I relate to the characters: Rahul Nair
Coming like he does out of nowhere Rahul Nair at 29 makes a sparkling impact as the writer and director of Netflix’s series Eternally Confused & Eager For Love. The writing is fresh funny and fearless. Where did that come from? He tells Subhash K Jha
The words in your serial Eternally Confused & Eager For Love sound like what kids speak today. How much of you is in this?
I wrote close to home. I relate to the characters. Some of the situations in the show are from my life. But that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike my protagonist Ray I don’t talk to a toy.I don’t have a voice in my head.Most of the major turning points in the show are fictional. There is no moment that is actually mine.
Was there a fear that the English language would limit the audience?
This is the language I think in. I wanted to write in a language I was most comfortable with.I grew up speaking English and Hindi. But I went to an English medium school and I went to college in America. So it wasn’t as if I made an effort to write in any particular language. I just wrote in whichever language came to mind. We’ve come to a point in time on the OTT platforms where it is possible to communicate in any language. So yeah,my characters speak in English. But the show is also dubbed in Hindi and also subtitled in various languages.I will watch the Hindi dub for the first time soon.English gives my show a universal reach. I watch shows in various languages. I hope people in other parts of the world watch my show in any language they want.
Barring a couple of characters they all speak in English?
That’s how it is in my real life. My friends speak to me in English. When I go to work we speak in English. All the characters KNOW Hindi but speak in English except the domestic help Umesh. He is one of my favourite characters . While everyone is trying to help the protagonist Ray, Umesh is just there for him.
We share a very unique relationship with our househelps. Your serials captures that.
We do share a unique relationship with them. There is a whole industry in our country for househelps.We can assume Umesh has seen my protagonist Ray grow up.
Why have you called him Ray? Are you a fan of Satyajit Ray?
Of course.Who isn’t?But that’s not why I named him Ray. I wanted a name that isn’t culture-specific . The name Ray doesn’t tell us where he and his family are from. They could be from any part of India. In Mumbai they’ve become a part of Mumbai. A city like Mumbai takes away a part of your roots and makes you part of the city.
The voice in Ray’s head is incredibly voiced by Jim Sarbh.
Jim has given an incredible performance. Not that I ever had an alter ego. But as a child being a single child I would speak to imaginary friends. But to me Ray in my series is embodying the voices in his head. Whether we talk to ourselves or not we do debate issues. Jim Sarbh personifies the thought process.
Jim is the second hero of the film?
Oh yes. The series wouldn’t have worked without him. He wasn’t part of our shooting. We had someone stand in his place.we cast Jim in the post-production. Before that we had not zeroed in on the voice. Azeem Banatwalla helped us a lot, he gave Vihaan Smaat(who plays the gero Ray) the cues on the sets. Later Jim Sarbh did the dubbing, with his own improvisations.. He gave the show a second layering.
Where did you find Vihaan?
He was in two Netflix shows earlier Mismatched and Bombay Begums. When we auditioned him we didn’t know he had done these things before. But he seemed right for the role.I think finding Ray was the most crucial part of making this series. We auditioned over a hundred actors. Zoya Akhtar who is a producer on the show insisted that our Ray had to be endearing because he was going to do many stupid things.The audience had to be with him.The minute we saw Vihaan’s audition we all felt he was it.This was just before the first lockdown in 2020 March. Vihaan only found out he was playing Ray in September 2020 because all work ceased in-between.
How difficult was it shooting through the Covid?
In retrospect it was a miracle. We shot in December 2020 and we finished in mid-Feb 2021 a few weeks before the second lockdown. All of us in the crew of about a 100 were wearing a mask, getting constantly tested. Nobody tested positive.We did all the prep online. What I missed was sitting down with the crew and interacting physically, ordering lunch together,etc.
How did you get this big break?
I studied in NYU for four years. I started working as an intern on various projects when I returned in 2015. I joined as an intern at Excel. While assisting on Made In Heaven Ritesh Sidhwani asked me if I had anything I wanted to make. Luckily for me I had this script. I was working on the script of Eternally Confused & Eager For Love for four years. Excel pitched the show to Netflix.And that was it.I love working with Excel.
Are working on anything else?
I am always writing. Right now my focus would be on the second season of Eternally Confused….If for some reason this doesn’t work out then I’d go into my folder where I have scripts in progress.