The success of the YouTube show ‘Casting Couch’ with Amey & Nipun (more than seven million visitors across three seasons) is a testimony to how Indians love watching their stars being insulted on camera
Marathi Cusswords, awkward moments and walkouts are common when your interviewers are Amey Wagh and Nipun Dharmadhikari. In the online series Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun, which airs on Bharatiya Digital Party (BhaDiPa), a Marathi-language channel on YouTube, the two play offbase versions of themselves. On the show, they’re out-ofcommission strugglers; in life not so much. Dharmadhikari is an established theatre personality, famous in the Marathi theatre circuit for having revived centuryold sangeet-nataks; he also recently directed the critically-acclaimed Marathi film, Baapjanma. Wagh, with anime eyes, has acted in several Marathi films, such as Muramba and Faster Fene.
The format of the show is such that the duo is looking to finance and cast for their next film, and hoping their guests will help out. So, if you’re a celebrity they’re interested in, watch out. Under the guise of a “casual” and “guerrilla”- style interview, they will try to trick you into working in or paying for their next venture. And once their jig is up, you had best give them the slip. The ‘next venture’ is fictional and the walkouts are scripted, but most of the wit, they tell me, is improvised. Celebrities such as Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Anurag Kashyap, Radhika Apte, Imtiaz Ali, Sai Tamhankar, Mahesh Manjrekar, the cast and crew of Sairat and several others are often asked inappropriate questions. (Apte was asked about her semi-nude scene in Parched; Dixit-Nene was asked if she moved to the US because of tax reasons, and so on.) The show has garnered unprecedented views, especially considering it is a non-English, non-Hindi, all-Indian web series.
Radhika Apte’s two interviews with the duo have over 1.8 million views
Madhuri Dixit-Nene & Sumeet Raghvan’s interview has 326,000-plus views
Imtiaz Ali’s interview has 241,000-plus views
Creator, writer and director of the show, Sarang Sathaye says, “With BhaDiPa, our aim always has been, and will be, to make global Marathi content.” The channel, which has over seven million total views, is now producing stand-up comedy, music videos and short films, all of which are in Marathi with great English subtitles. Comparisons are inevitably drawn to the insulting tone of Zach Galifianakis’s show, Between Two Ferns. Sathaye says, “That was an inspiration. And there’s another show which was a big inspiration. This one Pakistani show, I’m not able to remember its name.” The description that follows implies he’s talking about Loose Talk, a popular satirical show from the 1990s, featuring humorist Moin Akhter. These two shows helped shape the kind of questions they would ask their guests. “But in terms of structure, we thought we should not just have an interview; we should have some fiction attached to it,” says Sathaye.
Shows like this work only on the power of the personality, and Wagh and Dharmadhikari, according to Sathaye, have had extraordinary flirting skills since their college days. “They had a really uncanny habit of doing it,” says Sathaye. The duo certainly turns on the charm in front of the celebrities. “When you see the show, it’s two adorable, miserable guys trying to pull off a stunt with celebrities,” says Sathaye. “When the show started, Amey was like a youth icon, with one [Marathi] show he was doing. Nipun was there mostly for his wit, because he’s the wittiest person I’ve met.”
As for the celebrity guests, they are always given a script, but told to expect some mischief. “And, of course, we also tell them that you shouldn’t hold back,” says Dharmadhikari, “and you should give it back to us.” Both Sathaye and Dharmadhikari are sure they don’t want to continue the show indefinitely. They are looking to make limited episodes with guests that will appreciate their kind of humour. Meanwhile, let’s hope the guests on their wish list work out. I, for one, would love to see Nana Patekar (Dharmadhikari’s choice) and Rahul Dravid (Sathaye’s choice) dish it out on that couch.