Shaadi Boys: A ‘Middle-Class’ Take on Extravagant Indian Weddings
Shaadi Boys, a web series satirizing the extravagance in Indian weddings, is a classic example of how good writing and the freedom of the digital space make for a dream team. The 8-episode series explores the lives of three individuals — Neil, Nitin and Mukesh — who end up covering the same wedding and the hilarity that ensues.
Released on VOOT, Viacom’s digital platform, the series has been getting quite a few laughs, and we catch up with the writers Siddharth Singh & Garima Wahal, as well as director Shashant Shah to know more about the stories behind the show.
Siddharth and Garima, who have previously worked on films like Goliyon ki Raasleela – Ramleela and Brothers, elaborate:
How did you first conceptualise Shaadi Boys, and what was the process involved in materializing it into a web series?
Shaadi Boys comes from a very personal experience… both of us started our writing careers in Mumbai with writing scripts for shaadi ‘sangeets’. So the concept itself is part-autobiographical for us! There are a whole lot of incidents, anecdotes and experiences from the super-rich weddings we’ve attended, which we always wanted to share with the world. What better route than doing it with a web series like Shaadi Boys? Especially as it wouldn’t even fall prey to censorship or ‘being politically correct’. The process was pretty simple as it goes with any other script that we approach: pitch – approval – research – create.
As soon as we pitched it to Viacom; Monika (Shergill, Content Head), Tanya and the team fell in love with it. It wasn’t long before they gave us a green signal to develop it into a full-fledged series! Then, using our experiences and few more invites to high-profile weddings, we were ready with a detailed concept and hence, episodes. We had a blast working on this series also because of the kind of freedom that Team Voot gave us in terms of moulding it.
How were both of you drawn to writing, and how did you meet? What is your creative process like?
Both of us have a standard ‘I used to love writing poetry’ or ‘I won many prizes for essays and short stories in school’ journey as writers! But we guess, one single factor drawing us to writing is the ‘expression’ that it allows us. We don’t feel anything else could be more soul-satiating for either of us, than writing. We may have quieter and comparatively reserved personalities publicly, but writing allows us to explore our wacked-out and crazy side! Both of us are people with a gifted sense of humour and that’s the reason we share a fantastic rapport! Sid is the ‘sensitive to women’s issues’ and the quintessential ‘metrosexual’ kind of a guy, and Garima is the ‘launda’ of the team!
We met at Radio Mirchi and instantly hit it off with each other. Radio being a hyper-creative, instantaneous medium gave us immense opportunity to work on and create some super stuff! For a writer, it’s one of the most gratifying media. A few years after quitting Radio, we formed an outfit called ‘Dukaan” and wrote for at least 40 reality shows in a span of 3 years. Goliyon ki Raasleela – Ramleela was actually our first fiction!
As a team, the dynamics are quite volatile… considering that two writers working together is more like ‘ek myaan mein do talwar,’ we fight tooth and nail over our ideas and while cracking stuff, but we both know it’s only for the betterment of a script! We also support each other’s strengths and cover for our individual weaknesses… we are as mad, sarcastic, sometimes evil (!) and hungry to create as each other. To put it in a filmy way, come rain, hail or storm — hum ek saath hain! Best described by our beloved SLB as, ‘Teen saal mein mujhe pata nahi chala ki Ramleela mein kaunsi line kiski hai’. We are quite proud of that!
One single factor drawing us to writing is the ‘expression’ that it allows us
Tell us a little bit about the main themes that the web series touches upon, and why they appealed to you.
The main themes that the web series touches upon include the shameless display of wealth in weddings, the whole concept of ‘marriages of convenience’ for business interests and arranged marriages amidst the high-society folks. Ours is a ‘middle-class take’ on the whole affair, because that’s where we are rooted. We have been to weddings where we have seen hi-end cars on display, with a bow tied on it, to say that it’s a gift. We have seen Tabs being given out as wedding invites and chefs being flown in from abroad for weddings!
We feel it’s sheer waste of money for a two-day affair and nothing but a display of wealth, which could actually be used for a better purpose. It’s time that we pay more attention towards a ‘marriage’ and not a ‘wedding’. The concept of weddings, we feel, is anyway going to be redundant in a few years’ time. It should be more about the couple and their life ahead than the splurging on an event. Yes, we as Indians are known for our dhol, tamasha and loud weddings… but it’s sad ki aajkal shaadiyon mein ‘paisa bolta hai’. It’s a sorry precedent for the generations ahead, which anyway denounces marriage, and is far more liberated in thought, we’d like to believe. So a wasteful wedding, for us, would always be stuff to laugh upon, and that’s how Shaadi Boys takes a ‘serious’ potshot at the ‘high-profile’ weddings!
What’s the story behind the main characters being named Neil, Nitin & Mukesh?
Neil, Nitin and Mukesh came out of finding three names connected to each other in the most curious manner. The story is of three boys with three radically different personalities but tied by the same knot… a wedding that they are to cover! We find the name concept in our country pretty fascinating. Like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is actually three names in one!
Neil Nitin Mukesh ties together three generations of singers and actors in one person, so we decided to have three people from the same generation bearing this name! In a way, it’s an ode to our filmy ‘selves’… the Bollywood connection to Indian weddings twisted such that three Bollywood rejects decide to cash in on the wedding extravaganza using their talent (or the lack of it!)
Neil, Nitin and Mukesh came out of finding three names connected to each other in the most curious manner
You have both written for radio, television and the big screen before. Tell us a little bit about how different working with this medium was, in terms of
- The language used.
We try keeping the language very simple and true to the story. At the same time, it should have an element of ‘catchiness’ such that it sets a trend. Your show has to be a talking point amongst your audience, because word of mouth works in a big way for us. The stronger our connect, the longer we stay on!
Luckily for us, each medium has helped us sharpen and hone our writing in a way that we feel confident while approaching any medium/genre or screen-size! Writing for radio is extremely topical and current… your words can go stale in less than a couple of hours if you’re not on your toes! So that comes most naturally in our writing now. We automatically reject redundant or repetitive stuff, so that’s the primary filter. All thanks to radio!
Television reality shows, on the other hand, require loads of engagement and entertainment in very few words! The language needs to be simple and colloquial, direct to camera. Films need to be all of the above, 70mm-ised! One needs to hold the interest of the viewer such that they should not even want to blink as they watch! The energy and time invested in each medium is directly proportional to the gratification value. A film sometimes takes years to go on floor, but the amount of satisfaction that a good film gives is incomparable to anything else for a writer. For a web series, it’s a new world… there are no set rules and hence there is huge scope for experimenting and playing with a thought.
- Approach to the script
It has to be short, crisp, witty and sharp. Basically with an Internet viewer, you have to hold them by their…(eyeballs!) or else they will shut you out and never log on again! If they have made the effort to log in to an app and watch your stuff, you better be giving them the best possible content… kyunki Internet pe jo joote padte hain, wo dikhai dete hain (comments mein)!
The research is as solid as that of a film. For Shaadi Boys, for example, apart from our experience, we spent time in a few media colleges to watch the body language of wannabe directors, camerapersons, dancers in Andheri. We observed the things they talk about and their mannerisms to get our principal characters right. Also we went to some high-profile weddings (almost crashed in a few!), saw the latest trends on the marriage market and incorporated those in our script. Like guest manicures, pedicures and spas! etc.
For a web series, you have to stick to a certain deadline… because the later you get, the older and jaded your words get. The advantage here is clearly the first movers’.
- The Crew Dynamics
The crew dynamics are far too relaxed and fun when it comes to a web series. We have earlier experienced working with happy teams in radio and some TV shows, and that definitely reflects on the product. Monica and team were so much fun to work with… almost all our meetings with them ended up being laugh riots, and they gave us immense scope and freedom to play with this series. It surely makes a big difference when the crew is as chilled out as that. The bigger message being that – writer ko khush rakho, acchi scripts milengi!
The primary challenge while writing a web series is to write the correct duration. This isn’t TV fiction where you can drag one scene to ten minutes, crash zooming with ten angles! We have only those 1-2 mins to finish saying what we have to in a scene. It needs to hold. The drama cannot be heightened to a film level and the language and humour has to be ‘how you and me talk’. All this has to be achieved in those 15-20 mins. We continuously had to be on our toes to get this right.
With an Internet viewer, you have to hold them by their…(eyeballs!) or else they will shut you out and never log on again!
In your opinion, which direction is the the form of the Indian web series headed towards?
The Indian web series is the best thing to have happened to content… in a long time. We needed this to break free from the monotony of TV shows and the dependence on films for entertainment. Today, a viewer wants more. In fact the youth in our country is the primary consumer of Internet content. And they have decided to forsake the TV and moved to a more evolved medium, rightly so. Even our films, if you notice, are more skewed towards reality now. Hence the web space is here to stay. It’s got a very bright future for content makers and consumers… and yet it treads a very thin line. So far there is no censorship, but soon there might be.
But then, the one thing that the web space honours is that – the viewer is the king! We hope that the ‘viewers want this’ or this gets ‘TRP’ trend will die out someday, and we will actually start making things that the viewers appreciate. It’s the content quick fix that’s going to change everything… from the fiction scenario to the viewing habits.
Shashant Singh, Director
From film and television to the digital space — tell us a little bit about what led to the transition.
I was really lucky to have my name put forward for this project by two people working on the project, and I got a call from VOOT about taking it forward. When I read the script, I took an instant liking to it. They told me it was a web series, and it was a new form of storytelling for me. My experience working on a web series, I would say, was actually more fun because we had a lot more freedom as a whole. Whether it was the approach or the execution, it was very different from both film or television. When it comes to the latter, I feel like it’s much more detached from reality, whereas with a web series, it was more natural. It was also very different because we didn’t need to go through a Censor Board.
And what have been the key differences in the approach and work style?
Not only was our crew very young and dynamic, we also knew we were creating a web series for an audience which was also in the same age group. The language was more conversational, and there was a lot of energy on shoot every day.
I got to explore a different side of it (Indian weddings) through this web series
What was it about the show that appealed to you?
I thought the script was really fun, and very real. It was also very easy to identify. The wedding industry is huge in India, of course, and I have a lot of friends who shoot weddings because it pays really well. The costumes, the sangeet, the pheras, all the rituals, the works. I got to explore a different side of it through this web series, that doesn’t just promote the culture but questions it.
Please elaborate on the team dynamics and how did the writers and you work together.
Sid & Garima, the writers, told me about the story over Skype and since they were not here at the time, that’s how we would mostly communicate. The script was very well-written and we didn’t deviate from it much, but there was some improvising on set to find out what worked best. That’s also a part of how I work, as a director.
How was working with VOOT?
Working with VOOT is a treat for any director, I would say. They are very open and co-operative, and I think they know how to handle creative people in the best possible way so that they produce the best work they can. That’s really important. Monica and Sanjay from VOOT were great to work with; I was very lucky to have worked with them and look forward to doing it again!
What were the criteria you had in mind during the casting process?
I was completely involved. Sometimes there are actors who just click for a certain role, and we were very lucky to come across these. When like-minded people come together and share an openness when it comes to their approach to work, it’s a great experience for everyone.
You’ll see the humour quotient and intrigue rising in each episode, which was exciting to work on
How many episodes have you’ll planned and what is the treatment for each episode like?
There are a total of eight episodes of approximately 10-12 minutes, and we’re releasing them every Friday. You’ll see the humour quotient and intrigue rising in each episode, which was exciting to work on. Our approach was the same for all the episodes, but each has its own twists and turns. When you’re shooting, you’re under that pressure to execute everything, but when I later saw it in the edit room, I could see how it was coming out. I’d say this is all because of the good writing in the script.
With the growing number of web series, what sets Shaadi Boys apart?
I would leave that to the audience to decide actually. But I would say that the great writing has made a very big difference to how it has turned out. I also think that with freedom, it is also important to use it in the right way. I’m quite proud of how it’s turned out to be a wholesome watch, something the whole family can enjoy.