased that the exceptional portrayal of solidarity, resilience and strength has resonated with our audience in India.”

“Trial by Fire” is still the #1 show on Netflix in India.

(L-R) Sidharth Jain, Neelam Krishnamoorthy, Rajshri Deshpande, Shakhar Krishnamoorthy, Abhay Deol, Prashant Nair

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