'You learn not to piss each other off'
Having weathered many a relationship storm, Manasi Joshi Roy and Rohit Roy turn the exasperation of lockdown into a series of short films on love and its many faces
Actors Manasi Joshi Roy and Rohit Roy, who have been married for 21 years (after having dated for seven), have never worked together. Although, it was on a set that they first met and fell in love—Manasi was an aspiring model and Roy was assistant to ad film producer Kunal Kapoor. His dream of earning an MBA degree in America was scrapped after he didn't get a visa. Later, both went on to work in several television serials and films; their professional paths curiously never converging.
But, the ongoing lockdown changed that.
In the last week of April, when Mumbai was well into the second phase of isolation, the couple, cooped up at their suburban home, was wondering what next. "While there was uncertainty around how things would pan out, we didn't want to be twiddling our thumbs," says Rohit. "As creative professionals, we needed an outlet for our energy." That's when the idea of a web show occurred to them. A discussion with creative agency Indian Storytellers, and Karma Productions, led to the making of Locked in Love. The series which will stream on Hungama Play and partner networks, is a collection of five short films that explore the various facets of love, with the couple playing multiple characters in each story.
They've given their home in Juhu a new look for each of the five films
Until then, it's about processing the frenetic developments of the past few weeks, they say. According to Rohit, they had originally set out to create a single film, but as they went along, the idea organically evolved into a series. "Because we were pitching it as five different stories, we had to make our house look new and fresh in every film. Thanks to Manasi's background in advertising, she has an eye for detail; how a table should be placed or which curtain would work best in the frame. She was responsible for creating the creative nooks, that you'll see in the films," he says. The cinematographer of the show is their 17-year-old daughter, Kiara. The shoot timings were restricted to either mornings or late evenings since she was busy with online classes from 3 pm to 7 pm. They even had to take a week off when she was appearing for the Class XI final exams. "Making the film was challenging because you're a functioning household. There are chores to do and family obligations to fulfil. My mother-in-law also lives with us," Manasi says. During shoots, everybody knew their duties. Their household help would ensure no vessels clanked in the kitchen. "Directors, actors and the production crew normally work in tandem, because you have to sit with the editor and discuss the footage. Coordinating remotely required us to work around these limitations and ensure that nothing of essence was lost in virtual communication," says Manasi. In terms of the technical aspects of filmmaking and characterisation, it was Rohit who called the shots. "After being ordered around all of my married life, suddenly, I was in charge," he laughs. There were moments when little known aspects of their work personality came to fore. Manasi was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of work that her husband had put into the project. "I had no idea that he could be this persevering and passionate about filmmaking," she says, remembering how he would wake up in the wee hours to send notes to the editor. Rohit is quick to chime in, "What she is essentially trying to say is that after 28 years of being together, it's only in those 28 days, that she realised that I am talented."
The cinematographer for the film was their teenage daughter, Kiara
Their banter is constant as is their interdependence. It's what has made moments of exasperation during the pandemic agreeable. The couple says the reason they chose love as the overarching subject is because "it's the most powerful emotion". But, the lockdown has been a trial by fire for romantic relationships, both young and seasoned. And skirmishes are unavoidable, feels Rohit. "It essentially boils down to experience versus inexperience. An older couple might be able to handle the situation better, because they know the triggers. You know what gets the other's goat, so you try not to piss them off." For Manasi, what matters is operating as a single, solid unit and soldiering on. Over the years, she says they, as a couple, have grown more responsible and at peace with themselves, which translates into harmony. "When you are young and madly in love, expectations run high. A mature couple that has weathered many a storm, learns to deal with whatever life throws at them," she says.
The couple will essay multiple roles
That said, even successful marriages aren't without challenges. "There are habits that you may have accepted 10 years ago, but today, they bother you. So, things do change," admits Rohit. After the birth of their daughter, he worked his professional calendar around to be there for her. Now that she is all grown up, Rohit says the couple has grown closer. They look forward to doing tasks together. "We are each other's best friend. We try to make it about us."
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