Updated: September 9, 2020 5:29:18 pm
Actor Sumeet Vyas hopes his upcoming web show, Wakaalat From Home, sets the precedence for a new kind of narration in the times of Covid. “The fact that we managed to shoot an entire series during the lockdown is great,” he said. Also starring Nidhi Singh, Kubbra Sait, Gopal Datt and Akarsh Khurana, the show revolves around a couple going through divorce over a zoom call. Directed by Rohan Sippy and written by Anuvab Pal, the 10-episode show will release on Amazon Prime Video on September 10.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Sumeet got candid about filming a show at home, reuniting with his Permanent Roommates co-star Nidhi Singh, and the challenge of getting the comic timing right always.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. How did the idea of an online divorce come up for the show?
Our writer Anuvab Pal stumbled upon a news article about a divorce proceeding happening on zoom, where the court was functioning online. That’s where it stemmed from. He put out a concept note and asked a bunch of us if we were interested. Rohan Sippy came on board. Coming together of a bunch of friends to do something interesting was another draw for us. Rohan Sippy was the only person we were intimidated by. Otherwise we were all friends. So we were just chilling.
Q. But why is Mikesh divorcing Tanya this time? Don’t you think it’ll be heartbreaking for fans?
(Laughs) That was also sort of a thing to do the show. And you’ll get to see Nidhi and me in a very different light.
Q. Was you and Nidhi playing a couple a deliberate attempt to bring back Permanent Roommates memories?
Initially, Nidhi wasn’t supposed to do it. They got in touch with many people who would be interested. It happened piece by piece. So I don’t think that was the intention.
Q. What’s you character Sujin’s problem in Wakaalat?
Sujin is a very flawed character. He’s a little all over the place. He is a struggling actor who’s not been able to get much work. To make ends meet, he’s been doing other shady things, because of which he’s now stuck in a place. And his wife has been suspecting him of doing something else, which he isn’t doing. So it’s a series of incidents where there has been miscommunication between the couple, and now they are stuck in different places. He has not come home for a few days. So she has filed for a divorce.
Q. How much pre-shoot planning is needed when you are shooting at home? How was your experience?
I have huge respect for cinematographers and lightmen now, because it’s a tedious job to set up a frame. As actors, we sometimes get restless about the time being taken to set up a shot. But this time, when we had to do it ourselves, we realised how hard the technicians’ job is. Also, we rehearsed a lot. It was almost like theatre. The first draft of the show came in, then we had online readings. So the first couple of days, we were just getting used to this medium.
Q. How was it cracking the comic timing while working from different places?
We shot in real time. We were doing our scenes on a zoom call where we could see each other. It was like an actual zoom meeting. And then we had a separate set-up with our phones. The phone camera was adjusted in such a way that it was right next to the laptop’s camera, capturing the same frame. We would set the light in a way that it would look natural. So, if you were to see it from outside, it was a very weird set-up. We couldn’t move anything, or else the whole set-up goes for a toss. We had to do 2-3 rounds of technical rehearsals. That was more complex than acting and recording it.
Q. Is keeping the humour element always relevant a difficult task?
It is. And what is more difficult is for people to take it seriously when you aren’t doing comedy. But just in terms of humour also, I think the way people consume comedy is changing with time. The kind of things we found funny 10 years ago are funny no more. They might be too loud and too jarring today, and we need something more subtle and understated.
Q. What are your expectations from Wakaalat From Home?
I hope the show comes as a relief in such times. Very honestly, through the lockdown, my wife Ekta (Kaul) was heavily pregnant. So we had a lot of time and wanted to watch stuff on TV. But every other show or film would be full of violence, very intense and dark. She didn’t want to watch such kind of shows since she was carrying a child. It was so hard to find something light-hearted. We kept watching reruns of Friends. There’s no comedy now, everybody wants to kill each other, I don’t know why!
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