ifilm website highlights interview revealing catchy details on popular series ‘Setayesh’.
The interview with ‘Setayesh’ producer brings to light bits and piece of this series you may not know. What Arman Zarinkoub revealed follows on:
*At first, Iraj Ghaderi was supposed to make ‘Stayesh’, but his illness did not allow it. How long was he engaged in pre-production?
Mr. Ghaderi continued production almost eight months. The series owes part of his success to him because he cast Heshmat Ferdows (Daryoush Arjmand).
* Did he cast any actor for female leading role?
Yes, Ms. Shila Khodadad. Mr. Ghaderi believed that anyone who played the titular role should also act middle-aged time of this character.
* With this account, did you consider the possibility of a time passage in its initial stage of this project?
Yes, our plan was complete. From the beginning, this passage of time ws included. Ms. Khodadad announced her readiness for the role, and the makeup test on her face also worked for both a 20-year-old as well as 40-year-old woman. She even signed a contract, but when Mr. Ghaderi quitted the project, Ms. Khodadad also had a personal excuse to leave the project. When this happened, we were looking for an alternative director.
* On what basis, did you get to choose Asghar Hashemi?
We considered several directors to replace Mr. Ghaderi. I tried to choose between the available directorial options so that both generations would know our story well. Mr. Hashemi was selected on this basis. When he came to continue the pre-production, we had almost 13 parts of the series in black and white.
* It was at this time that Mitra Hajjar was chosen for the role of Seyatesh?
Yes . After Ms. Khodadad left, we made a contract with Ms. Hajjar, and the filming finally began at her presence. Meanwhile, Mehdi Pakdel and Sima Tirandaz were also picked out by Mr. Hashemi.
* And what was the reason for Asghar Hashemi's departure?
That was due to his request for three months halt in the project as well as writing the rest of the series’ screenplay all the way through, which was practically impossible for me and he broke off from the project. Of course, Mr. Hashemi directed 220 minutes of the series set at Heshmat Ferdows' house in the first season. Next, I was thinking of replacing the director, and finally we agreed on Mr. Soltani between the available options. It took about 20 days for the work to resume.
* The rumor was that you had sued Mitra Hajjar over her breaking off from the series. Is that true?
There was no complaint, but her absence did heavy financial damage to the project. Based on the contract between us, we referred to the review body in Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and the case was resolved. Ms. Hajar filmed for 10 sessions. I was told I would rather not be. Of course, her reasons were not professional. When she left, we contacted all our friends so that the work would not stop, so some days we had to call it a day because of not having the actress playing Setayesh. Ms. Mohammadi was introduced to our office through a friend. I believed that she was suitable for this role, and then Mr. Soltani and Mr. Motalebi came to the conclusion that Narges Mohammadi had the ability to play this role.
* Narges Mohammadi was an unknown actress before she played Setayesh. She was lucky to be weeded through potential candidates.
Yes, Ms. Mohammadi was lucky. Many actors at that time had an audition for the role, but when Ms. Mohammadi came in, almost all options were eliminated.
* Who were the other options?
I'd rather not name them because my friends were kind enough to come, but it didn't work out.
* Did you have a strong motivation to continue ‘Setayesh’ with all these ups and downs?
This is our job, and if we are going to give up on anything, nothing will happen. Incidentally, it is in a critical situation that we have to show ourselves. When I saw the late Ghaderi getting to work at seven in the morning, despite his illness, that motivated us not to give up. Thank God, the series became so popular that many people called their children after the titular role’s name Setayesh and even many Heshmat Ferdows’ catch phrases entered the public’s vocabulary.
The series received a mixed review. It has had many, but it also has not-so-kind critique. They think it's a fantasy series; it's an Indian film; it's very bitter ...
I believe none of this holds true in the case of this a series as social drama that properly portrays the problems of both generations and very close fits to the taste of the Iranian audience. The audience is located. Of course, the beginning of our project was not tear-jerking like this! After writing about five episodes of the series, I realized that the scriptwriter knows the audience's taste very well, and from that moment on, I made sure that the goal we were pursuing was right. We would face a large audience.
* Critics say the time of these stories is over.
I don't think so. If Setayesh is a story that has come to an end, then how can 64% of viewership be justified? Why do the ratings say the series was the most popular at some point? Let's not forget that the weekly series was broadcast at a time when satellite networks were expanding every day.
* How was Narges Mohammadi cast?
When Mr. Motalebi came up with the idea to continue the series, we talked to the actors. I was reading the script for season two, and in episode 5 I came to the conclusion that Ms. Mohammadi could no longer be ‘Setayesh’. My argument was that the atmosphere of the story and the relationship between the characters, including having a son-in-law and a elder son.
* What was the director's opinion?
He also accepted my reason. Mr. Soltani agreed with Ms. Mohammadi 50%, but in the tripartite meeting (director, writer, producer) we came to the conclusion that another actor should be replaced. We were worried about how the audience would react to the new Setayesh. My argument was that the atmosphere would change after twenty years, and that the character's behavior would change. If everything was correct, the viewer would automatically accept her after a few episodes and identify with the character.
* Was this when Laya Zanganeh was cast?
Yes, we invited Ms. Zanganeh to play the middle-aged role of ‘Setayesh’. Her contract was signed and she went in front of the camera. The shooting stopped due to the weather conditions in the north of the country, which coincided with Persian New Year Nowruz. As we further did the filming, Mr. Soltani showed more interest to have Ms. Mohammadi as Setayesh. We talked to her, but we did not reach an agreement. On the other hand, Ms. Zanganeh was very interested in this role, and we believed that the best choice for the middle-aged role of Satayesh. However, when we saw a few of shots, Mr. Soltani believed that this Setayesh was not a good fit to the one we had in the first season. That's why we talked to Ms. Mohammadi once again, but we still did not reach an agreement on financial terms. Until Ms. Mohammadi joined the cast and it was so last minute. That is, just one day before the shooting started.
* The name Merila Zarei was also heard at some point for the role?
Ms. Zarei is a very capable actress in cinema and television. Certainly, her presence could have been very suitable for the role, but I never saw her in person and I only heard about it through the media.