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Interview Hindi

Can’t wait to go back to performing on stage: Siddhant Issar on his short film and reprising the role immortalised by his father 

The director talks about his short film on suicide prevention that raises awareness about mental health.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Filmmaker Siddhant Issar has been busy during the ongoing pandemic. His debut short film as an actor and director, Resurrection: Jaago Aur Jiyo, a product of the lockdown, explores its impact on people's psyche. While delving into the ways in which people have been dealing with the crisis, the film is specifically aimed at suicide prevention.

Talking about his inspiration for the film, Issar said, “When the lockdown was announced, everyone thought it would be for a short duration, but around May, news started coming in about people committing suicide. Work suddenly dried up for a lot of actors who are from out of Mumbai and who were working in soap operas. Our industry was hit the worst in many ways because we are not considered essential. Although everyone has been sitting at home watching content on OTT platforms for the past six months, the government doesn’t consider our industry essential. I could see a lot of my friends suffering from depression and not being able to pay their monthly rent. This inspired me to make something on suicide prevention and mental health.”

The film enters the mindscape of a struggling actress, who in a moment of weakness attempts suicide. It reflects on the everyday problems that people have been undergoing, from financial stress to mental turmoil. Amidst all this, there is a supernatural angle.

Issar elaborated, “People commit suicide because they want a release. They want to escape from something, but does this truly happen or are their souls stuck somewhere? I thought that if Yamraj [the lord of death and justice] would have a point of view on this, he would think that people fear him because they only associate him with death…and here, you [people] are taking life so lightly and throwing it away due to some setbacks. So, the supernatural angle shows this point of view.”

Resurrection makes one dwell upon the sanctity of life and while there have been a few celebrities who have raised awareness about the issue of mental health, the issue remains largely neglected. Issar said that for actors and directors, mental illness is an occupational hazard because one's success and failure is very public. "You are constantly under public scrutiny. If your film tanks at the box office on a Friday and the film gets bad reviews, your humiliation and shame are out there. If a man is stressed about work, he can go home and eat an entire pizza and satiate himself; but as an actor, you’ll be stressed about work but you have to go home and starve!”

In a profession where stress levels are high, social media seems to have exacerbated the problem. “Today, there is trial by social media, which means that people will start trolling you. It’s so sad that when social media posts go viral, news channels pick them up. It is very sad,” said Issar.

The director hopes that his message reaches the largest audience possible. The short film also marks a break for the actor, who has hitherto been involved in theatre. Interestingly, he essayed the role of Duryodhana in the play, Mahabharat An Epic Tale, which has been performed 100 times in the past two years. The role was immortalised by his father, Puneet Issar, in BR Chopra’s teleserial based on the epic The Mahabharata.

Speaking about playing Duryodhana on stage, Issar said, “He [his father] has already set a benchmark but I have the advantage of seeing his version so I'm familiar with its tone and I know that I have to do something different because the last thing I want to hear is that I am copying him. Secondly, the Duryodhana that I portray is a much younger one, seen in the first half of The Mahabharata, so that aspect of his life hasn’t been shown. He [his father] made his Duryodhana very dominating so I saw to it that my portrayal is more vulnerable and fickle-minded because we show the whole Mahabharata from Duryodhana’s point of view, the antagonist’s point of view…”

While he has kept himself busy during the pandemic, Issar yearns to return to the stage. “I think the performing arts have been the worst hit [by the pandemic] because we need people to come together to watch [shows]. Hopefully, by December we are going to resume our stage shows. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Meanwhile, he has resumed shooting for his next film, loosely based on the lynching of sadhus in Palghar, Maharashtra, where he is acting alongside his father and also directing the film. 

Watch Resurrection: Jaago Aur Jiyo here: