Minus One: New Chapter, co-created by Shubham Yogi, premiered on Lionsgate Play on Valentine’s Day. The second series of the romantic drama starring Ayush Mehra and Aisha Ahmed explores the past, present and future of a couple that has decided to separate. In an interview with Hindustan Times, writer-director Shubham spoke about the origins of the show which is based on his own life.
The filmmaker, who is also gearing up for his directorial debut with Kacchey Limbu later this year, explained his collaboration with co-creator Sidhanta Mathur as well as the leads of the show. Although he was unsure about how the show would move forward after this, he was very pleased with what was out for this new season. Shubham also shared his experience working as an assistant for filmmaker Anurag Basu, before branching out to try his luck as a writer himself. Excerpts below:
What inspired you to create the series Minus One?
I used to, at one point, room with an ex-girlfriend. It was around three years after the break up when she moved back. It was more out of circumstances of need than anything else but I think we were both very fortunate that we remained very close friends even after having broken up. We quite quickly let the bygones be bygones. It was quite mature and while we were living together, of course, our extended circles knew that we [used to date], so it was quite a hot topic for everyone to wonder about how we are rooming together. Around this time I was still assisting and by the time I went independent, one of the things that I pitched was this idea of a couple who do not see each other but are still living together.
Where did the title come from?
[It came] from a very close friend who was a friend to both of us. There used to be [a club], it was an underground music scene where you could only enter by invitation and you always had to have a plus one. We’d be quite regulars there. When I got my next invite I was asked to get a plus one. This friend of ours who was common to us said, ‘You can’t really actually bring your plus one, because you’re bringing in your minus one.’ It was a silly joke but it was quite apt and witty.
How did you work with Sidhantha Mathur to shape the world of the show?
Sid had worked on the first season as well. It did fairly well on YouTube. Sid always thought it had potential to grow into something a lot meatier. I think his hustle and entrepreneurship to go out and meet people and show them his vision of how this could be expanded was translated into this partnership with Lionsgate. An important turning point for the journey of this season was our early meetings with Mrinalini [Khanna, vice president of originals at Lionsgate] who asked us some really tough questions if we want to expand the universe of the show.
What is it that we want to say that hasn’t been said in season one? That really gave us some sleepless nights but in the best way. We just didn’t have a suit who was only looking at execution but she also wanted to make sure that we had the soul in its right place. That’s where we figured that the story wasn’t forward, it was probably in the past of these characters, and maybe we should go ahead and explore the reasons for them breaking up and the reasons for them to come back together and live.
When you create your characters, how much do you borrow from real life?
A lot, quite honestly. This is something I would credit Sid for. He wants these characters to be so relatable that all of us can find little learnings from every scene. I think the writing of the current season has anecdotes, life experiences and learnings from his life, a lot from my life, a lot from our actors’ lives. In Minus One, the previous season also was almost in a very good way improvised on set with these two actors. Aisha and Ayush, at least for me, are spiritual co-creators if not actual developers. They have been a partner and parent to this property for ever, from its conception. A lot of the instances and scenes in the current series are directly inspired from [all our lives]. We’ve been quite close friends for the past four years now so we trust each other to be sensitive towards this information and write it in a way that still seems like a story and none of us feel exposed or exploited.
I had asked Ayush as well, but compared to the other shows about romance and relationships, how does Minus One stand out from the rest?
We don’t have a rosy view of what love feels like (laughs). Not in a cynical way, like in a very real life kind of way. While we were beginning to develop this and write, all our references were unfulfilled relationships, so all the stories that we read and all the films and TV shows we watched were of characters who were struggling to be in love. That’s what makes being in love so much more beautiful because you know you don’t want to get rid of this person and you will struggle and do whatever it needs to be done to be with them, even though you know it’s not good for you. That’s probably all of our stories. I don’t think any one of us is in a happy love story. We just choose to continue to be in this because we like who we are, while we are in this, although we suffer. I think that is something which we are hoping is a fresh take, at least for the Hindi TV audiences today.
How did you get your start in films? You were earlier preparing to become a lawyer, I believe.
I am a lawyer by degree, I practised for ten months in some courts in Delhi, before I moved to Bombay. I had always hoped to become a writer. I had gone to law school to learn how to write. Once I moved to Bombay, I figured it’s much tougher than whatever I imagined it to be. In my second year in Bombay is when I got introduced to Mr Anurag Basu. I think it was the second or third month of Barfi. They had already done one schedule of 14 days before I joined and that was my first job on a film. I started as a clapper boy on Barfi (2012) and through the next year and a half till the time it was released, I was executing [more] responsibilities and that relationship went on for another three years halfway through Jagga Jasoos (2017). Then I think I grew up and then I wanted to see what’s up outside.
What is the status of your feature film Kacchey Limbu which debuted at TIFF? When will it be released in India?
It’s a Bombay cricket film and we are hoping to release it around the IPL.
Do you want to continue with films or also balance it with web series now as well?
Minus One was a first series experience but this time, being attached with a platform and getting to work with collaborators who are way more experienced than I am, and having a professional set up that wasn’t as indie as what Sid and I did the first time around, really gave me an experience that was very new to me. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it. I really have to thank Mrinalini and the team at Lionsgate along with Sid for allowing me to do as I wished as well as supporting me through and through. I do feel I have to learn a lot more when it comes to making a series. I think a feature comes easier to me but maybe that’s just got to do with training. I have written for so long on features and maybe if I wrote more series, I’ll get this as well.
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