"Farzi" has found an audience across demographics and its lead star Shahid Kapoor is happy that people are connecting with his "not-so-likeable" character of Sunny, a talented painter who turns to currency counterfeiting, in his streaming debut.
The actor, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on February 25 days after the premiere of "Farzi" on Amazon Prime Video, said the success of the eight-episode series gave him "a deep sense of satisfaction" as his character is not an easy guy to root for.
"It's always challenging when you're playing a guy who is not likeable or who's not necessarily the guy you want to make friends with or go on a date with...
"It's important for you to make them (audience) like him, even though as the show progresses, he's not going to be very likeable in the things that he does," Kapoor told PTI in a virtual interview.
Created and directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, “Farzi” revolves around Sunny (Kapoor) who finds himself drawn into the dark while he plots a perfect con. A task force officer (played by Vijay Sethupathi) has made it his goal to eliminate the threat Sunny represents to the country.
Known for his roles in “Kaminey”, “Haider”, “Udta Punjab”, and “Kabir Singh”, Kapoor said the challenge for him was to ensure that people feel empathy for Sunny.
"It's always, for me as an actor, much more challenging to pick up a character like that... As an actor, through the emotionality and his journey, I have to be able to make the audience like him. So, that's always more complex, challenging and exciting. And when you pull it off, it gives you a deep sense of satisfaction," he added.
As someone who had binge-watched Raj & DK's acclaimed Prime Video series "The Family Man", the actor said he loved the director duo's work in the streaming space. The two, best known for their movies such as “Go Goa Gone” and “Shor In The City”, initially met Kapoor to discuss a film project.
That movie eventually became "Farzi", and Kapoor said as a fan of "The Family Man", he could not be happier.
"We were talking about a movie and I asked them to have a show and they said, 'Are you serious? You want to do a show?'
"I said, 'I love you as filmmakers, you guys are killing it with how you're telling stories on OTT', which is very different from telling stories in two hours in the theatre as opposed to watching seven hours of content sitting at home... They told me that they turned 'Farzi' into a show and I said, 'Okay, amazing. Let's do it'," he recalled.
The web series seems to be connected to the universe of "The Family Man", fronted by Manoj Bajpayee. Which is why fans were excited to see the all-knowing Chellam sir (Uday Mahesh) from "The Family Man" season two make an appearance in "Farzi".
In fact, Sethupathi's character, who is hot on the heels of a counterfeiting gang, even seeks help from Bajpayee's intelligence agent Srikant Tiwari in a phone call.
Asked about the world of "The Family Man" and "Farzi" merging somewhere in the future, Kapoor said he was "open to all possibilities".
"It's so cool that you can do things like that today and you can create universes, which can connect if required and can be independent when they need to be. You can give the audience that kind of experience.
"The fact that people notice these things and are excited about them helps you understand that it's something that works. So, why not? I'm open to all possibilities," he added.
Kapoor's wife Mira Kapoor and actor-brother Ishaan Khatter, whom he described as his "biggest critics", loved "Farzi".
"They will cut me down (to size) every chance they get. And, they just binged on the show and they just really loved the show. They told me it was one of their favorite shows ever.
"Not just Hindi shows, but (one of their) favourite shows ever. I remember one day where 'Farzi' was the number one show on Amazon globally, not just in India, my brother called me and he said, 'I told you this one's just going to explode...'" he said.
Not just the family, the New Delhi-born actor said he was surprised to see the series appeal to people across demographics.
"What's very interesting about the show is that from my driver to my NRI cousins all of them are connecting with it. So, I realised that it's cutting across demographics and that was really special because every piece of content has its core audience.
"Then sometimes that audience becomes slightly wider because of the quality of the product. This one just has a really wide audience. It's cutting across almost all demographics. And that was amazing."
Personally, Kapoor said he is happy that his monologue on the "middle-finger class", where his character rails against the economic issues faced by the middle class in the country, has resonated with the audience.
"The 'middle-finger class' dialogue was one of my favourite dialogues. I have a relationship with showing my middle finger. Wherever I do it, that film or that show tends to do very well. I don't know why that happens," the actor said, referring to his characters in "Farzi" and "Kabir Singh".
The actor said he could understand why the dialogue hit home.
"You feel those things all the time. That scene where they go to the club and the dude looks at them and says 'Maybe you should just go on the terrace, open a couple of bottles, sit there and drink'.
"That's just so derogatory, but that's how the middle class sometimes feels. I knew that's going to connect because I could feel that connection with that time in my life," he added.
Kapoor has a busy year ahead with a film, billed as "an edgy actioner spread over one night", directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, followed by a "high-concept quirky love story" with Kriti Sanon, which will also be released in 2023.