January 21, 2022 8:13:48 am
Actor Shreya Dhanwanthary laughs as she says she and co-star Priyanshu Painyuli can “create chemistry even with a tree.” The two talented artistes are collaborating for the first time in director Nupur Asthana’s short titled The Couple in the second season of Unpaused. “We’ve been hovering around each other for a long time, and I’m glad we got to finally work together on this,” Shreya added during a candid conversation with indianexpress.com.
The anthology Unpaused: Naya Safar is a collection of five short films set during the pandemic. It brings together filmmakers Nagraj Manjule, Shikha Makan, Ruchir Arun, Ayappa KM and Nupur Asthana as they helm the five stories.
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The Couple explores how the relationship of the two leads changes when the woman, played by Shreya, gets laid off by her company. “Every day there were reports and stories in the newspaper. It was also about your self respect, which gets so deeply shaken for no reason of your own. That kind of really affected me and hence I thought I should address it in a relationship story,” Nupur said.
Shreya further pointed out that Nupur’s research and the way she planned to present the story “was enough of a jumping off point for me to take off from. It’s really nice to be part of a story that’s reflective of what’s happening outside, a story that’s very current.”
“During the pandemic, as a couple, you obviously are very emotionally unstable. You’re trying to support each other, not just workwise, but also create that emotional balance, be it a man or woman,” Priyanshu, who was also present during the interaction, added.
Nupur revealed she was “in an angry state of mind” when she wrote this story because of “a few unpleasant things around me.” Shreya interrupted to add that “it was absolutely another privilege of mine to be a representation of that anger (laughs).”
The Couple was shot in the middle of the pandemic, with a minimal crew and on a tight schedule of three days. Priyanshu said they managed to pull it off because they were all in sync from day one, a rare feat on any project. “I realised in some of my previous projects, it took time. We did workshops or the syncing took ten days on set. Over here, I did not have to do much to understand Nupur’s point, or to have a chemistry with Shreya.”
The trailer of Unpaused 2 showed some heart-warming stories, The Couple being an emotional tale that gave ample scope to the two actors to explore their craft, while also maintaining a romantic chemistry. But Nupur revealed unlike their ‘couple vibes’ onscreen, Shreya and Priyanshu were quite the opposite off camera.
“They would never stop talking. They would be joking and I’d ask them to focus. But the moment I’d say roll, they would be in character. So then I can’t complain about anything. They both have slightly different styles of working. Shreya is very spontaneous. Priyanshu is also spontaneous, but he likes to do takes and rehearse. They both bring out the best of each other. If I say they both are like siblings, that would take away from their onscreen chemistry, but they are like that,” Nupur said.
Nupur, who’s previously directed films Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge and Bewakoofiyaan, apart from TV shows like Hip Hip Hurray and Mahi Way, and web shows Romil & Jugal and Four More Shots Please season 2, said she loved exploring the short film format in an anthology for the first time, and wonders why she didn’t try it before.
“I’m either used to telling (a story in) 10 hours, or 90 minutes. So it was very interesting to see what you can say in 25-30 minutes. Here, you keep your story to micro in a macro kind of situation. I think it’s a beautiful medium,” she said.
Priyanshu, on the other hand, has done dozens of shorts during the start of his career. While he believes it’s a great time to be an actor as “filmmakers are looking at stories very differently,” he added that anthologies are on similar lines, and wishes the format had arrived earlier.
But how challenging does it become for actors like Shreya and Priyanshu, who’ve been part of back-to-back successful projects, to live up to the growing expectations of the audience? Shreya said, “To rest on your laurels is a little ridiculous. It’s not a good idea to come on set with a procession that you’ve done such awesome work. I don’t believe in carrying that pressure because we are constantly in the tension of unemployment. I’m just glad I get to be on set and do good roles.”
Unpaused: Naya Safar also stars Saqib Saleem, Neena Kulkarni, Geetanjali Kulkarni and more in the other four shorts. It will release on Amazon Prime Video on January 21.
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