Akshay talks about his writing gig for the Zee5 show, says crimes and confessions are personal.
Akshay Dogra may have acted in many projects but did you know that he has also penned AltBalaji's latest release Crimes and Confessions? Akshay has penned a part of the anthology which explores homosexuality. Moreover, the story dates back to the 1970s, the time when people probably did not even know what homosexuality is.
The actor-writer, in an exclusive conversation with OTTplay, spoke about his thoughts while working on the project. He shared what went behind the research of the project. Akshay also spoke about his takeaway from his part in Crimes and Confessions.
Excerpts from the interview...
When and how did you get the idea for Crimes and Confessions?
I have written one story for the anthology. It is the third episode. When I was discussing the possibilities of what I could write, that is how it came together. Back then, it wasn't titled Crimes and Confessions. The idea was to talk about taboo subjects and normalize them rather than sensationalize them. And, at least, that's what I tried. I tried to tell an emotional story of a taboo subject set in the 1970s. It is a period drama. Being a heterosexual, it was tough to write about gay women and what they must be going through, especially in the 1970s socio-economic strata of society. I tried to not stereotype and dig a little deeper.
Did you approach women you know to understand their side of the story?
Yes, of course. Whoever I could speak to. At the end of the day, when I was writing, I had this thought that we alienate people of the same sex because we believe they are different. Every human goes through an emotion. It doesn't matter if the attachment is to a man, woman or even a house. When you are attached to something, you'll go through the same feeling. That is something I learnt while writing the script of the project. I tried to go beyond the stereotype and look at things with compassion and heart. I tried to see what women might be going through by placing myself in their place. It's more of a personal process than inquiring about it from an outside source. The knowledge you get from an outside source isn't always complete, so you need to go inwards and understand the emotion itself.
What were the reactions to the trailer and show?
People have been quite encouraging and positive. They were surprised that I write. The series is gaining traction, but we need to reach out to a lot more people. I would advise people to come without judgement and take whatever they can from the show. Writers do not get a response or direct feedback. I am an actor and that is why even we are talking. Writers, generally, are the last people to be appreciated when it is their whole script that is presented. I feel they should get a lot more due.
In times when India is slowly accepting adult content, what do you think are the chances of the show working out?
Every platform has its set of audiences. It always has its pros and cons. You get loyalty and also reach out to more people. AltBalaji is trying to reach out to a newer audience and diverse crowd. It is the only platform that has created lots of original content in the past few years. They have been doing substantial work, like The Married Woman. Crimes and Confessions is an independent series rather than a studio-backed series. It's just for experimenting. We are trying to get more eyeballs.
Talking about The Married Woman, which starred your sister Ridhi Dogra, did you happen to discuss each other's projects as both the stories were about lesbians?
The Married Woman is a book. She shot for it last year. We don't actually discuss work. My writing project is very personal. I have somebody I bounce off ideas with, but I don't get into the psychology and philosophy of it from somebody else's perspective. I first try and understand it from my point of view. I believe it is my unique method of going about a project. I do it because I'm an actor too. So I have to feel a character and situation. I visually create a world before I put my hands on a keyboard and start writing.
When writing the script, did you have any conflicts, considering crimes and confessions are opposites? Because the trailer only shows us a sensual side.
I haven't yet seen the series, so I don't know about the other stories but mine. How we look at crimes and confessions in the public domain is how somebody commits a crime and then confesses about them. Our story is more of a personal journey. The crime is personal where you are doing a crime to yourself by not being true to yourself. Confession, on the other hand, is when one confesses about something they did wrong and want to move on. For me, the crime and confession were personal between the four friends and the two outsiders who came to the mix and created a stir, unravelling the story forward.
Would you say that discovering your sexuality and accepting it was the same back in the 70s as it is today?
That's a difficult question to answer. It's a very personal journey to understand and realize it. It is realizing that they do not like what the others usually do, and it goes against the norm of the society, of what is socially acceptable and practised. My story is about women who know they are gay, found each other and feel safe in each other's company. It's not about coming to realizing that they are gay. The story is about further accepting it. The thing is, this is an interesting question but opens up a huge debate. We could discuss this for hours in the end, about how our country and society has evolved. The Brits introduced section 377 and we carried it forward, thinking it was our legacy, but it isn't. We were very inclusive before that.
Why not act in the show?
If they can afford me and want me in the show, I am open to it. However, it hasn't happened so far.
What are your upcoming projects?
I acted in a show which hopefully will be unveiled soon. There's another project with Kunal Kohli. As far as writing and content creation is concerned, I'm taking it one step at a time. Hopefully, 2022 will be a much more productive and creative year.