Amazon Prime Video anthology Unpaused marks a lot of firsts for filmmaker duo Raj-DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK). It’s the first time they have directed a story written by someone else, their maiden attempt to chronicle life in lockdown and also a debut collaboration with actors Gulshan Devaiah and Saiyami Kher.
But like some things don’t change, Raj-DK assure that their twisted storytelling style remains intact. In this interview with indianexpress.com, the filmmaker duo talks about conceptualising the short film Glitch in the anthology Unpaused, attempting to change the visual grammar of a short film and why OTT feels home to them.
How did the story come about? Did you pick it from different reactions to the pandemic, especially the paranoia that Gulshan Devaiah’s character seems to have developed?
DK: Once you see the film, you will realise it’s not what it appears to be. It’s not as straightforward as it appears to be. So there’s a little bit of a quirky element there. This is a story written by Reshu Nath. It also happens to be the first time we are actually directing a story that’s not written by us.
We had this chat with Aparna (Purohit) from Amazon about making a movie set in or around the pandemic, but telling a story of hope and cheer. So, we were brainstorming with Reshu, and she came up with this idea. Once you watch it, you will realise it’s a little different than what we are showing in the trailer.
Raj: We wanted to have something unique to present this time. We wanted to make sure that it ages fine. And we thought what can we do that’s not sad or dreary because we are living through it anyway. We wanted to do something light-hearted yet a little twisted.
DK, you tweeted a few months ago about feeling weird while watching a film or a series set in pre-pandemic time, where people were casually hugging and kissing. So, what we see in the Unpaused trailer, with Gulshan stressing about catching the virus, does that come from you? Who’s more paranoid out of you two?
DK: Raj is more paranoid than me, in general. (Laughs)
Raj: The idea is that there’s always a bit of you in many characters, and then you exaggerate it or explore them further. I am sure even Gulshan was like this. When I told Gulshan the story, he said, ‘I am like this too.’ So, I said then let two hypochondriacs make this movie! The idea is to have a relatable character but then where will the character take you. That’s where it becomes fun.
And then where do we pitch the girl? How do we take their story forward? It’s only two characters, so we had to figure out a story where they can either complement or contrast each other or work together.
When did the script come to you?
Raj: I told Aparna that the short film would jump-start itself once we have a story. We thought of a couple of ideas but weren’t keen about them. Then Reshu mentioned a concept, which we thought would lend itself to a film. This film is a little departure from our other works like The Family Man, Stree and Go Goa Gone, in the sense that we have focused on visuals.
We wanted a visual treatment that you usually don’t get out of a short film because of the constraints and the budget. So usually you tend to focus on the story and a certain emotion in it. But we thought why not flip it and actually try for a visual experience, given the limitations. So, the whole film is crafted that way.
The way these two acted and the way music has been added – everything has a certain rhythm and a strange craft to it. That was the exciting part!
How was your experience working with Gulshan Devaiah who seems such a natural fit in your world? His eccentricity works well with typical Raj-DK quirk.
DK: You are bang on about Gulshan. He is a person who very naturally brings that quirk or a certain eccentricity to a character, no matter what the situation is. His natural personality is like that. A kind of personality that works very well with the sort of stuff we tend to make.
Raj: We felt at home with a lot of things on this small film. We just had to go up to Gulshan for a second take and ask him, ‘Will you try this?’. And, the next moment he is doing exactly that. The tuning was great.
With things changing drastically this year for the film business, causing a boom in the OTT space, are we seeing a massive shift in viewing habits of the audience as well as in the industry’s preference for the big screen? As creators, are you comfortable letting go of the big screen for the time being?
DK: I don’t think films are going away at all. This is a temporary phase. Of course, a lot of filmmakers are happy that their films are getting released on digital platforms. There are advantages that come with digital platforms, especially with some films that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home. Like a lot of the shows that you watch are very personal, way more than the films you watch. It’s like reading a book. You are doing it at your own pace and environment.
Whereas watching a film is little more of an outdoor event. So, one thing this pandemic has done is boost OTT content watching. Having said that, what will change is the kind of films that will release in theatres. Perhaps not every film will release in theatres going forward. There will be an automatic distinction that certain films will arrive on the big screen and others on OTT. But some films are meant for theatre and people will wait and lap it up.
For me, I can’t wait to watch Tenet in theatres, pandemic or not.
Raj: As a filmmaker, we all want our stuff to be on the big screen. That’s how we became filmmakers. There are no two ways about it. But for the last few years, I have realised that the medium was slightly secondary for me. I wasn’t a prejudiced guy that this has to release in theatres only.
For me, content was number one and the way you consume it is flexible. You got to be flexible with the times. We doubled down on series three years ago because I was like I enjoy watching series, so I want to make one. We put aside a film to make a series.
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