‘Dating is so much more complicated today’
Vihaan Samat and Rahul Nair talk about the making of their hilarious coming-of-age comedy, Eternally Confused and Eager for Love
Eternally Confused and Eager for Love is arguably the most inventive young-adult comedy to come out of India. It inherits all the traits of the genre: a confused protagonist, seething emotions, messy relationships, comforting friendships, and more importantly, the confounding uncertainty that pervades the mind of a 25-year-old.
What exalts it beyond genre prerequisites is Rahul Nair’s writing, which personifies the conscience of the perpetually awkward and intermittently sensible Ray, embodied by an able Vihaan Samat—by employing an inanimate object, the superhero toy, Wiz (Jim Sarbh does a fabulous job of pumping life into this immobile object). Wiz is omnipresent in Ray’s life, in the form of a keychain he carries along, as an action figure in his bedroom, as a pencil sketch on a paper in his cubicle, and even in the bathing area, as a poster. The writing succeeds in ingraining Wiz to an extent that when Ray is on the screen, we begin to comprehend that Wiz is present too… inside his head. The presence of Wiz accentuates every scene, on both a comical and dramatic level.
For Vihaan, who shares the best chemistry in the show with the invisible Wiz, cracking the dynamic was no walk in the park, but his method acting classes and the acting workshops came in handy. “We had a month-long workshop where we tried to figure out who Ray is and what it means to have a lifeless toy as your best friend. We tried to find out why he would resort to it. I also had to make sure that I was in tune with his awkwardness, nervousness, and personality. We then added layers to the character from a performance perspective—there is just Ray; Ray and the toy without the voice; Ray and the toy with the voice; Ray and the toy with voice and other human characters…” says Vihaan, before breaking into laughter as he realises that he is trying too seriously to explain the dynamic he shares with the toy.
The show’s creator and director Rahul Nair admits that there are “certain elements” of his personality in Ray. “To an extent, yes. I think everyone writes what they see and know. For instance, I studied abroad and came back, so did Ray, but that’s where the similarities end.” The idea of the show too emerged from how he felt about the dating scene in the present day. “When I came out of college a couple of years ago, I realised that there’s so much to do and dating is now much more complicated; there are your friends putting pressure, there are a multitude of dating apps… you see, it’s like you are spoilt for choice. It’s like going to a retail store with a myriad of brands to choose from, but it only adds to the pressure of someone who is struggling. You can see the options but lack of the ability to pick can be unsettling. That’s where Ray came from.” Does Rahul have a Wiz in life though? “No comments,” he asserts, before divulging, “No, I don’t have a Wiz in my life.” Rahul considers Wiz “a great tool to articulate how people think.” Wiz is definitely not his inner voice, he reaffirms.
Eternally Confused… thrives in dry humour, with some of the best conversations—apart from Wiz’s killer retorts—happening between Vihaan and his parents, faultlessly played by a stoic Rahul Bose and an equally effective Suchitra Pillai. My favourite is a diner table conversation between the trio, when the father, who is convinced that his son has no friends, learns from his wife that Ray, in fact, has two friends—Riya from high school and Varun from work. “Two friends?” Rahul questions Vihaan with simmering disappointment. It’s also one of Vihaan’s favourite scenes, being one of the earliest scenes they shot. The actor takes a moment to laugh before responding as he recollects working with Rahul Bose, “the improv king” and Suchitra Pillai whose “gracefulness, warmth and caring nature,” he believes, reflects in the show. Rahul Bose, on the other hand, Vihaan says, is “quite eccentric and straightforward” and his ability to come up with lines on the spot kept Vihaan on the edge.
Talking about his style of humour, Rahul shares, “I don’t know where the dry humour comes from, but I feel if I try and dissect it, I might lose it. I didn’t aim for a particular brand of humour. Instead, I created moments to place Ray in. I would think about the purpose of a scene and then come up with how the character would react in the situation.”
What makes Eternally Confused… more than a hilarious show is that, like Vihaan rightly points out, “it comes from a place of truth. It is not written just to be funny.” He adds, “Ray is an interesting human. I was looking to play a person who is not in control of the situation, not confident and doesn’t know what to do, and Ray was the perfectly imperfect character to reverse it, especially because you can hear exactly what’s going on in his mind.” His flaws and anxieties humanise Ray, making him a unique, likeable, and surprisingly relatable character.
As the conversation nears the end, I ask Rahul a pressing question. Did he get to take Wiz home after the filming? “You know what? I tried really hard. And I was told I could not. The art department got hold of him, packed him in a box, and placed it in a warehouse,” Rahul says. “I am sure he is yelling to be brought back,” Vihaan adds. Going by the reactions to the show, Wiz’s stay in the box won’t last too long.