'While assisting on Made In Heaven, Ritesh Sidhwani asked me if I had anything I wanted to make.'
'Luckily, I had this script. I was working on the script of Eternally Confused And Eager For Love for four years.'
'Excel pitched the show to Netflix, and that was it!
Rahul Nair makes a sparkling impact as the writer and director of the Netflix series Eternally Confused And Eager For Love.
The 29 year old tells Subhash K Jha, "Unlike Ray, I don't talk to a toy. I don't have a voice in my head."
The words in your Web series Eternally Confused And Eager For Love sound like what kids speak today. How much of you is in this?
I wrote close to home.
I relate with the characters.
Some of the situations 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 comfortable with.
I grew up speaking English and Hindi, but I went to an English medium school and then college in America.
So it wasn't as if I made an effort to write in a particular language. I just wrote in whichever language came to mind.
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've come to a point 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 subtitled in various languages.
English gives the 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.
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 being a single child, I would speak to imaginary friends.
To me, Ray is embodying the voices in his head.
Whether we talk to ourselves or not, we do debate issues.
Jim Sarbh personifies the thought process.
So Jim is the second hero of the series?
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.
(Stand-up comic) Azeem Banatwalla helped us a lot. He gave Vihaan Samat (who plays Ray) cues on the sets.
Later, Jim Sarbh did the dubbing with his own improvisations, and 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 shows before. 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 stupid things.
The audience had to be with him. The minute we saw Vihaan's audition, we felt he was it.
This was just before the first lockdown in March 2020.
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 pandemic?
In retrospect, it was a miracle.
We shot in December 2020 and finished in mid-February 2021, a few weeks before the second lockdown.
Everyone in the crew of about 100 were wearing a mask, and getting constantly tested.
We did 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 (New York University) for four years.
I started working as an intern on various projects when I returned in 2015.
I joined as an intern at Excel (Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar's production company). While assisting on Made In Heaven (the Excel show for Amazon Prime Video), Ritesh Sidhwani asked me if I had anything I wanted to make.
Luckily, I had this script. I was working on the script of Eternally Confused And Eager For Love for four years.
Excel pitched the show to Netflix, and that was it!
Are you 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, it does not work out, I will go back to my folder where I have scripts in progress.