The eight-episode series directed by Prashant Nairtrial by fire It’s getting great reviews on Netflix. Starring Abhay Deol and Rajshree Deshpande in lead roles, the series brings together an interesting cast including Ashish Vidyarti, Ratna Pathak Shah, Shilpa Shukla, Rajesh Tailang, Atul Kumar, Anupam Kher among others. Casting for the series was done by Sanjeev Maurya, who has previously worked on projects like ‘The White Tiger’, ‘A Suitable Boy’.
Abhay Deol plays the role of Shekhar Krishnamurthy, who lost both his children in a tragic fire in Delhi. Talking about casting Abhay for the role, Sanjeev Maurya told mid-day.com, “Abhay Deol is best known for rebellious material. I believe he has a vision for extremely conflicted characters which he has portrayed with ease and conviction. We believed in our story, and also believed that he would replace Shekhar Krishnamurthy.
Rajshree Deshpande as Neelam Krishnamurthy has also been praised for her nuanced performance as a distraught mother who pulls out all stops to get justice for her dead children. “Rajshree Deshpande came on board simply because of her exceptional performance. As the story, and especially the character of Neelam, was very touching, all the people we cast for the character gave their best. We saw some amazing performances in the auditions, but when we auditioned Rajshri, both Prashant and I believed in her,” Sanjeev said about casting Rajshri.
‘Trial by Fire’ is based on the book of the same name Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamurthy, The series details the 25-year struggle for justice for the couple whose daughter and son were among the 59 killed in Delhi’s Uphaar Cinema fire on June 13, 1997 due to negligence. We had to ensure that people connect with the characters at the grassroots level,” said Maurya on what briefed her before starting her casting process.
“We were given detailed research on the Uphaar tragedy and the people involved. Obviously, each character came up with a different brief and description, but we didn’t get a script for them, just a Project Bible. And we relied on situational improvisations with the actors in the audition room to capture the essence of their understanding of the character and their performance, which was an amazing experience in itself.”
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The main characters of ‘Trial by Fire’ are of South Indian origin. While the team auditioned several actors from the South Indian industry, they were eventually convinced by the performances of Abhay and Rajshri. Sanjeev himself believes in casting people from the same community as the characters. “Representation is an important aspect in cinema. An actor/person belonging to a certain community of beliefs always naturally brings something new to the character. Who better to cast than someone from the community itself.”
Having said that, one must understand the relevance of those beliefs in the story itself. Taking the example of ‘Shekhar Krishnamurthy’, he comes from the South of India, but having lived in Delhi for a very long time, he neither has a South Indian dialect, nor does any of the cultural aspects of the story speak to his South Being Indian was relevant. If you look at the character story-wise, the way we wanted the audience to look at it, it is the story of a father who lost his children in a tragedy. So such criticism is irrelevant in some situations,” he responded to criticism of casting people from outside the characters’ community.