Hindi Interviews

“It’s Dishonest to Just Keep Making Happy Stories about the Pandemic,” Director Ayappa KM on ‘Unpaused: Naya Safar’

On Saturday, Amazon Prime Video released the trailer of the upcoming anthology series Unpaused: Naya Safar, the sequel to 2020’s Unpaused. Ahead of the trailer release, Ayappa KM and Geetanjali Kulkarni, the director and star of one of the segments, sat down with Silverscreen India to discuss their short, War Room.


The story revolves around a character named Sangeeta (played by Kulkarni), a Covid war-room worker who gets a call one day which puts her in a dilemma.

War Room is two-headed. Firstly, it is kind of a homage to all the frontline workers who stepped up, went beyond their call of duty, and have been working tirelessly through the pandemic,” says Ayappa. “Secondly, it is the study of a character who is supposedly righteous but is presented with a difficult situation where she has to choose between her work ethic and personal life decisions. Everyone exists in such a duality and has different shades. More often than not, you are not what you may seem to another person.”

“At the end of the day, it is a character drama and I was drawn to this character,” Ayappa adds. “So we sat down to think about where to put this character in the story and a Covid war room seemed like an interesting place. Initially, she was supposed to just take calls, but then we thought, what if she gets a call that makes you question the way you look at somebody?”

“I like strong middle-aged female characters for some reason, maybe because of my mother,” the filmmaker explains. “Specifically in Bombay, you see a lot of women who keep going about their jobs without complaining and deserve more credit than they get.”

Kulkarni is best known for her role in Chaitanya Tamhane’s National Award-winning film, Court, and Ayappa had the actor in mind for War Room right from the start. “I was very clear from the beginning that I wanted to cast Geetanjali. In fact, the character was also named after her initially,” he reveals. “I had seen her in Court and I like performances which are very realistic but not understated. After seeing that one film of hers, I had been unsuccessfully trying to cast her in other projects. She has breathed more than just life into the character.”

Talking about her character, Kulkarni says, “She is a teacher in a government school and is volunteering in the war room. When you are in a war room, there is a moral responsibility on the person. The story is about the challenges she faces one day while taking calls. The story and the character feel very real. You see people like her everywhere around you. They have so many challenges in life, but still come forward and work.”

The actor, who has also starred in the TVF web series Gullak, says she takes inspiration for her performances from the people around her. “I have seen so many people like the characters I play. There are a lot of people around me, who have different kinds of lives, and that inspires me as a creative person. I take a lot of stories from them and enrich myself as much as possible.”

“I feel, after a point, simply watching stories and reading books or scripts is not enough to understand a character. We need to feel the real thing by putting ourselves in that situation. This story belongs to these two years that we have been witnessing. So that was my prep work, along with the directions I was given,” she adds.

Ayappa, who mainly does ad films, feels that experimenting with different genres helps him grow as a creator. “Mainly, I do a lot of comedy stuff. But, as a storyteller, you’re interested in all kinds of stories. A lot of people get into a genre, feel comfortable with it, and stick to it. But for me, I like to dabble with different things and I don’t like to hit just one note. Although my strength is in comedy, I wanted to do something that challenged me. War Room is a very emotional story and it opened up so many avenues in my head.”

While the anthology promises stories of hope, the director says he focused on conflict because it seemed more realistic. “The overarching theme of the anthology is hope, so War Room does have a very subtly positive ending. However, the central theme of the story is conflict and it is about a woman who we think is very righteous but she suddenly has to dig deeper to figure out who she really is.”


“It is slightly dishonest to just keep making happy stories about the pandemic because it was only stress-free for a very small group. For most people, it has been very harsh. Film as art should reflect that and we can’t just talk about the good stuff that happened during these couple of years,” he notes.

Unpaused: Naya Safar is slated to premiere on Amazon Prime on Friday, January 21.