A tale of two spies
Crackdown stars Saqib Saleem and Shriya Pilgaonkar talk about their recent Voot Select series, and how they prepared for their roles in this spy thriller directed by Apoorva Lakhia
A sinister terror plot. An undercover intelligence cell working against time. Lives at stake. The latest spy thriller from Voot Select—Crackdown—definitely does not boast a fresh story. But helmed by Apoorva Lakhia, this eight-episode espionage thriller is winning over the audience.
It is Lakhia’s debut into the web-space, who’s well-known for films such as Shootout at Lokhandwala and the upcoming Haseena Parkar. The series stars Saqib Saleem and Shriya Pilgaonkar, who were seen in Rangbaaz and Mirzapur, respectively. They come together for the first time.
Saleem plays Riyaz Pathan, an agent in RAW’s secret unit Directorate of Operations (DO). “Dedicated to his job, he’s sharp, edgy and doesn’t leave anything to fate. Passionate about his country, he has many layers to his personality” says the actor, adding, “The highlight is his sharp mind and quick thinking.” Earlier seen in an action-packed role in Race 3, the actor underwent intense training for the series “to get the right kind of physique”. He says, “I also undertook workshops to ace the part. It was both tough and fun juggling my intense workout sessions and maintaining a certain diet. It all paid off when I got the difficult action sequences right.”
The series also marked Pilgaonkar’s first stint into the genre. She plays Divya Shirodkar. While Divya is a simple middle-class girl, there is a twist in the tale. She has a lookalike—a dead terrorist named Mariyam. Riyaz realises what an asset this lookalike could be to his covert operation, and he convinces her to join him. “I had to keep my character’s journey believable and also in the process, not judge her or her choices. I had to keep exploring my character as I went ahead with the shoot,” says Pilgaonkar, adding, “It was also important to develop a certain body language. Especially because, as Shriya, I might not relate to my character’s journey at all. For me the process approaching my character involved developing her instincts and to find a point of view which reflected her truth and to play it with that conviction.”
Outlining her character as “a combination of vulnerability and strength”, Pilgaonkar says that in being part of the mission, Divya discovers herself and grows as a person. But the high-octane action kept Pilgaonkar on tenterhooks initially. “It was completely new to me but once I got into the groove and actually felt the character I was more relaxed. I soon became comfortable and began enjoying myself.”
It was not just the intense action sequences that pushed Saleem out of his comfort zone. The role was also emotionally draining, he says. “The story had a lot of emotional weight. So, while on one hand, I was doing these stunts, on the other, I had to portray the emotional dilemma of the character. Also, since Riyaz was dealing with a dreaded terrorist, he always had to be one step ahead in psychological warfare.”