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Decoupled: Hardik Mehta and Manu Joseph open up on creative choices

The R Madhavan and Surveen Chawla-starrer 'Decoupled' has incited different reactions from critics and the audience.

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The R Madhavan and Surveen Chawla-starrer ‘Decoupled’ has incited different reactions from critics and the audience. While the show tries to balance itself on the tightrope of satire and responsibility, there’s no denying the fact that at places, the writing makes some risky choices with Hardik Mehta’s direction rendering a razor-sharp edge to it.

At some instances, the show writer Manu Joseph takes the George Carlin route, especially while pointing out the irony of the elite liberal class as they try to make sense out of hollow symbolic gestures all the while sticking to the progressing divorce of the lead couple.

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Manu and Hardik recently spoke where they spoke about the show’s setting, the elements that drive the story forward and the unexplored arena of urban Indian marriage.

The opening scene has the couple in a car, bickering while on their way to a hotel. For Manu more than the sense of motion or speed, the element of closed space is something that makes it interesting to expose the state of the couple’s marriage.

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Manu says, “Actually, the more important element in that scene is the closed space. A car is a wonderful place to explore human behaviour. The smell of the driver begins to expose the state of a marriage. So, that scene is ‘Decoupled’ in a nutshell.”

Manu backs his creative choice with a strong reason, “It is very difficult for a guy to be alpha in the backseat, there’s not too much space, there is this bickering going on and there is the smell in the car that you can’t see but you have already established it. Another important element is when she mutters something in Punjabi and he mutters in his native language. So we defined a lot of things in one minute in that scene before the title.”

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For the show director Hardik Mehta, the material was itself very intriguing to build upon, “I was very intrigued with the material in our hands because we often don’t get to see the state of an urban Indian marriage, an Indian urban marriage is quite peculiar, it is different from the urban marriages in the west.”

Manu wanted to change the setting to that of a restaurant but Hardik persuaded him to place it in the car, Manu says, “In fact, I wanted to change the setting to a restaurant but Hardik persuaded me to not move away from the car. I wanted many things to happen in that scene, so I thought a restaurant would be easier, but, Hardik was very confident to set the scene in a car.”

Hardik furnishes his lived experiences in support of the content that has been portrayed, “I myself having an experience of eight years then when ‘Decoupled’ had begun, I could totally relate to that scene in the car.”

He adds, “It is things like these that actually make or break the urban Indian marriage. I thought there was an opportunity to grab this material and run with it. The good part is that all the producers including Netflix, everybody was gung-ho with this.”

Talking about the tools used in the show’s narrative, the director says, “We’ve used a lot of interesting devices of classical western symphony kind of music to churn out comedy. We’ve also tried to use a part-mockumentary kind of a camera style to see that an affluent couple is being documented.”

For Hardik, this show managed to achieve the rare feat of keeping its material intact through all the filters that line up the process of filmmaking, he says, “Generally, a thought starts diluting at each filmmaking stage, whether it is writing, making, casting to editing. So, eventually whatever was the thought has actually gone out somewhere. But here, it was actually a good challenge for us to kind of ensure that the thought results in a similar impact.”

Ask Manu, how fulfilling is the process of writing for a show and he quips, “A series is very close to a novel. There’s nothing exactly superfluous in a series, everything is important. And the larger arc of plot is not why the series exists.”

“It is for all those small things and the ideas and the story becomes an idea’s delivery device which is what a particular kind of a novel is”, he concludes.

–By Akshay Acharya

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