An association of 20 years, the director duo talk about their codependency on each other, the importance of a good anti-hero, and their new initiative to support independent film-makers.
The highly-anticipated second season of The Family Man has been a major success, and it is the fourth most popular show in the world, on IMDb’s list. Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK are, of course, elated. They have an upcoming series that would mark Shahid Kapoor, South sensation Vijay Sethupathi, and Raashii Khanna’s debut in the web space. They are also collaborating on the Amazon series, Citadel, with Russo Brothers. Known for their twisty way of subtly hinting at current ongoings with the Manoj Bajpayee starrer series, or their commentary on giving women the respect they deserve through Stree, Raj and DK are here to change the way we consume stories on screen.
Your style of storytelling has been described as ‘quirky’ since your very first film, 99. How do you associate with the term ‘quirky’?
Krishna DK: We don’t know what exactly does it mean (laughs), but we have also started using the word quirky. So, I think it is something off normal. Maybe a little more eccentric than usual.
Raj: I would take it positively. You know how people use the phrase hatke, and we were told never to say our movie is hatke, because everyone thinks their movie is hatke? So, we didn’t call ourselves quirky. But we heard it, and we thought we would use it. I don’t know where it started,
but I believe it transferred from our film descriptions to our film-making style, and then to us.
It has been nearly two decades since you began working together. What is the working dynamic? How has the journey been so far?
Raj: There is a heavy dependency on each other. Initially, we were at our IT jobs, figuring how to make films on the side. 20 years feel too long. We didn’t think our film career started until we made 99 in 2009. So, for instance, if I write some crap and send it to DK, I know he will figure out whether it’s bad or good. I don’t have to worry about it.
You have scored a hat-trick with the two The Family Man seasons, as well as your film, Cinema Bandi. How have you managed to crack the code to making good streaming services content?
DK: Cinema Bandi is a film, and The Family Man is a series. Cinema Bandi would have been a theatrical release. So, perhaps, bundling them together in the same box is not fair. The medium of release happens to be a streaming service, but that is because of the pandemic. So, we see it as content for films and series rather than big screen vs streaming services.
Raj: We believed in a weird and crazy story like Stree, dealing with witchcraft and the undertones of feminism and humour. It worked wonders at the box office. The Family Man was inspired by news items about homeland security, peppered with humour. As film-makers, in the last few years, we are experiencing a lot of freedom in writing.
“The Family Man was inspired by news items about homeland security, peppered with humour. As film-makers, in the last few years, we have been experiencing a lot of freedom in writing”
What are you focusing more on — content for streaming services, or movies for the big screen?
We are focusing on both cinema and streaming services. It’s just that web series need a lot of time and concentration. So, we need to get through The Family Man 3, and our series with Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi, before taking up anything else.
People have had mixed reactions to Samantha’s character, Raji. Some believe she was not entirely a villain, and some feel otherwise. How were you able to keep it ambiguous?
Krishna DK: The idea was to create a well- rounded character. The whole show should not be from Srikant Tiwari’s point of view. When we create a character, they have to have their own personality, ideology, thought process, and perspective. Raji has to be how she presents herself, and what she thinks of herself. The interpretations could differ because that’s how we intended it.
Raj: If people are having conversations about Raji’s character, it shows that Raji has struck a strong chord with the audience. Unless you have a formidable opposition and the stakes are raised, the hero doesn’t get to shine. In this case, imagine an unassuming girl whom you would otherwise overlook. If you hadn’t seen her in the trailer and you don’t know who Samantha is, and you are just watching the series, it would hit you even harder. ‘Oh my god, that girl is the biggest challenge these guys are facing?’
One of the best things about both seasons was the political awareness. Was that a conscious choice during the scripting? Like the dialogue, ‘Opinion dene jaayega to paap lagega’ hits a different note altogether.
Raj: The show is not just political. It has a lot of layers, and a mix of different genres. What makes it connect with the audience is its relevance. Like the dialogue ‘Opinion dene jaayega to paap lagega’ can be interpreted in any context.
Krishna DK: It is just the question of being aware of today’s reality and situations, and putting it out there.
How long before we get sequels to Stree and Go Goa Gone?
Raj: I would love to do a Stree 2 or Go Goa Gone, but the lure is to do something new. It is more exciting for us to make new and fresh films/series than sequels. It is not that we don’t want to make sequels to these films. We are trying to figure out when to get to it.
“Unless you have a formidable opposition and the stakes are raised, the hero doesn’t get to shine”
What is happening with the Russo Brothers (of Marvel fame) series, Citadel?
Raj: It is still in the development stage right now. Writing and development is a long process. So, there’s no pressure to finish it.
You recently started a new wing called D2R Indie to support independent film- makers. What led to this?
Raj: We started out as independent film-makers, wherein we had to raise funds, write, direct, shoot, edit, and figure out a way to release it. Today, we are in a position to help others who are just starting out. The idea is whoever has a good script and a good vision that we
think we could help with, we will. Even if it does not have much commercial value, we will move ahead on the strength of the story. When we weren’t established, we felt that if only people could see our film, they would understand why it is good. Earlier, we were just discussing, talking, mentoring, or even helping makers get meetings with actors or studios. This time, we thought, let’s go ahead and produce it and support it in whatever way we can, and see it till the end.
DK: Primarily, we are not looking at the commercial aspect of the film. We are just saying if you have a very, very special script and a voice that is unique, let us see how we can help, rather than try to fit it in some commercial mould. Even if there’s no certainty of whether it will work or not, we’ll try and help you put it out there.