Hotstar Special’s upcoming web series Hostages cuts to the chase. In its opening scene, Mira Anand, her husband and two children are being held at gunpoint. Mira, a doctor, is faced with an impossible choice: kill the chief minister during an upcoming surgery or watch her family die.
The adaptation of the 2013 Israeli series of the same name is a family drama wrapped in a thriller. As the Anands are held prisoner in their own home, secrets come to the fore and relationships are tested. Directed by Sudhir Mishra (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Daas Dev) and with a cast that includes Tisca Chopra, Ronit Roy, Parvin Dabbas, Ashim Gulati, Dalip Tahil and Mohan Kapoor, Hostages will be released on Hotstar on May 31.
Tisca Chopra described Mira as one of the best roles of her career. “This is one of those characters that is hashtag goals. She is my hero,” she told Scroll.in. “Her conflict is – you save your family, or you kill. One doesn’t come across such a conflict very often in a character.”
Roy plays Prithvi Singh, a police officer. The actor was tight-lipped about his character. “Nothing is what it seems to be in the series,” he said. “And that’s all I can say about him.”
Roy said he was drawn to Hostages because of its rich cast and its twist-filled plot. “There are stories within the story,” he said. “The crux of the story is where Dr Mira has been taken hostage and they want her to misperform the surgery on the chief minister. But this is also a story of Mira and her husband, of Mira’s loyalty to her profession, of Mira’s daughter’s romantic relationship, of a father and son, a man and a woman, a man and a brother, a villain and his girlfriend – and that’s what made me want to do the show.”
The series is anchored by Mira’s quest to navigate that impossible decision. Under constant supervision from her abductors, Mira has to appear compliant even as her mind works overtime to try and find a way out. For Chopra, this was an ideal opportunity to display her range. “As an actor, I had to do a lot with very little. I like that,” she said. “That’s the pleasure of playing a character like this, she’s very contained, and for that you can’t ‘act act’. You have to be, and those are the things I cherish and love.”
Chopra’s experience of playing a doctor in the 2011 Hindi psychological thriller 404, about a medical student who thinks he is being haunted by a ghost, helped with the role. “A doctor has a certain detached politeness to them,” she elaborated. “Mira too doesn’t get overwhelmed or wrought by anything. She’s seen dozens of dead bodies. But when it comes to your children and husband, can you be that cool? So that dichotomy was very interesting.”
Both Roy and Chopra used the original series as a reference point for their roles, but had to alter their characters to suit the Indian context and their performance styles. Written and directed by Rotem Shamir and Omri Givon, the Israeli thriller featured Ayelet Zurer as Yael Danon and Jonah Lotan as police office Adam Rubin.
The key difference between Yael Danon and Mira Anand, Chopra said, is the cultural difference about how parenthood is viewed in India. “We’re not very different from Israelis as a culture, we’re as family-oriented,” she said. “But an Indian mother is an Indian mother at the end of the day. How she deals with her family, and their expectations of her, and a sense of guilt that her work has put her family in danger – that’s an additional element in my character.”
Roy’s main challenge, he said, was to tweak the role to suit his performance style while maintaining its essence. “The Israeli show was brilliantly cast. Apart from being great actors, they also looked the part,” he said. “If you look at the actor whose part I’m doing, he looks completely different from me, he looks baby-faced, unlike me. I look steely. My whole challenge was to then break that character’s projection and create a whole other one, while keeping the essentials.”
After having worked in television, theatre, cinema and now the web, Tisca Chopra is set to make her directorial debut with a thriller that she’s just finished writing.
The actress said she has a fascination for suspense stories, a genre she also explored in the short film Chutney, about a mysterious housewife. Chutney was produced and co-written by Chopra. “Earlier I was a romcom kind of person, and then suddenly I don’t know what happened. I went off the deep end and into the Fargo, True Detective and Breaking Bad space,” she said. “I really enjoy thrillers. To some extent, all stories are thrillers, because you don’t know what happens next.” Chopra will also be seen in the in the comedy Good News, starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Akshay Kumar and Diljit Dosanjh, which is scheduled to be released later this year.
Roy, meanwhile, has on his plate the action drama Shamshera, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, and is looking forward to what the web series space throws up for him. After an unsuccessful stint in Bollywood in the 1990s, Roy found a second coming in television in the early 2000s with Balaji Telefilms shows such as Kammal, Kasautii Zindagi Kay and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.
His small-screen stardom paved the way for memorable supporting roles in movies including Udaan (2010), 2 States (2014), Ugly (2013) and Kaabil (2017). The digital boom has given him a new innings, Roy said. He forayed into the space with Ekta Kapoor’s AltBalaji series Kehne Ko Hamsafar Hai, the second season of which came out in February.
“I was written off as an actor, I had no work,” he said. “Ekta was kind enough to give me roles in television. Maybe it’s just kismat but the beginning of my web series outing was also for Balaji. This is my third coming, and this is going to be a big one.”