Imtiaz Ali describes writing dark crime thriller SHE as a departure from his staple romance dramas as taking a walk in a new garden, where every corner felt fresh and every turn unfamiliar.
Written and created by Imtiaz, She is a seven-episode series which follows a timid Mumbai constable, played by Aaditi Pohankar, who realises the potential of her dormant sexuality after she goes undercover to expose a drug ring.
The director, who makes his digital debut with the Netflix series, said it was refreshing to work on this project as it gave him an opportunity to present some unseen aspects of his personality.
"It was not as though I had come to these parts. But the script tumbled out pretty quickly and went in its own ways. It was a different kind of fun than it has been writing other things, the feature films.
"This and many other stories have been in my mind for a long time... (with this), the world gets to see a very different aspect of mine, which I think is equally or more exciting," Imtiaz told PTI in an interview.
She also features Gully Boy star Vijay Varma, and the series is co-directed by Arif Ali and Avinash Das.
According to Imtiaz, he zeroed in on Arif and Avinash as he wanted a certain "sensibility and interest and respect for women" from his directors.
"Somebody who can talk clearly about issues that are a bit difficult to talk for many and, Avinash and Arif were the right fit," he added.
The Love Aaj Kal filmmaker said as web was a different medium, he collaborated with several people, including Divya Johry who has co-written the script for She.
"You need many partners and one person cannot and should not do everything. I knew in the beginning that I will not direct because I wanted to be available enough. I wanted to write and steer it in a certain way. I didn't want to get too close to it."
Imtiaz said a crime thriller like She which touches on themes of sexuality, it was important that the treatment is honest, not sensational.
"It was a journey for all of us, to go at that point, say it without being ashamed of it. The sexual intimacy, power of sexuality, women. You have to say it plainly, clearly and without any embarrassment. We didn't want to create sensation, that was perhaps an unwritten don't."
The story of She was born when the director made a tourism film for Hong Kong, much before any of his feature film work had even released, he revealed.
This series brings Imtiaz back to Mumbai as a backdrop, 15 years after his debut Socha Na Tha.
The Mumbai setting, Imtiaz says, was crucial to the plot.
"The first thought was Hong Kong, which is also such a huge and developed setup with many branches that you can take as a story. The next is Mumbai because it has a certain structure of the city and the underworld that makes it interesting.
"This (series) is also about crime. We needed an organised and a disorganised structure of crime, policing where the story had to be told."
She starts streaming from March 20.
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