The lead cast of ‘Black Widows’ — Swastika Mukherjee, Shamita Shetty and Mona Singh — discuss the importance of playing less vulnerable women on screen
At first, it seemed a foolproof plan: Jayati, Kavita and Veera, three best friends conspiring to kill husbands who had subjected them to physical and mental abuse… until one husband returns, having survived the bomb blast.
This is the storyline of ZEE5’s upcoming thriller-dark comedy genre series Black Widows, starring Swastika Mukherjee, Mona Singh, Shamita Shetty, Raima Sen, Sharad Kelkar and Parambrata Chatterjee among others. Directed by Birsa Dasgupta, the series was shot in Kolkata after restrictions on filming was lifted following the initial lockdown earlier this year.
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In the 45 days they spent filming, the lead cast comprising Swastika, Shamita and Mona — in the latter’s words — “set the house on fire”. For reasons obvious to the trio, they couldn’t pass on the offer to be a part of the show.
Says Swastika, over phone from Kolkata, “She is a strong-headed person who takes decisions on behalf of all.” Swastika plays Jayati; she adds: “It felt important to me that I had the opportunity to play a character who speaks of the social justice cause I stand for in real life. It is important to show women in a less vulnerable state and taking a stand, becoming independent and having their own perception of what freedom is to them.”
Shamita, who plays Kavita, “the impulsive and restless character who is also a ticking time bomb”, says the show is about women deciding to take back power in a relationship. “Obviously, they go to the extreme end, but what it symbolises is that we need to give importance to their happiness as well as showing what it takes to muster up the courage to take power back,” she says, over phone from Mumbai.
For Mona, who plays Veera — “a balanced woman who has priorities sorted”, she notes — it was important that she went into the filming with an unadulterated perception of what or how her character should be. This meant she opted to skip watching the Finnish original series Black Widows (ZEE5 version of the show is a Hindi-language Indian adaptation), which was not the case with Swastika and Shamita. “When you adapt a show, you have to Indianise it to suit our taste. I wanted to play Veera as originally as possible,” she says.
Unlike her co-stars, Swastika — for whom 2020 has been a breakthrough year of sorts considering her diverse portfolio of roles — has spent the better part of her now two-decades long career in Bengali cinema. Opportunities like Black Widows, or Paatal Lok and Dil Bechara for instance, have propelled her to mainstream reckoning. She attributes her recent success to picking and playing memorable characters. “Things like screen time do not bother me. It doesn’t matter if the content is Bollywood material or otherwise; I just want to play roles that I have not done before.” The emergence of OTT platforms in a big way, which coincided with the national lockdown, certainly helps. “For actors in other industries, OTT space is a big opening because we can do these amazing stories and people also realise there are actors who exist beyond Bollywood.”
Mona, who is also a part of Aamir Khan-starrer Laal Singh Chaddha, already cannot wait for the second season to start rolling. “I think we will start shooting for it mid-2021. The first season will end with a big cliffhanger; particularly, what happens to Veera will be interesting to watch,” she adds.
Black Widows could also be the opportunity that helps Shamita land more of the type of roles she has never been offered before. “I am willing to experiment with characters that are different from me as an individual because you will have to work a lot more. The more challenging it is, the more exciting it is for me. But most roles that come to me have been glamorous,” Shamita says.
Kavita, her character, is once again a role that carries more sex appeal — in the conventional definition — out of the three leads. “I have never done a simple, de-glam role. I do hope that someone gives me a role that in the process of playing it I can surprise myself,” says Shamita, adding in conclusion that she hopes the exponential growth of OTT medium will help towards that end.
Black Widows streams on ZEE5 from December 18