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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Tripling 3 director Neeraj Udhwani on making the show more emotional than its last two seasons

Neeraj Udhwani’s directorial debut is the 2020 film Maska, starring Manisha Koirala and Javed Jaffrey, which released on Netflix

Sameer Salunkhe Mumbai Published 15.11.22, 11:18 AM
(L-R) Kunaal Roy Kapur, Amol Parashar, Maanvi Gagroo, Nimisha Pandey, Neeraj Udhwani and Arunabh Kumar.

(L-R) Kunaal Roy Kapur, Amol Parashar, Maanvi Gagroo, Nimisha Pandey, Neeraj Udhwani and Arunabh Kumar.

Writer-director Neeraj Udhwani has been working in film and television for 15 years. As a writer, he has to his credit TV shows such as Gumrah and Yeh Hai Aashiqui, and web series such as Inside Edge and Home. Udhwani made his directorial debut with Maska on Netflix. Basking in the buzz around his latest web series, TVF’s Tripling Season 3 on Zee5, Udhwani talks about adapting to an already established show, the challenges of shooting during the Covid wave and being married to another writer.

Your film Maska, a light-hearted comedy, was released on Netflix at the beginning of the pandemic. Now you’ve directed Tripling 3. How do you look at the need for light-hearted content on OTT?

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Neeraj Udhwani: I think all kinds of stories should be told. I think there’s a huge audience for light-hearted stories. Maska did really well and now Tripling Season 3 has surpassed five crore views and has become one of the most-viewed shows across platforms. So, the success of these light-hearted stories shows that at the end of the day, people just want to unwind with their family and watch something light.

How did you come on board for Tripling Season 3?

Neeraj Udhwani: Arunabh Kumar (founder of TVF) and I have known each other for over a decade. I have admired Arunabh’s work. TVF is a trailblazer in the digital domain. Early this year he called and told me that he wanted me to consider directing Tripling 3. I read the script and was very excited because of the things the script was saying. I immediately came on board.

How did you adapt to the show given that its tone and treatment were already set in the first two seasons?

Neeraj Udhwani: The tone and treatment are different in Season 3. There was a lot of travel involved in the first two seasons. In the third season, the three siblings Chandan, Chanchal and Chitvan are going home because their parents are separating. So, we knew that the tone and treatment were going to be different. Season 3 was going to be a little more emotional than the first two seasons. The writing of the third season has a lot of gravitas. So, the treatment of the first two seasons didn’t play on my mind. It was a completely fresh approach.

All the lead actors have played the same characters for two seasons. You were the new one on the set. How was the actor-director dynamic on the set?

Neeraj Udhwani: The actors had worked with each other in the first two seasons. I was the new one. But they didn’t make me feel that I was the new one or an outsider. They welcomed me with open arms. From the very first day, we started afresh. I gave them instructions based on the way I saw the scenes. It was a collaborative and positive relationship with all actors.

You don’t have to murder someone to write a murder mystery. But films/shows about relationships are different. Your personal experiences can trouble you at the back of your mind if not directly. Did you find yourself in such situations while working on Maska or Tripling 3?

Neeraj Udhwani: The story was interesting and all the emotions that needed to be conveyed were there in the writing. So, I just had to follow the script and make sure that my direction would enhance the emotions present in the script. If you have experience of your relationships, then it helps. But Tripling is about family. And everyone has a slightly dysfunctional family where there’s love as well as friction. It was not very challenging in that regard.

The challenging part was that we were filming during the omicron wave. We had limited days — barely three weeks for the entire schedule because the actors had other commitments. But we managed to complete the shoot, thanks to the amazing cast and crew.

I had an amazing shoot in Panchgani. It’s a beautiful place in January-February. It’s very cold but beautiful. But it was difficult because of the omicron wave, and also at that time my wife (Ishita Moitra) was eight months pregnant. I had to leave her in Mumbai for this shoot. My thoughts were always with her.

You have worked as an additional writer on Inside Edge and Jugjugg Jeeyo. How do you adapt to someone else’s writing?

Neeraj Udhwani: Usually, what happens is that the main writer has written a script. But sometimes the producer wants new things added. Sometimes, because the main writer has been with the material for long, the producer thinks that a fresh writer can be brought in for a fresh approach. That’s when an additional writer is brought on board.

When you’re working on somebody else’s material, you need to adapt to their style. But that comes with experience. For someone like me who has been writing for 15 years, it’s not difficult to adapt to somebody else’s writing.

You are married to a writer. How does that dynamic work?

Neeraj Udhwani: Ishita is a renowned writer. We met on the sets of Mere Dad Ki Maruti (2013). I wrote the story and screenplay for the film. Ishita wrote the dialogues. Then Yash Raj Films hired us to work on another project but the project didn’t materialise. But that’s when Ishita and I spent a lot of time together and eventually got married.

We have a lot of respect for each other’s work. Because we met as professional writers, we always keep that in mind while talking to each other. It helps to have a writer as a spouse because it can give you a technical perspective that somebody else might not be able to. It can get tricky usually. But in our case, we have managed to make it work beautifully. Because we respect what the other one brings to the table. Both of us have independent careers. We don’t really work together. There are boundaries that we don’t cross. And we have mutual respect.

What sort of art and entertainment do you consume?

Neeraj Udhwani: I try to improve my craft all the time. I listen to Roger Deakins’s (renowned cinematographer) podcast on Spotify. I read a lot. Currently, I am reading India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha. I watch a lot of content on OTT. I will be watching the fifth season of The Crown. As an artist, you keep yourself busy and inspired by constantly exposing yourself to different arts and artists.

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