‘Unheard’ perspectives of India’s freedom struggle

Director K V Aditya discusses Disney+ Hotstar’s new Telugu series ‘Unheard’, that stars Priyadarshi, Srinivas Avasarala and Chandini Chowdary among others

Writer-director K V Aditya describes his first Telugu web series Unheard as the testimony of his unflinching love for his hometown, Hyderabad. Starring Priyadarshi Pulikonda, Chandini Chowdary, Baladitya, Srinivas Avasarala, Ajay and Anand Chakrapani, the series is scheduled to premiere on Disney+ Hotstar on September 17. In Aditya’s words, Unheard is a period drama that will present “unheard perspectives” on India’s freedom struggle through fictional conversations inspired by historical events from 1900 to 1950.

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“The Spanish flu of 1918 played an important role in making common people align with India’s freedom struggle,” Aditya explains: “The British apathy was evident as entire villages were decimated. Official estimates put the death toll at more than one crore. Freedom fighters were at the forefront of social change, helping deliver medicines to villages.”

Unheard will look at such stories and delve into the struggle in Hyderabad, which Aditya terms as “double whammy”, with people wanting freedom from the colonial British rule as well as the Nizams.

Aditya had earlier authored the book Daitya Diaries, a fiction that blends mythology and history. As a student of B.Com (Hons.) at Bhavan’s Vivekananda College in 2006, he presented a paper on Mahatma Gandhi as a management guru who took the idea of freedom struggle to the masses: “My peers were researching the market reach of cellular phone providers, but I was drawn to India’s freedom struggle. It is one of the largest movements in the world, with more than 30 crore people fighting for freedom from bondage.”

K V Aditya | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Over the years, Aditya’s interest in history led him to research on Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters: “It was like entering a rabbit hole and being thoroughly fascinated with history.”

That interest in history continued even as Aditya KV, as a Fellow of Cornell Alliance for Science, went on to work on grass root science communication in South Asia, Africa and North America. A decade of working in the corporate sector later, he stepped into the entertainment industry. He was a part of the screenwriting team for the Telugu web series Gods of Dharmapuri (2019) and in September 2020, pitched the idea of Unheard to producer Radhika Lavu of Ellanar Films. “I wrote the first conversation and she was impressed, and determined to back the series.”

Unheard, he asserts, is fiction that stems from historical events. The conversations will touch upon the non-cooperation movement, Gandhi’s non-violence movement, those who took up arms and the Chauri Chaura episode. The series looks at opposing ideologies that were a part of the freedom struggle.

Ajay plays a World War 1 veteran who later shuns violence, while Priyadarshi plays a fierce freedom fighter who believes in violence. Aditya and Radhika Lavu were clear that they wanted actors, rather than stars, for Unheard. “Srinivas Avasarala agreed to be a part of Unheard within five minutes of the narration. His character requires him to speak Urdu the way it was spoken in Hyderabad in the 1940s and 50s; he trained with a coach. I liked Baladitya’s work in 1940 lo Oka Gramam (2010) and roped him in. Chandini is an excellent performer and Priyadarshi is one of the most underrated and versatile actors in Telugu cinema. Ajay was keen on taking up the war veteran part and felt it would give him scope to prove himself as an actor. We wanted all the actors to give us some time for pre-production workshops and they did,” says Aditya.

Aditya is confident that Unheard will appeal to audiences who like to look at diverse viewpoints. Meanwhile, he has begun work on his next project, a period drama.

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