When the second season of Metro Park was announced as being released, I was interested to see how the cast, who was previously familiar with each other, would engage with each other on screen, with the current lockdown situation around the world. Because actors are inherently creative beings, I delved into the more technical aspects of filmmaking with Omi Vaidya, Pitobash Tripathy, and Purbi Joshi.
How difficult was it to do the kind of comedy you are required to do in Metro Park without anyone present?
Pitobash: It was difficult because comedy is all about timing with your co-actor so in this quarantine episode, there is nobody there with me to actually react with me so for every shot, we have to actually consider different kinds of reactions that could come from your co-actors. That way, in the edit, the director can find the actual two takes that complement each other. So it was challenging but it was fun.
Purbi: It was definitely difficult to do a solo performance without anyone present. I guess, this is where your experience and years of working comes in. I have known Ranvir Shorey for so long, and I have worked with him, and we are very good friends. Because we had shot the first season of Metro Park and we already knew each other’s character arcs, we just followed our instincts as an actor and just hoped that it would all work out so that is how the process was for me.
Omi: It is extremely difficult to do comedy in general. There is a saying that dying is easy, comedy is hard, and I believe that is very true. It is hard to do comedy because it is about making people laugh and getting people’s reactions…so when you do comedy in isolation, you don’t know if it is funny so it is very difficult. Sometimes, I had to shoot by myself and sometimes, my wife had to shoot my scenes. My wife is very accustomed to my comedy, so much so, that she never laughs anymore. She knows the punchline, every joke, every thought before it is coming out. She would shoot my scenes and I would do something funny, and she would say, “yeah, okay, okay, alright…moving on” so I wouldn’t know if it was funny or my wife’s reaction (chuckles) so that was hard. You have to have a strong sense of comedy and confidence to know that something is funny when no one is around.
Acting is based on reactions and direction. How did that component work out? Did you do blocking in advance?
Pitobash: So we have to do blocking because I live alone and I have to operate the camera as well from both behind the camera and being in front of the camera. Also, of course, before we start shooting, the actors, directors, we had a group chat and we discussed what exactly the director wants. But when you are shooting, you are all alone and you have to believe in your judgment.
Purbi: It is about action and reaction and you kind of miss that but you have to gage and have to know what your part is. We were given a script where everything was written but we also got a PDF file with a shot list – a mid shot, or a long shot, or where you were looking. So everyone had a specific technical part to play.
Omi: Well, no…I went to Film School in New York University. When I don’t have a director, I know how to direct myself. I know how to do framing. However, I did not know the reaction of my wife in the show because she was shooting in Delhi so it was difficult. We just had to have faith because we had shot the first season together so we thought about how I would and my wife would react to my lines and have faith that the other person will shoot similarly. I also shot and did some photos in advance so that the Vega (the actress who played my wife) would know how my walls look and would know the framing so that when she shot her scenes, it would not look like she was in a completely different room. It is a lot of faith you need to have to make it work and overall, it came out really well.
What was the most challenging aspect and what was the most liberating?
Pitobash: When you are in front of the camera, you cannot see the frames or lighting coming out and so, basically, you have to start the camera, act, then sit down and watch it and sometimes you have to re-frame yourself and you keep doing trial and error…and then you will start performing. That was one of the most challenging parts but at the same time, it was liberating because when limitations come in, it always pushes you to broaden your boundaries.
Purbi: For me, the most challenging part was to do it at a time when it worked. I have a son and I had to do it at a time when I would be available because I had no help due to the lockdown. I had this time around mid-day when my son would take a nap so I would have to be super prepared – I had to keep myself ready, clothes, and had to keep my make up on, getting all set. The minute he went for the nap, I would jump in and start filming. The most liberating was knowing that I could do this as I have never done something like this before. I think it was good to know – it was something I enjoyed. This is knowledge and I am learning along the way.
Omi: I think the most challenging part of shooting in isolation is not really knowing how the final product will look. We are only seeing one part of ten pieces – it is a part that will be cut up with another ten pieces. You have to have a very clear idea of how you are going to perform and you just go for it. You just submit it, and if there are any changes to be made, you just make them. I think the most liberating part was working with my wife because she is not a camera person and she doesn’t care about this stuff – she is a social epidemiologist, a person who studies health. She doesn’t understand the lingo (pan, tilt, zoom) and it gets a little frustrating with someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. But that also means we have to communicate better and give the other person more time to understand and that was nice – it brought us together and gave her an understanding of how difficult my work is. It really brought us together.
The show seems to provide a very light-hearted take on the lockdown situation. How do you de-stress and stay calm in the present circumstances?
Pitobash: This is an unprecedented situation throughout the world and we are facing the same situation, locked inside our homes. If we think about the negative sides, you will keep getting depressed. But, rather than that, I focused on time for myself, and that is like a gift. Read, watch different stuff, write, and practice your music – enrich yourself creatively. As an actor, it is our responsibility to also deal with the situation in a lighter way.
Purbi: Absolutely right – it is a very light-hearted take on the current situation and it is meant to de-stress our viewers. We all are so stressed, physically and emotionally, going through these crazy ups and downs and Metro Park is a very easy, family-oriented, light, and fun show to watch. We are trying to show that with some humour, we can combat these situations and listen, this isn’t the answer to everything, but maybe the smile on the face will brighten up your day. I feel very fortunate to be with my family, and I have a home, and I have a son to play with and I have a backyard, and have some fresh air. I feel very fortunate. I have actually started gardening a lot and that has been a huge stress-buster for me. At first, I did not have the space but now, I do, and the time, whenever I get some time – in the morning, I go and garden and my son comes with me and he tries to do what I do, and it’s kind of cute. He is learning from this. I think this has been de-stressing for me and continue this, and hopefully, by the end of it, I will literally have a green thumb.
Omi: It is really hard because every day seems like the same day over and over again. You can’t go out – you eat, you go to bed, you watch shows, you have anxiety about the future and what’s going to happen. What do you do in these situations? You go outside and go somewhere – the forest, or a walk and be with nature. Sometimes, I sit on my balcony and have a good coffee or read a book. Something to get out of my mind. Having time with my children and wife – these times, I will never get back – everyone at home. I will be sad when everyone goes back to work and my kids go back to school. We will look back at these times and think about spending time without running around, so I will miss all that. People should be grateful for the time that we have together before we go out and chase those dreams and ambitions.
Interviewer’s note: Make sure to catch this one!