New medical thriller series Human promises to be chillingly explosive

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The team of the medical thriller Human met the media in a virtual interaction. Photo: Spice PR

Disney+Hotstar’s latest offering, Human, which streams January 14, promises to be a chilling, explosive and very real show on human drug testing.

Directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and Mozez Singh, produced by the former’s Sunshine Pictures and written by Singh with Ishani Banerjee, the 10-episode series features veteran Shefali Shah, also Vipul’s wife, the redoubtable Kirti Kulhari and Vishal Jethwa, best known as the maniacal baddie of Mardaani 2, in the leads.

Dr. Mohan Agashe, Seema Biswas, Ram Kapoor and Aditya Shrivastava are the well-known faces in character roles. The music is by Saurabh Bhalerao.

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Speaking on a virtual meet January 4, Vipul revealed that a report he read on an African drug trail that went wrong, resulting in multiple horrendous deaths, inspired the story. “I had initially planned to do a film on this, but realized that the subject was so vast that only a series could justify it.”

The original script was then shown to Mozez Singh, who came on board to write the new screenplay with Ishani Banerjee and co-direct with Vipul. “It was a fruitful change,” said Vipul. “We could explore each characters’ journeys and back stories and make the story more complete. We also turned the principal characters into females, breaking the stereotypes of males as doctors. I had already researched for many years. But when we decided to make a series, an additional two years-plus of research were needed.”

While Shefali plays Dr. Gauri Nath, Kirti is Dr. Saira Sabharwal, a junior cardiac surgeon, who holds the senior doctor in high esteem. Vishal plays a young man from the slum, who is one of the victims.

The medical thriller was shot while the second wave of the pandemic was peaking. Vipul explains that the script was written keeping one predominant emotion for each of the three characters—for Shefali, it was greed, for Kirti, it was shame and for Vishal, it was guilt.

Co-director Mozez stated that it was “Very empowering to have a veteran director like Vipul who had your back.”

In a reply to an online question by newsindiatimes.com, on how Mozez and he divided their directorial responsibilities, Vipul shared, “We worked on everything almost together. Mozez and I come from totally different worlds as filmmakers and our sensibilities had to come on the same page. We did a lot of workshops that ensured that we were on the same page, so that the final outcome was seamless, though we did independent work! Every character’s world was conceived differently in terms of the camera and lighting, and all this was designed beforehand on paper.”

He went on, “Our homework was so sorted that it will be difficult to say who shot what. We also saw each other’s edits, and accepted each other’s suggestions on them.”

Agrees Mozez, “Vipul-sir was extremely collaborative the whole time, so we were in-sync in everything—the pre-production, shoot, post-production and music. Incredibly, our cinematographer and actors too remained in-sync with both of us.”

Shefali declared that her character of Dr. Gauri was like a Pandora’s Box. “She was unpredictable, and surprised you at every step. Every time I went before the camera, after studying and even breathing her, and so much discussion with both Vipul and Mozez, I could not wrap my head around her! The role was so strong, but I decided to experiment,” she said.

Kirti said that it was rare to get such a well-written script: “I am a sucker for something that excites and thrills me as an actor and takes me into unknown territories. For years, I also had wanted to work with Shefali and I would have been really stupid to turn this down!”

Both directors agreed that Shefali and Kirti as well as Vishal were their first choices for the roles, and that they were fortunate that all accepted the series. They revealed that the first two were amazingly switch on-switch off artistes, while Vishal remained in his character’s space between shots probably because he was less experienced.

Laughed Vipul, who said that his wife had come on board minus any pressure, and purely on the merit of the script: “I would be worried about some intense scenes because Shefali and Kirti would be having a lot of fun just before the shots, but I never had to take retakes!”

Vishal confessed that after Mardaani 2, he had not been sure of his next step. “I was wondering if I should I get into OTT right now or not. Maintaining my character for 10 long episodes was challenging, and working with Shefali ma’am, Kirti and Vipul-sir were additional good reasons, so I took it on.”

The reality was so grim, said all three artistes. In India, Madhya Pradesh is the epicenter of drug testing and the team met everyone—doctors, victims, NGOs and others—and got many real-life stories. They were benumbed by what they heard, of how humanity could be so evil, and at the same time there were farmers, aged people and illiterate men and women who were ready to turn guinea-pigs for as low a sum as Rs 700.

The hard-hitting drama is but the latest from the Disney+Hotstar stable, that has had its share of impactful series like Aarya, Mayanagri—City of Dreams, the Criminal Justice franchise et al. Mozez has directed the much-acclaimed Zubaan, while Vipul’s directorial aces include Aankhen (1993 / Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar), Waqt—The Race Against Time and Namastey London, besides his productions like Singh Is Kinng, Holiday and the Commando franchise.

 

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