A crew of two! Kriti Vij and Pranay Manchanda shoot Firsts Season 2 at home
Actors and real-life couple Kriti Vij and Pranay Manchanda, who have shot a 24-episode show themselves at home, say it taught them a thing or two about their relationship
When Kriti Vij and Pranay Manchanda got a call from Dice Media, asking them to create a show about dating in the times of the Coronavirus pandemic, from their own homes with no help, they said yes without waiting to figure out the logistics. "We had no clue about lighting, or framing, but it was too interesting a challenge to not take up," says Vij, who has acted in Love Travel Repeat, that mapped a road trip from Mumbai to Bengaluru, and is married to Manchanda, who was last seen in Baked. They shot the show as they lived together at Manchanda's parents home in Delhi.
The result is Firsts Season 2, a 24-episode series about what happens when a couple meets on dating site Bumble during the lockdown. Each episode is one-minute long, released on Instagram daily and YouTube every four days, and deals with "firsts" the couple goes through before actually meeting. Both actors, aided by the directors of photography, Aniruddha Patankar and Ajinkya Pandit, shot the series at home. Manchanda, who has experience in directing plays and short films, also donned the director's hat. The first few episodes, which are titled, The First Compliment, The First Connection, and such, are sweet, relatable and natural. But the two say that it took them a while to get those right.
"We grappled with the idea of just recording voice calls, but then gave it up for a more traditional approach," says Manchanda. They decided to allocate corners of Manchanda's parents' Delhi residence to each character. They then rehearsed rigorously before they started shooting, so as to know the ebb and flow of every scene. Vij shot Manchanda as he did his scenes, and vice versa. "Our DoP gave us a crash course on video and choreography in one day. We did a shot breakdown, and then, on the first day of shoot, we played the footage back to them, and they told us what angles worked and what didn't. After that, it became easier," says Vij. They also had to figure out lighting, and tried shooting in natural light whenever they could. "We realised that placing a lot of lamps around the person in the shot works!" says Vij.
For sound, they recorded audio notes on their on their phone for clarity.
If being a real-life couple would make this easy, both actors say it was quite the opposite. "We are comfortable around each other, but we are playing two people who don't know the other. So, to go back in time, and behave as if we were meeting for the first time, or doing all the firsts, was pretty hard. How could we feel the butterflies all over again?" says Manchanda. Before the shoot, when Vij had already returned to Delhi, and Manchanda was still in Mumbai, they were apart for 10 days. "We used that time to prepare for meeting each other for the first time," says Vij. Since they are currently both, actors and cast, getting to understand the other's working style has been a learning experience, they say. "For example, Kriti's aesthetics are so much better than mine! We got to know each other's strengths. We had been living together, but we had to see each other as new people, once again. And that has been the exciting part."
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