Actor-filmmaker Karma Takapa is happy to believe that his latest web show, The Last Hour will open up avenues for actors and artistes from the North East on the mainstream entertainment platforms. Hailing from village Borong in South Sikkim, Karma is currently seen playing the main lead in the Amazon Prime Video series.
The Last Hour, also starring Sanjay Kapoor, Shahana Goswami and Shaylee Krishen, is a supernatural thriller based on the concept of shamans. The show has been lauded for its local casting and cinematography that takes us into the unexplored terrain of the North East.
“It became important for me to do the show because of the representation of North East and, as space was an integral aspect. You need to be brave to get such a niche cast. This kind of exposure on a big platform opens up possibilities in a larger social and political context. Cinema is a very expensive medium, and there’s a lot of commerce attached to it. A producer will look at many aspects, most importantly the viability of a project. When a show like this gets the support, it definitely gives a producer or a studio, confidence to go out and do it,” Karma said in a candid chat with indianexpress.com.
An FTII-pass out in direction and screenplay writing, Karma has been into filmmaking for the past few years. While his co-directed feature titled Mor Mann Ke Bharam (Chhattisgarhi) won the Special Jury Prize at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2015, his movie Ralang Road (Nepalese) was screened at several film festivals around the world in 2017, including Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and Dharamshala International Film Festival. He’s also made two short features.
Speaking about his journey from behind the camera to in front of it, Karma revealed what encouraged him to take up acting. “Amit (director Amit Kumar) and I belong to the same film institute. So, we could approach the subject with a sense of trust. It all happened with one phone call where he told me about the series. I thought he wanted me to help him find an actor from the North East for that role. He asked me if I would be interested. I initially refused. But then, I read the script which was fantastic.”
Karma’s Dev is a jhakri or shaman, who has the power to connect with the departed souls to revisit their last hour before their death and help them attain salvation. The plot of the show also uses a lot of folklores and stories of heartland North East. While Karma accepted of not believing in such concept personally, he spoke on whether he feared any sort of rejection from the audience. “It’s more about the respect that we give to the belief, that something of this sort happens. It is very easy for people to thrash such superstitious but there is faith involved in it, and where faith is involved, there is belief.”
“Even if you do a tried and tested narrative, it doesn’t always work. For a show like this where things have been put together in a certain manner, it intrigues some people, and for some, they want it to be placed like other narratives. I don’t think I was worried, because my focus was if my director was happy before the audience,” Karma added.
Dev not just travels in the past life, but is also an archery expert. Karma accepted that having a basic knowledge of the craft helped him. “Though I’m not very good at it, but I wasn’t alien to it. I used to do archery when I was young. I come from a very small village in Sikkim where we had archery tournaments. It is quite popular there. Of course, I still needed to brush it up and be authentic. But it wasn’t the hardest part of the preparation,” he revealed.
Then what was the hardest part of playing the character? “It was to wrap my head around the fact that I was coming on board as an actor. It’s a long commitment, something that happens over time. I think sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult. Every great actor will put nuance in small things, which seemingly feel insignificant but create a larger impact.,” Karma told us.
The Last Hour was majorly shot in and around Sikkim. Sharing that he happily turned the local guide for its cast, Karma said, “Sanjay and Shahana are enthusiastic foodies. So, all our outings in town like Rabong, Mangan and Gangtok were majorly around local food. We reached a point where I didn’t want to walk with Sanjay because my only purpose was to answer to people who asked for his photograph (laughs). He did not come with a star sensibility, but as an actor. He respected everyone.”
Despite being a filmmaker himself, Karma “switched off as a director” while acting. “Otherwise you’re trying to bother yourself with too many things that aren’t within your purview. For me it was like, once you trust the director, you’re all in, and that is what I would expect as a filmmaker. As an actor, you’re looking at a scene in that moment, but there’s a larger picture to it, which the director knows.”
The Last Hour also received mixed response for its cliff-hanger ending, a definite hint towards a second season. Karma shared his take on the climax of the show. “Such an ending gives you a possibility to explore more. It’s great that audience wants to delve more into these characters. It is very encouraging,” he asserted.
Calling himself “judgmental and cynical”, Karma said it was difficult for him to watch himself onscreen. “As a filmmaker I’d say it is important to have a face that people don’t have a preconceived idea about, so that they don’t really have a reference point to where I come from, or what I have done before.”
He did laugh off when mentioned that Dev needs some lighter moments in the next season. “That’s something even my mother pointed at. If another season happens, let’s see how the director visualises Dev this time.”
He concluded by expressing hope that his work as an actor has a “domino effect” on his films and people are intrigued to watch his directorials too. “I essentially see myself as a filmmaker, because it’s a craft that I’ve studied and practiced. I’d like to believe that I’m a much better filmmaker than an actor.”
Karma will next be directing Where the Wind Blows. Sayani Gupta will star in and co-produce the film, along with Human Trial Pictures.