‘Kohrra’ Showrunner Sudip Sharma On Portraying Punjab, Indian Crime Drama And The Streamers’ Changing Taste

since launch Netflix Indian crime drama on 15th July the fog The streamer has topped the Indian rankings and the show has been appreciated by critics, audiences and industry personalities including Karan Johar.

In addition to describing it as an atmospheric murder mystery, local critics have praised the series for being a scathing portrait of contemporary Punjab, the northwestern Indian state where it is set.

The six-part series follows the story of two cops – played by Suvinder Vicky and Barun Sobti – investigating the murder of an NRI (non-resident Indian) who lives in London but came to India for an arranged marriage. When he is found dead in a field, and the British friend who accompanied him is also missing, the police begin to unravel not only a murder case, but also a tangled web of family secrets, power games related to land, childhood trauma, and parental patriarchy.

Randeep Jha, who also directed the critically acclaimed play trial by firedirected the series, produced by clean slate movies And it also stars Manish Chowdhary, Varun Badola, Amaninder Pal Singh, Anand Priya, Arjun Bhalla, Harleen Sehti and British actress Rachel Shelley.

Showrunner Sudeep Sharma, who worked with writers Gunjit Chopra and Diggi Sisodia on the series, is no stranger to hardboiled crime dramas as he has also made investigative thrillers. underworld, one of India’s most critically acclaimed shows. He also knows Punjab as his credits include co-writing Abhishek Chaubey’s 2016 feature film Udta PunjabA crime drama revolving around the state’s drug trafficking industry.

Sharma told Deadline that when Chopra and Sisodia approached him for the project, they weren’t sure he would want to do another crime drama so soon. underworld, But saw the potential in his idea. “It was very nuanced, because Gunjit had spent a lot of time in Punjab, and I had already written a film there, but I felt I had only scratched the surface and there was so much more to explore in terms of the land and the culture.”

Arjun Bhalla and Rachel Shelley in the fog

Home to India’s Sikh community, Sharma explains that Punjab “has its own culture, its own religion and politics, and its own language – the interesting thing about India is that so many regions have their own distinct subcultures.”

As a border state, Punjab has historically been known as the ‘Land of Warriors’, as it was always the first to repel invaders, although the unfortunate downside of that border position has been the drug trade and patriarchy. However, Sharma says she also finds it to be a place “where women stand up for themselves and have a lot of agency, which is what we’ve tried to reflect in the story.” the fogespecially towards the end.

In contemporary times, the relatively prosperous state is also known as the homeland of prosperous NRI communities in the US and UK and has a huge impact on Bollywood and the global music scene through its pop culture and musicians.

the fog refers to those relationships with the West through scenes set in London and gives a significant role to Shelley, who is known for her roles in the film. the L Word, Accident and Indian specialty Fine, who plays the mother of the missing Brit. Sharma smiles, “I wanted a British actor who would have a successful career in the West, but who also understood what it meant to shoot in India.” “She fit the profile perfectly – a great actor who can deal with craziness.”

Meanwhile, Indian critics have been praising the performances of the Punjabi cast – especially Vicky as the aging cop, whose character has a complex background that includes passion and patriarchy. Sharma says that, to keep the show authentic, he wanted to shoot on location in Punjab, using local actors and the Punjabi language (dubs in Hindi and other languages ​​are available on Netflix).

“We have almost a few actors from Bombay, but all can speak Punjabi. Fortunately, Punjab has a very vibrant local film and TV industry,” explains Sharma. “Our casting director Nikita Grover stayed in Punjab for three months and did a great job scouting local actors, theater centers and colleges.”

Sudeep Sharma on the sets of Kohra

Sharma was one of the first film writers in India to take on the role of writer-listener, which is still a relatively rare occupation in India, though more are beginning to emerge.

“Length-length quality story-telling is still relatively new in India – we were all thrown into the fire and had to learn by watching our idols,” Sharma says. the Sopranos And Wire as an early inspiration. “We are still figuring out what showrunner means, especially in the Indian context as it has always been a director-led industry.”

since he started writing underworld In 2016 (the show streamed on Prime Video in 2020), Sharma says he has seen platforms in India evolve from an “anything goes” mentality, to battling censorship pressure following the controversy over Prime Video. dance of fury In 2021, to become more selective and focus on specific styles.

Sharma says, “There are a lot of crime dramas being made, and not all of them are engaging, but the data is driving it up and I think we are starting to see a little fatigue in the audience.” “The other focus right now is young adult content, so when you meet with platform executives, they’ll ask if you have young adult content.”

He says the current censorship climate has made it “difficult to tell big socio-political stories” on Indian platforms, though he is currently editing the second series. underworldWhich Prime Video is planning to stream next year. the fog Censorship issues are sidestepped by talking about society in terms of family dynamics rather than state or national politics.

However, he says it was also a creative choice, as he was attracted to the detailed character development, and wanted to explore those aspects of the writing rather than just big concept or plot-driven drama. “I am a big fan of detective series like UK broad church, happy Valley And shetland – they really walk the line where American crime dramas sometimes fail in being able to hold plot and character together.

With a background in management and business studies, Sharma has experience in project management, which she believes has helped her grow as a showrunner. He also occasionally serves as a creative producer on projects such as the Netflix series mother,

“We really need to train writers in this country to act because in the past they have been largely sidelined from the filmmaking process,” says Sharma. “Once that happens, we will see a huge change in the quality of content coming out.”

Sharma is also starting to look beyond India by developing shows that are influencing international players. Through his association with Tulsi, the Mumbai and Los Angeles-based talent agency that represents him, he has also worked as a consulting and/or executive producer on India-themed international shows with producers including Sister Pictures.

“We don’t have a series that can go on narcos Or squid game But as we develop our capabilities, we should be able to do that,” he says. “There is a slight lack of ambition in the ecosystem here. We are happy to make shows for the local audience, probably because it is such a big market. But I truly believe we can aim even higher.”