Romil and Jugal – Web series, is one of the best series drawn so far. Ekta Kapoor took over the television world and for decades she became the reigning queen in entertainment. Almost every household was glued to the television to watch Tulsi’s escapades or Naagin’s adventures. Then Alt Balaji happened and the same queen has decided to take over the digital world as well. Romil and Jugal has been one of her gems. She has taken a taboo topic and brought it beautifully to the dinner table for discussion. Written by Anu Menon and directed by Nupur Asthana, this show has become quite a success with youngsters all over loving it and connecting with it.
Stylewhack had a conversation with Manraj Singh and Rajeev Siddhartha, the actors who play the star-crossed lovers in the show. Here are some snippets from that conversation with stars Romil and Jugal:
Firstly, huge congratulations on the amazing success of the show. How does it feel right now? What has the difference been pre and post Romil and Jugal?
“I have been really overwhelmed because I did not know what the response would be like honestly speaking,” Manraj says. “Some people have actually messaged me that they come out of the closet because of the show. As an actor, I feel so happy that we were able to carry that sense of responsibility so early in my career.”
Rajeev adds, “People are calling, writing, sending messages on Facebook and Instagram and it feels nice that one’s work is being appreciated. As an artist when you start off you hope to do work which will inspire and motivate people, fill their hearts with hope.”What was your first reaction when you heard the story of Romil and Jugal? Were you apprehensive at all before saying yes to this topic?
Rajeev says, “When I choose to do something I look at the three essentials namely- script, director, and character and in this case all three were superb. Treating a subject like this with such sensitivity and lightness immediately caught my eye and the very fact that it was at its heart a love story. Nowhere in the script was there any fun being made, no caricature and no vulgarity. And then with somebody like a Nupur directing it, I knew it would be treated right. So there was no apprehension, to begin with”
“I agree.” Manraj adds, “For both of us it was about the character. And all the offers that I was getting from television and others were very typical. So I wanted to challenge myself as an actor. Also, it has some social relevance to it. I thought I would be a fool to not take this up. That’s why jumped blindly at it.”
How has the experience been working with Balaji and with Nupur Asthana?
Manraj says, “It was amazing. Hats off to Ekta Kapoor for taking up this topic and turning it into a web series. Nupur Asthana has very keen understanding about youth and created scenes which the youth could connnect to.We had the best team working on this project. It was like being on a movie set. We shot it also that way.I would especially like to mention our National award winning DOP, Mrunal Desai. He had vision of how the town should look like and he made all arrangement and brought his beautiful vision into reality in this web series”
Rajeev agrees, “It was a fantastic experience working with both Balaji and Nupur. Like I said before while working on a subject like this, one needs to handle it with a certain amount of sensitivity and Nupur has tremendous control over her craft and what was most amazing was that she was very clear as to what she wanted, which made our jobs as actors very easy.”Have you faced any negative backlash?
Manraj says, “Nothing actually. Small things like creative criticism maybe. But no negative backlash as such. The most positive review from a guy is that he showed the series to his parents and they accepted it. We have tried to normalize it.”
Rajeev agrees, “No, not at all, just I am truly grateful for all the love and appreciation not only from the LGBT community but from everybody who has watched it. We worked hard and are glad that it has received such a reception. I feel people who have seen it realize that ultimately it is a love story and have appreciated the way it has been handled. A lot of my friends, who were initially skeptical, binged watched it and loved it.”
You have blown life into the characters and made them extremely heart-warming and believable. What has been the biggest challenge while shooting?
Rajeev says, “Thank you for that! We were working under tight schedules and probably shooting more scenes per day than a normal film, so it did get a bit tiring at times. But our main focus was being true to our characters. So apart from that, there were no major challenges as such.”
Manraj adds, “My biggest challenge was to give justice to the character of Jugal. I wanted to be true to the character completely. Jugal has a huge emotional graph. He has a different equation with his parents, with Romil, with his friend Meher. Being vulnerable, he goes out of his way for love. There are some things I will not do in my real life as a straight guy. But I had to be convinced about them myself.”
The chemistry that both of you share onscreen in the series is outstanding. How did you prepare for the roles?
Manraj shares, “We tried to get to know each other on every level. We had workshops for a month before we started shooting. Both of us worked a lot together on the characters. We understood what and why we were doing as our characters.”
Rajeev agrees, “Like he mentioned, we had workshops for almost a month before shooting began, so for me, it was almost like getting back into doing a play, where one rehearses for a month and then performs in front of a live audience. This time was essential in building a sense of camaraderie between Manraj and me and the fact that both of us were here to serve the story. It helped build a certain trust between us and not for one second during the shoot did either of us feel insecure or threatened by the other as could have been the case with two equal parts. I guess that ease reflected on screen.
With almost a month to prepare, the script in hand and a fantastic director guiding you it was easy to get in the zone. I must have read the entire script around 50-60 times, looking for clues etc. For example- Often what other characters say about your character reveals a lot about the character. Stuff like that.”
Any news about Romil And Jugal Season 2?
Both, “Well, will keep you posted!”
Lastly, any words for your fans?
Manraj says, “Thank you all of you from the bottom of my heart. Talk about such issues more. Take these discussions out to wider audiences. Thank you for your love and support.”
Rajeev concludes with a message, “Thank you for the love and the appreciation. Thank you for the kind words. Thank you for the blessings! Just want to tell them to live life fully and make a positive contribution to this world. Our lives on this planet are short. Inspire and be inspired.”