The phone rings. A young woman rushes to answer the impatient landline. She answers and says, “We just met.”
“I know, but I wanted to say thank you,” says the voice on the other end…
“Has it only been a few months? I feel like I have known you for much longer,” the voice breathes.
Both women feel something for each other, for certain. But they’re a little shy. The endearing love story that unfolds next has all the right ingredients: lots of stolen moments and a blossoming relationship full of its own ups and downs.
Notice the lack of drama? That’s precisely what Roopa Rao, the writer and director of ‘The Other Love Story’ sets out to do, and achieves in her web-series “The Other Love Story”. In fact, Roopa recently won the best director award for the series at NYC Web Fest. The event was held from November 11 to November 13 in New York. The series had bagged the highest number of nominations at the Fest - six.
The story is about Aadya and Aanchal, two college girls who live on the same lane, become friends and more. “I just picked a love story and it happened to be two girls,” Roopa said in an earlier interview.
An alumnus of Asian Academy of Film and Television, Roopa wrote the story a decade ago. “But nothing happens before its time. Stories have life of their own and they choose people to be out in the world, this story chose me and also the time and team,” she told TNM via email.
A self-declared Yash Raj films fan, Roopa wanted to set the story in 1990’s Bengaluru, and re-create a “simple, uncomplicated time where Bollywood romance" ruled her life.
“I wanted to bring all that I missed in the film. Love letters, land line phones, random meetings in the bus stop and many more. It is like a tribute to our teenage years,” Roopa says. She also chose the era because then, there was no way for the girls to know something like this happens elsewhere. “They feel what they feel and they act on it without a choice because of the force with which love hits them. I just wanted to explore this space,” Roopa says.
Image: Roopa Rao
When Roopa decided to take the project forward, no one was willing to produce the film. “Some producers would ask us if it was porn and how many sex scenes it had,” Roopa told Ila Anaya of The Ladies Finger. A producer who said yes backed out later because his family found out and did not approve of the subject. Finally, Roopa turned to crowd-funding.
Finding actors to play the parts wasn’t easy either. But Roopa’s prayers were answered when she posted about the requirement on social media.
Bengaluru women Spoorthi and Shweta play the characters of Aadya and Aanchal respectively. While Aadya is the younger and more vocal one, Aanchal is more reserved with who she speaks, for how long and why. For 27-year-old extrovert Shweta, relating to the character was a challenge.
“Roopa wanted us to feel the love and the characters within ourselves before acting it out,” says Shweta. They also read books on the subject and watched world cinema to understand the context nd treatment. And so, with theatre exercises and intensive work on the actors, the team shot continuously for about 20 days, 10-18 hours a day.
“We filmed all the other scenes first before coming to the intimate scene. Even then it took us 2-3 days to film it,” says Spoorthi.
Roopa decided not film explicit scenes. “What people do in their bedroom is their business, why should it even become a discussion topic? I never understood this. I understand the political relevance but love has no rules or government. We need to let people be,” she says.
While ‘The Other Love Story’ may be path-breaking in many ways, Roopa never meant to make big statements with it. “If people can watch it for what it is and have a smile on their face, that’s good enough. If the story engages them, that’s brilliant and if it does act as a trigger for some kind of transformation, then it is fantastic,” she says.
The first three episodes of the 12-part season one are out on YouTube. Watch them here. The first episode, released on August 27, has had been viewed nearly 40,000 times. The next two episodes were released on Friday.
(This story has been updated.)