'Raat Baaki Hai': From stage play to thrilling film
Actors Anup Soni, Paoli Dam and Rahul Dev on what drew them to the crime thriller, streaming now.
If you’re in the mood for a dark thriller that revolves around love, deceit and revenge, all of which come into focus on a single night, look no further than ZEE5 original film Raat Baaki Hai, starring Anup Soni, Rahul Dev and Paoli Dam in central roles.
An adaptation of a popular play by Atul Satya Koushik, Ballygunge 1990, which also starred Soni, Raat Baaki Hai takes the narrative of the play that featured only two characters — estranged lovers Kartik and Vasuki who meet after a long gap of 12 years — and adds new elements as well as more characters, to turn it into a crime thriller.
Has the gamble paid off? Original star Anup Soni seems to think so. In a Zoom conversation with City Times, he calls his character Kartik’s transition to the small screen ‘very interesting’.
“When we were doing the play we never had a plan to convert it into a movie because we were completely focused on performing in front of a live audience. By the time the offer came to make Ballygunge 1990 into a film, we were already almost 15 shows down,” reveals the National School of Drama alumnus who apart from his varied film and television roles also made a mark as the host of reality-based crime show Crime Patrol.
“The credit goes to the ZEE5 team who thought Ballygunge 1990 could be made into a film. I was excited, because playing a character on stage in front of a live audience and then taking it to the screen was a different journey; we had changed the narrative of the script. (From the play to the film), there were a lot of additions.
“The play had only two characters throughout. From the beginning till the end there were only Kartik and Vasuki. Obviously we didn’t want to make the film with two characters, so Siddharth Mishra, our screenplay writer, added a lot of sub-tracks, layers, and new characters to the story. So it became a different script, but yet the plot was absolutely the same and the basics of my character were the same. My equation was only set with Vasuki in the play but here I had Dipannita Sharma’s character Vani, I had Rahul Dev’s character Ahlawat… So I think it was a different experience, working with this script.”
Actress Paoli Dam (Vasuki) calls her character who comes off as sinister and complex in the trailer, “a mystery which needs to be solved.”
What did she think of the script when she first heard it?
“The first thing I connected with was the name Ballygunge. Right now I am sitting talking to you from Ballygunge in Kolkata — I live here! So, I asked the director, are we shooting in Ballygunge? He said, no, we are going to Ranthambore. That was a relief for me because after four-five months of lockdown (due to Covid-19), I was going back to an outdoor shoot, going back to an actor’s life. Everything had become virtual. Reality had become virtual.”
Hence, she admits, Raat Baaki Hai was “a kind of breather.”
Conversations between Kartik and Vasuki form the crux of the play, which was then converted completely into an investigative crime thriller. Paoli says this “was a very interesting point and not easy to do. But everyone pulled it off.”
She also loved the name ‘Vasuki’ and how her character somehow exuded power and a sense of being in charge. “The way she talks — it’s very calm and she seems to control the space around her as well as the pace.” She refers to her character as “multi-dimensional” and hopes viewers are intrigued by the “many multi-dimensional and layered characters, the same way I was while reading the script.”
A new character that was added to the fray was that of Superintendent Ahlawat (Rahul Dev) who is tasked with investigating a murder amidst the reunion of Kartik and Vasuki.
Ahlawat’s tagline on social media is “the last cop you want to mess with” and former model Rahul — who has featured in OTT shows like The Test Case and Who’s Your Daddy? — jokes that those particular words weren’t his. “I would never put something like that about myself. But the character Ahlawat is written like that and is intimidating. They’ve written him as a blue-blooded superintendent in a small town in Rajasthan. A wrong thing has happened, and the cop who arrives at the scene of the crime is always intimidating, isn’t it?”
He describes the script as “a very quick read”.
“I finished it in one go — I didn’t want to leave it. It went in one quick flow, the writer’s done a fabulous job. Any crime thriller that keeps you engrossed and reading till the last page has the platform to be converted into a very good film.”
Anup was all praise for Paoli, Rahul and the rest of the cast. “Paoli and me were working for the very first time but of course I knew about her work. I’d seen her Bengali and Hindi films also. So I knew I’m in good company and working with good actors. A lot of the time I would be asked to explain something since I did the play but I didn’t want to think about the play, I wanted to treat Raat Baaki Hai as a fresh script.”
Raat Baaki Hai is streaming on ZEE5.