Kay Kay Menon on ‘Special OPS’: “The screenplay was extremely attractive…”

Ushnota Paul


The Kay Kay Menon led eight-episode action-packed spy thriller series ‘Special Ops’, that went live on 17th March in seven languages on Hotstar, has been a big success. Co-directed by Neeraj Pandey and Shivam Nair, the show follows the story of a 19-year hunt for the man behind the biggest terror attacks on India and it spans across 12 countries. Apart from Kay Kay who plays Himmat Singh, the senior analyst and logistics head at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), it also stars Saiyami Kher, Karan Tacker, Divya Dutta, Vinay Pathak, Muzammil Ibrahim and Sajjad Delafrooz.

BizAsiaLive.com caught up with Kay Kay for an exclusive chat about the show.

Where did you draw inspiration from while preparing to play a RAW agent?
The way I normally do for all my work, I draw inspiration from the script itself and also from my interactions with the writers and director of the film. That’s been my procedure all through. It’s important that the actor stays within the vision of what the director wants to be shown in the film. I keep myself within that and then I explore the depths and heights of whatever it meant to me.

Was there any special training required?
No, that’s a very stereotypical way of looking at it. Agents are very normal people and that’s what they need to have. If they stand out in the crowd, then that’s a problem. That’s one aspect. And secondly, I don’t play roles, I play people. It’s the person that I’m playing that is more important. That’s why it becomes different with each film automatically because all people are different. Roles are finite in nature, you might be a lawyer, a cop or a professor. There are probably 25,000 roles on this earth. But when I’m playing Mahesh the cop or Suresh the cop, then I’m playing Mahesh or Suresh, not the cop. That’s important, I need to play people, so automatically they’ll be different even though their profession is the same. That’s what I try to do. That’s why to me Himmat Singh was more important. Physically of course, as a cop you should have a certain body language and can’t have long hair. But mainly, it’s about playing the person and I was trying to explore Himmat Singh more than anything.

You’ve worked with Neeraj Pandey before in ‘Baby’ in 2015. How has your working equation evolved in these years?
Neeraj and I have been associated with each other since the last 17 years, right from the time of television. He was always a brilliant writer, right from the beginning. He comes up with things that’s always different in terms of the surprise element, in the way he uses humour even in dark situations. I know that if he calls me it’d only be for something substantial, for which I’m not overqualified for. So saying yes or no was not an issue at all. When I started reading the script, I went through the entire eight episodes in one go. It was that interesting! The script and the writing itself was half the work done, now it was our job to give a form to it and justify the writing itself.

The show has been shot in such exotic locations around the world ranging from Istanbul to Azerbaijan…
But most of the time, I was operating from India, all across Delhi or Mumbai. The agents were all across the world. So the next season it should definitely be the other way round (laughs)! But it’s not just put in because we had to go abroad, there’s a purpose in the web-series itself. These are story-driven locations, not just for generally showing outside locations.

You have been in the web space before too, with ‘The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family’ for ALTBalaji. How different is acting in web shows as opposed to films?
For an actor, it cannot be different because you cannot act ‘less’ because you’re for television or act ‘more’ because you’re acting in cinema. For me, the effort and intention remains the same and the camera doesn’t matter. Just that, it’s an elongated story. A film is around 2.5 hours whereas television is never ending, in between comes the web space which is the middle path. It’s on an average 8 to 10 episodes and you’ve an end to it unlike a daily soap, so you can work on it exactly like how you’d work in a film because there’s a beginning, middle and end. Being in the ‘middle path’, it’s kind of optimal in terms of juicing out the characters and the screenplay. It’s just you need to shoot for longer numbers of days, that’s all.

Himmat Singh basically leads all the other agents in the show. How was it working with this ensemble cast?
Divya (Dutta) of course is seasoned but the rest of them are very enthusiastic and to-the-point. They are extremely clued in to what they’re doing which I quite admire. There’s a certain age after which you start getting clued in to what you’re doing but these guys are already very clued in to what they’re doing, their characters and why they’re doing it. That’s very impressive.

You’ve been in the industry for 25 years. How do you view your journey now?
I view back on the whole thing and only two words come to my mind – ‘no complaints’! I believe that in every profession, a person goes through ups and downs and it’s not very different in my case either. But it’s nice to see this whole arc that I, or my contemporaries, have experienced. Right from the time when there was no social media till now, we have seen the transition right in front of us. It’s been an interesting journey, the scope of opportunity was pretty less back then because you didn’t have so many outlets. But then things changed and other mediums came and today people have a lot of opportunities to portray their skill or talent. We have stood steadfast in whatever we believed in terms of quality and I think that has helped today’s cinema as well. A content-driven cinema is getting a box-office success, so all that foundation is coming of use, I think.

What do you keep in mind now while selecting a script?
I need to know that I’m not overqualified for it because I’ve done enough stuff in the yesteryears for which I was completely overqualified – for a lack of choice, of course. That has been done. The important thing is that I need to be attracted to the screenplay and the script. If I’m attracted to it, I know that I’m doing it for that purpose. Even the director’s vision comes into play. The best part of life is that despite everything coming in place, you can still fail (laughs).

So, what attracted you to the ‘Special Ops’ script?
The screenplay itself. And of course, when Neeraj has called me to do something, I know for a fact that he has called me for a purpose. He understands the calibre. The screenplay was extremely attractive, from the time I started reading the first episode, I could not put down the script. I just finished reading the entire thing in one go. It was that interesting and for that is a major tick mark!


‘Special OPS’ is now streaming on Hotstar.