It’s a web show that comes riding on a hugely celebrated name. What made Oscar and BAFTA winner Asif Kapadia back The Last Hour, which drops on Amazon Prime video today? If the answer is as simple as that both the director of the upcoming series Amit Kumar and executive producer Asif go back in time, it also has another dimension. Apart from the two making a mutual admiration club of sorts, they respect each other’s ideas, rather are on the same wavelength, nine on ten times if not ten on ten.
Interestingly, this particular idea was something they toyed with nearly a decade ago. And Oscar or no Oscar, Asif would still be collaborating on this project for he loves, “Amit’s concept of playing with time of how you can go back in time to affect the future.” Bending time, well, we know no one does it better than Christopher Nolan and the German series Dark took us en route the ultimate time machine. So what will The Last Hour offer? Without delving into comparisons, spiritually inclined Amit says, “Cinema is the only medium that can truly explore the varying dimensions of time, where you can show the audience, well this could have happened and present an alternate reality too.”
Thus the series that brings a cop and a shaman together to solve a murder mystery is a mix of an element of playing with time, afterlife and a love story packaged as thriller. Amit adds, “It as much about reason as belief in a world, a layer, a kind of force or power that we don’t really fully understand.”
Capturing the soul
Brought up by an incredibly practical engineer father and religious-emotional mother, he has like most Indians seen the two worlds coalesce since early childhood. Today his wife Anupama Minz, also the co-writer and co-creator of the show, is the pragmatic one who believes, “you die and there is nothing beyond it.” Luckily for him, Asif is not cynical to his ideas; whichever way the pendulum swings, spiritual or non-spiritual as long as these capture the soul of the story.
Of course, Asif’s documentary-making skills, the painstaking research and attention to detail do inform his approach towards drama too. As he says, “I have been doing both fiction and non-fiction from the very beginning and I am always interested in the space in the middle of the two.” For instance The Last Hour has been shot in real locations, such as Sikkim, which according to Asif, “lends a texture to storytelling and the production value you get is incomparable as opposed to recreating the same in a studio.”
His casting process involving local actors too follows the same line of thought, something that Amit found truly fascinating when they worked together as students. Thus today, be it established names like Sanjay Kapoor, Raima Sen, Shahana Goswami or new faces such as Karma Takapa and Robin Tamang, Amit is always interested in, “whether the actor fits the part and brings to life that character and makes you believe he is that person and not acting it out. ”
Striking a chord
If he couldn’t care less about the star value of actors, Asif’s exalted stature does not put any pressure on Amit either. He says, “For me pressure always comes from my own self. Even when the unit people are going ga ga over; oh what a brilliant shot, I am miserable inside if I know I have not got it right and vice versa.” Asif, who may not have been on the locations all the time for “It is better to get the big picture than get caught into details” is, however, all praise and is upbeat that what the team The Last Hour has created is unique.
Will it also break records as Asif’s documentaries, be it Amy, Senna or Diego Maradona have? Well, to begin with he expects the series to resonate in India where it is set and gradually grow by word of mouth. Thereafter, as Asif puts it, “The good thing about TV/OTT is its viewing is not limited to an opening weekend or night. It’s very different from the old-fashioned way of cinema. People are still discovering shows that were made a few years ago. I have worked on a few things, which viewers are now waking up to.” Whether the series drives home the idea of an afterlife or not… Asif’s body of work sure has a way of acquiring a full-bodied life, way beyond the premiere show.