Metro Park is back, with a special quarantine edition spin-off series.
Today, the five-part series premiered on Eros Now, the Indian streaming platform. Each episode of the comedy series lasts three to five minutes, detailing the antics of a Gujarati Hindu expatriate family in the US. It stars veteran actor Ranvir Shorey along with Omi Vaidya, Pitobash Tripathy, Purbi Joshi and Vega Tamotia.
The groundbreaking series is one of the first to be filmed in lockdown with each member of cast and crew contributing from home.
Speaking to The National, Shorey and director Ajayan Venugopalan conceded that, while the familiarity of the first season made it easier for everyone to be on the same page, there were challenges for each crew member, as they were forced to wear several hats and make do with limited resources.
Shorey said: "I had done a digital course, almost 20 years ago when I was in my 30s, [at] the New York Academy. Thankfully I have kept the skills relevant. So I was shooting myself, setting up the lighting ... We hope our effort brings a smile to people's faces in these tough times."
When it became clear in March that season two would have to be pushed back amid the coronavirus pandemic, Venugopalan sat down to write the script for the quarantine special, in a bid to bridge the gap.
Ridhima Lulla, Chief Content Officer at Eros Group, said: "The turn-around time was approximately 24 days to create the series from scratch. Also, since there was no precedent set earlier, we were equally excited and were striving to achieve something no one else has.
"To create a highly entertaining and significant piece of content while adhering to all the lockdown restrictions has its own set of challenges."
Speaking about the challenges,Venugopalan says the planning stages included elaborate discussions and sharing of notes in Zoom meetings, despite the 12-hour time difference between India and US. Venugopalan, Lulla and Vaidya among others are in US currently.
"Since we cannot go out, we had to use each of the actors' homes and limited props. So each actor gave us a thorough tour of their houses and we planned the angles and technicalities, and with the help of technology got it all together," Venugopalan said.
It is inevitable that the Covid-19 pandemic is a key theme in the comedy series. However, both Shorey and Venugopalan expressed confidence that it has been handled sensitively, and that people won't be offended, as due care has been taken.
Writer Venugopalan said: "We were aware that there is a line we cannot cross. To be honest, a large part of the script evolved as things went by. For example, when we got stuck with how to shoot in a particular scenario, our natural reactions in virtual meetings became the impromptu script, and we went along."
Eros Now has more than 186.9 million registered users and 26.2m paid subscribers. The parent company, Eros International, has distribution partnerships with Amazon, Apple and NBC universal among others. It merged with Hollywood studio STX Entertainment last month and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.