Ritwik Bhowmik,Sonali Kulkarni and The Whistleblower poster
Ritwik Bhowmik,Sonali Kulkarni and The Whistleblower poster

Sonali Kulkarni and Ritwik Bhowmik on The Whistleblower: A student is not a marksheet

The actors discuss their thriller series, The Whistleblower, streaming on SonyLIV

Ritwik Bhowmik was straining his vocal cords in the musical series Bandish Bandits. Now, in The Whistleblower, he’s straining his veins. Streaming on SonyLIV, the 9-part series is a deep delve into the world of admission scams, drug abuse, killings, corruption, and more. Ritwik’s character, a final-year medical student named Sanket, is our entry point into the story. He’s quite the package: officiating at drug dens, cheating on his girlfriend. Sanket’s father, played by Sachin Khedekar, is the head of a renowned medical college. Sanket utilizes this privilege to enable a scam. However, when something unforeseen happens, he starts breaking good.

“I was impressed by the intricate detailing of the show,” Ritwik says. “It’s a thriller which runs on information instead of shocks.” For Sanket, he wasn’t given a specific reference or asked to hang out with medical students. All director Manoj Pillai told him was to be himself and find the character on his own. “I was thrilled to tap into the psyche of Dr. Sanket," Ritwik shares. "If you think he’s heavily flawed and unlikeable, that’s probably how our creators wanted him to be. The show plays with our perception of him. He’s never completely right or completely wrong.”

A surprise of The Whistleblower is Sonali Kulkarni dropping by as a news editor. The actor had played a journalist in the little-seen cricket film, Silence Please... The Dressing Room (2004). She was also a correspondent in the 2009 thriller Mohandas.

“I took inspiration from news people I’ve met,” Sonali says of building her character, Zainab, in The Whistleblower. “It’s not about their dressing or voice culture. It’s more about the decision-making of these journalists. How they think, how they network… when no one’s watching.”

The show is a fictionalized account of the 2013 Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh. Government officials took bribes to allow ‘proxy’ students to write exams for richer clients. The complicated nexus reaches back to the level of the family, where academic success is linked to survival. Both Ritwik and Sonali feel this should change.

 "Families should realize they are raising a human being and not a marksheet,” Sonali says. “Unless we have that empathy, we cannot talk about professions or paychecks.”

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