The Family Man Season 2, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is nothing short of a runaway hit. In several discussions over the past week with directors Raj & DK, and cast members Manoj Bajpayee, Sharib Hashmi and Devadarshini, there were many interesting anecdotes on what went behind the scenes as the series was planned and executed. Excerpts:
On the writing process:
Raj Nidimoru: The three of us (Raj, DK and Suman Kumar, the co-writer) brainstorm in the office. Suman comes up with a lot of ideas and is good at plotting the geopolitical aspects of the story. And then the three of us have an intense brainstorm session. And when we start writing, a certain quirkiness sets in, which is complemented by the actors like Manoj.
On what made the shooting special:
Manoj Bajpayee: The most interesting part to see in The Family Man shooting is the rehearsal. We have improvisations and peer feedback. We talk to the directors, come to the floor and work it out. Sometimes the rehearsals are way too many to make the improvisation just correct and natural. But I really enjoy this process while shooting. It makes the entire space so creatively charged up and stimulating that I look forward to coming back to shooting the next day.
On creating Chellam sir:
Raj: His is a quirky plot point. It’s a deliberate disruption of an organic story by adding an offbeat character like Chellam. It is risky, but exciting. There’s no need for a know-it-all character like him. He works solely because of his quirk; Chellam sir is a cool character.
On adding elements of comedy in dark situations:
Krishna DK: That is just Srikanth, I think (laughs). I think the character dictates it.
Raj: We trust in the actor that he will pull it off. Most of the humour in the series is organic, it’s not forced. The laughs come from the straight-faced deliveries from the actors; and that has helped us a lot in writing Season 2. Now we know how Manoj (Srikanth) and Sharib Hashmi (JK) would react in their respective roles. So, the humour comes from extracting the quirk potential of the actors.
On JK originally being ‘Mr. Ghosh’:
Sharib Hashmi: When I had auditioned for the part, they sent me the script and it said Mr Ghosh. I said, ‘give me two days. I’ll work on my Bengali accent and come back for the test’. They said I had to keep it neutral, without any accent, and then they’d take a call. Raj and DK liked my audition but when I met them, they said I don’t look Bengali. They asked me which other region I could fit in. My dad was from UP so I suggested that. They said no because Srikant Tiwari is from UP, so that was taken. We also considered making him Muslim but Pasha and Zoya were already there. Then I said let’s do Maharashtrian because I was born and raised here, and I speak Marathi well.
On the challenges of incorporating multiple languages in a Hindi series:
Devadarshini: Almost all my dialogues (as Umayal) were in Tamil, except for a few in English. So learning the dialogues, per se, wasn’t difficult. But the format was interesting for other reasons.
If all my co-actors are speaking in Hindi for a scene, I had to remind myself that I should react like I didn’t understand a word of what they were speaking. In other scenes, like the one where we are eating idli, I shouldn’t react at all when they are speaking. Because Devadarshini understands Hindi, I shouldn’t forget that Umayal doesn’t. So I had to constantly behave like I’m clueless, even though I could follow what they were saying.
On casting Samantha Akkineni as Raji:
Raj: We saw two of Samantha’s films: Super Deluxe and Rangasthalam. And her roles in those films were very different from Raji. In those films, she had glamorous, chirpy and lively personalities. I was impressed by the way she was able to hold her characters with a flourish for so long. Both of us were impressed by her strength and confidence as an actor. She read the script, came to Mumbai. We told her that her role would be very different from her previous ones, but she assured us that she loved the character and would nail it. And she made the character her own. As directors, we thought our job was done and gave her a free-hand to go about the character and let her take over.
On shooting the signature Raj & DK continuous shots:
MB: Honestly, those sequences were scary to shoot. They were really challenging and demanding physically. DK would vouch for it; once he got carried away and tried to imitate us, ending up with a sprained ankle.
While shooting for the climax, there were more than 4-5 rehearsals and we were doing them in turns. Both me and Selva (Anand Sami) were exhausted at the end of the fight sequences. 5-6 takes had 7-8 minutes of extremely physically demanding action sequences. I feared falling down or passing out while giving one of the takes. But what motivated me was just the willpower of doing it right and challenging yourself.
Devadarshini: Those long sequences are a lot of fun to work on. It really is a rush. If you make a mistake, it means that everyone has to do the whole thing again. There’s no ‘one more’. So it gives you the feeling that you’re on a stage play, with a high level of alertness.
On building the single-shot action sequences:
DK: We incorporate immersive single-shot sequences. When you are going with a single shot, you are going with the character and you don’t know anything more than what the character knows. You see what they are seeing. And so, a lot of prep goes into shooting a single-shot sequence.
Let’s say an action sequence takes four days to shoot. A single-shot sequence would take the same time to wrap up as a multiple-shot sequence. The only difference is that in a single-shot sequence, you rehearse for three days and you shoot only on the fourth day. You go to the location; you plan the scene. Then the action director comes in, choreographs the action sequence and shoots it on a phone. Then the DOP comes, and you do the rehearsal with the stunt people in front of an actual camera. Then you bring in the actors and they have to be trained in their respective pieces. Then you run the whole thing again. Finally, you roll the final sequence, and a lot of takes follow.
On the origins of the phrase – ‘Don’t be a minimum guy’:
Raj: I was writing that scene when I called DK saying, “We need a quote here.” I googled for the most common quotes used in offices. We thought of using a quote that was already there. And then ‘Don’t be a minimum guy’ came up. It’s wrong English, it sounds strange, but it sounded fun.
We had coined a similar phrase in Go Goa Gone too: ‘What do we know? What have we learnt?’ We didn’t want to attribute the quote to ourselves so we put a Steve Jobs poster next to it.
DK: In case you ever search for whether Steve Jobs had actually said that line, you’d be surprised to know that the only place he is quoted with that line is in Go Goa Gone. I don’t think he ever actually said that.