Abhishek Bachchan and Nithya Menen will make their digital debut with second season of Amazon Prime Video India Original show Breathe on 10 July.
The latest Amazon Prime Video India Original show, Breathe: Into the Shadows, a psychological crime thriller, created and produced by Abundantia Entertainment, marks Abhishek Bachchan’s digital debut along with South star Nithya Menen, while Amit Sadh reprises his role as Inspector Kabir Sawant from the first chapter of the series that released in 2018.
The Breathe 2 trailer shows Bachchan and his screen wife Menen on the edge as they search for their daughter Siya, who is kidnapped by a mysterious masked man. The story about desperate parents veers into the dark territory when Bachchan, who plays a psychiatrist, is asked by a masked figure to kill if he wants to see his daughter alive.
“What drew me to my character Dr Avinash Sabharwal was the emotional journey that he goes through during the course of the show. I found that very unique, and it is something that appealed to me when Vikram (Malhotra), the producer, and Mayank (Sharma), the director, narrated the entire story plotline. I loved the emotional arc. It is an edge-of-the-seat thriller with a lot of twists and turns and surprises thrown every five to 10 minutes. I really enjoyed that format. It is a longer format, and I had not done something like this before so I was very keen to do it. You get the liberty and freedom of time to establish your role,” said Bachchan in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.
Menen particularly enjoyed playing what she calls “a complete hypothetical” character with absolutely no reference point. “There are unusual circumstances the series is based on. This character was so surreal in what it expected me to do. It asked me to imagine a situation which was so unique. I had to imagine, ‘What if I had a child, and what if this happened?’ And then I realised none of us know how we are going to react to this. You can’t draw from any sort of personal experiences, and I wanted to make it as real as possible. I didn’t want the character to be one-dimensional emotionally. It’s not just that the daughter is missing, and I am sad but something beyond that. I wanted it to be authentic,” said Menen, who, apparently, was the first choice for the role.
“After watching my Tamil movie OK Kanmani, the director had decided that I was the right choice for the role of Abha, and there was no other option. I was glad that my films were being watched, and the makers here could understand the kind of actor I am. When I heard the narration, it was hard to not say ‘yes’ to the role. It was like doing four films. In films, everything is boxed but with this kind of content, the character graph has a lot of depth. So for an actor, it is quite a sumptuous part, quite a meaty role. I couldn’t wait to explore the character,” said Menen.
The actress also feels that her pairing with Bachchan was unusual, which made it look more interesting on screen. “Mayank said, ‘I always knew you and Abhishek would look fantastic together.’ And we felt it as well. Actually, there is some kind of chemistry between us that works. We are so different but somehow, we look like a couple in a very natural way. These things are not something you plan; they just happen,” said Menen.
Talking about returning for a second season, which is an all new chapter, Sadh says, “I am really excited to return as Kabir Sawant. Breathe and ‘Kabir’ have connected with fans all over the world and the show’s theme of going the distance to protect the ones you love, has resonated all across. This new story has become even more special with Abhishek and Nithya joining in. There’s a lot of anxiety. You keep hoping higher which is all good as that keeps you and excitement alive. Few hours are left and the countdown has begun for season two. I must admit that I am nervous.”
He furthers, “My character is not very different from the previous Breathe in the new season. It remains as layered. It’s just that there’s a new dimension, new storyline, new world. You can see in the trailer that the cop himself is in prison. The point was to show the transformation of this man in prison. And you have to find answers as to why he is in prison. But otherwise I have to just come and become Kabir Sawant. I felt as if I never left. When people watch the second season they can join the dots and once again have a thrilling experience. Definitely the spine of the character — amidst all the tragedies in his life — he remains the protector. Now is he able to do his job? Is he able to protect — that is something you have to wait and watch.”
As he discovered the new medium, Bachchan found the pace, the approach, and the language of the digital medium vis-à-vis cinema pretty much different and exciting. “It’s different from cinema because you have to understand who your end user is. This medium allows you the room for a lot more subtlety and a lot more realism. You don’t have to sell a fantastical dream like we do at times in cinema. The people who are consuming content on streaming platforms are looking for edgier material, looking for material steeped into reality, but still entertaining. By edginess, I mean it could be subject matter, which traditionally has not been accepted in cinema. There is a style of performance that you have to follow. You can’t really indulge in the melodrama, which is something we love to do when you make movies for cinemas,” he explained.
Bachchan added, “Almost 50 percent of the audience of Breathe Season 1 was international. You get a sense that you are talking to a larger audience, and when you are doing that then you need to perform accordingly. Your audience is not just Indian or part of the Indian diaspora, so you have to perform in a language which is universally understood and accepted. So that was the change. I have been told by the team that the show will be rolled out to over 200 countries at the same time, and in various different languages, so you have that much audience to cater to. That obviously comes into your performance.”
The actor feels that the show was perfect for the digital space. “I don’t think if Breathe: Into The Shadows was offered to me as a movie, whether I would do, partially because in order to do justice to the story, you need to make a very long film, and also the subject matter is such that it is better suited for digital platform than a cinema hall. But I am not saying that it has to be explicit. I have not had to do anything sexually or language explicit in that sense for the show; that is unacceptable to me be it any medium,” said Bachchan.
From television, to films, to digital platforms, Sadh has worked in all three mediums and he finds doing web series far more satisfying as he gets more time to sink his teeth into the character. “Every character in a web series gets more time to dig into the process in finding their character and you also get more screen time. Then, I’m happy my work is seen by so many people in over 200 countries. I’m thankful for the exposure and vastness the platform offers. Yes, Breathe is one of my most satisfying outings and the reason is also that makers don’t backstab me, they don’t cheat me. They allow me to breathe, explore, push my character and support me. Also, director Mayank Sharma and I make a great team, he handles me very well. Breathe is the place where people are fair to me, and that includes Abhishek who has such a big heart. He never pulls you down, he allows you to shine. He has no insecurity. I want support from my seniors, I never got it earlier,” he says candidly.
The first season of Breathe starred R Madhavan in the lead with Amit Sadh. Madhavan played a father, desperate to save his ailing son after he is given just five months to live. The son needs a lung donation, and to give him a bump on the donor list, Madhavan goes on a killing spree, eliminating those above him on the list. “The story of Breathe Season 1 was fantastic, the concept of the show was brilliant, something that we haven’t seen before in India, and the wonderful actors that were associated with it were helmed by my dear friend Madhavan and Amit Sadh. Thankfully, I will get to share a lot of screen time with Amit in Breathe 2,” said Bachchan.
“What I like about my character was his innate will and ability to solve cases to keep families intact, keep children safe although he couldn’t keep his own family intact. That ability, that will to serve people to make them safe, that is something I really connect with. Kabir is so damaged, so broken and yet he is a big rock of hope, that dependability…I like that duality in my character…somebody who is struggling but wants to be a crutch for someone else. That resonates, that keeps Kabir Sawant close to my heart,” said Sadh, who will be next seen in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Yaara to be released on an OTT platform this month.
Bachchan’s upcoming film, The Big Bull, is scheduled to release directly on Disney+ Hotstar in the wake of theatre closures because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is rumoured that his other forthcoming film, Anurag Basu-directed Ludo, too, will be released digitally. When asked if he was missing the big screen extravaganza, something that he has seen growing up in a film family, Bachchan quipped, “I don’t want to start thinking about it. Because if I start thinking about it, I will have to choose a side, and I don’t want to do that. I am just happy that the audience is going to see my work.”