Asur 2 director Oni Sen on being careful while dealing with mythology, ‘In our country, you need to be…’ [EXCLUSIVE]


Asur series has become a favourite. The mindboggling web series starring Arshad Warsi, Barun Sobti and others is as interesting as it can get as it perfectly mixes mythology and science to create an intriguing tale. While Asur 2 remains to rule the top trending OTT series chart, we got in touch with the director Oni Sen. He candidly spoke about the series, apprehensions, audiences’ reaction, casting and a lot more. So here are the excerpts from the interview.

Were you expecting a thunderous response to Asur 2 given that there was a long gap between two seasons?

Well, we were hoping we will. But we were apprehensive like all of us would be when season one works. And also season 2, the story, we had changed quite a bit, in the way the story is told. You know, it was a lot more complicated. The expanse of the narrative was a lot more. So we were slightly apprehensive. But when the responses started coming in, I think we were all very happy that all the hard work sort of paid off.

What drove you to pick Asur?

Well, when Asur season 1 was conceived and written by Gaurav Shukla, he had sort of thought of this and written out a whole bunch of episodes and that’s when he had reached out to me. And when I read it, of course, I always knew him and I knew that he has a very, very crazy mind. He writes a lot of interesting, out of the box stuff. But when I was reading it, what really appealed to me is that there are three streams in the narrative, which is mythology, the forensic science, and the human characters and the human drama, they were so beautifully entwined together that you took one out and the other two will fall. So it was not really transposed on over the other. And I think that is what appealed to me the most. And when I had read it initially, my only thought was that, or rather challenge was that how do we make the human story believable? So that people can empathize and it appeals to them. Because events you always forget in stories, right? It’s a human story that you always remember. And that’s what we tried in Asur 2 as well. And the other two couple of small things are that, you know, when you look at mythology, is that there’s actually a lot of technology in it. You know, whether you look at flying chariots and whether you look at, you know, one arrow, which will break up into 2000 arrows and or mind control will happen. There’s actually a lot of hidden technology in it, which we take it for granted, which always seems like magic when you’re reading as a kid. But coming to look at it nowadays, they’re all becoming realities now. So,I think that’s what makes it very relevant in many ways.

How the characters in Asur 2 have developed from season one?

If you look at season one, it ends at a point where there is a small victory, but actually the loss is much deeper than the victory. So all the characters, whether it’s DJ, Nikhil, Naina, Nusrat, everybody is sort of in a void and in a void dealing with their own losses, own personal losses, right? Like DJ has lost his wife, lost his job. You know, he’s a complete mess. Nikhil, we think of it, you know, somebody who has to make a choice like that, you know, about his daughter and he looses his daughter and his, you know, there’s an extreme relationship with his wife. And Naina, of course, you know, a devastated mother and same with Nusrat in many ways. So I think what we wanted season two to be is to start with that void where everybody is spiraling in their own little hole. And from there, each of them rise in different ways, whether it’s DJ in a monastery, whether it’s Nikhil who’s dealing with his depression, whether it’s Naina who’s on another mission. Like they say that, you know, in an animal or a human being, never mess with a cub. You know, your mother’s anger is something you cannot deal with. So all the characters, we actually started with that resonance of season one. And then slowly they move to the new journey and their own way. And that’s one of the reasons why in season two, we deliberately tried to make every character sort of venture into their own little dark side in their head in more ways than one. So that was the intent.

How did Arshad Warsi’s casting took place?

Arshad Warsi and Barun Sobti were two characters who were, I mean, two actors who were already sort of locked, sort of locked into the project. I’ve been a huge fan of Arshad’s. I mean we’ve all seen him in so many films. And Barun, of course, I didn’t know much about his work because I haven’t watched a lot of his work before this. But when I spoke to them, they were both amazing and very, very receptive because I had a very clear vision of where I wanted these two characters to go. And, you know, how they would like for Arshad, there is a sense of darkness and a brooding man. So everything is very measured. He never loses it except for once in a while. On the other hand, Nikhil as a character, which is Barun’s character, has an immense amount of nervous energy. So, you know, he thinks faster than he talks kind of thing. And so they were both extremely receptive and worked very hard to get the mannerisms right. And Arshad, that way, I guess it’s the way our industry is in many ways that we tend to compartmentalize people. But he’s like a chameleon. He can change shape and color and mannerism any time. And it’s scary how amazing they both are.

Were you worried and extra careful whilst dealing with a subject that also dwells in mythology?

Careful, Definitely. I think, especially in our country, when you deal with anything to do with mythology, you need to be careful and respectful. And I think that’s only fair. And we were extremely careful about making sure that we are not misquoting anything. We are not hurting anybody anywhere, any sentiments. And everything that we put there was researched and correct. Because you see, the difference between mythology and documented history, there is a limit to which you can say that this is mythology, this is correct. And you can’t refute it. Unlike documented history. But we made sure in many ways, whatever was put in, it was all validated in different sources and it was all correct. And if you look at it, it’s very simple. The fact that a person who believes that he is like an incarnation of Kali, who is the dark side. Now, if you take the word Kali out of it, I’m sure a lot of human beings in this world believe that, you know, they believe in the dark side. And that’s why people do things which are not so nice, I guess. So, I think that bit, because it was so rooted in human behavior and the human mind, I think that’s what worked with the mythology thing.

 In a tete-a-tete with BollywoodLife, Asur 2 director Oni Sen spoke at length about the web series, its casting, apprehensions and more. 

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