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Exclusive! Raj & DK on casting Shahid Kapoor in Farzi: This character needs to be a bit from wacky-crazy to fun and sweet to dramatic and angsty

Raj and DK confirmed the existence of a second season of Farzi in an exclusive interview with OTTPlay.

Exclusive! Raj & DK on casting Shahid Kapoor in Farzi: This character needs to be a bit from wacky-crazy to fun and sweet to dramatic and angsty
Shahid Kapoor with Raj & DK (Courtesy: Raj & DK/Instagram)

Last Updated: 01.33 PM, Feb 08, 2023


Since 2019, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K., popularly known as Raj and DK, have made OTT cool before it became cooler. The hit movie The Family Man, which was available on Prime Video and starred Manoj Bajpayee, was the first time the filmmakers tried a long format. Since then, they have become one of the most beloved director duos in the digital space, and rightly so. After making people calmless for two years, Raj and DK brought back the second season; this time, Samantha Ruth Prabhu was the main antagonist.

Now, again after almost two years, the cool filmmakers are back with another series; no guesses as to who is making their OTT debut with it. Yes, we are talking about Farzi, featuring Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi, in their first outing in the web series format.

Sunny (Kapoor), a smart, small-time artist, comes up with the perfect fake currency note in Farzi. This puts him in the high-stakes world of counterfeiting, while Michael (Sethupathi), a fiery, non-traditional task force commander, wants to stop counterfeiting.

Ahead of the release of the Prime Video series, OTTplay caught up with Raj and DK for a prolonged conversation about all things Farzi. The filmmaker duo also spoke at length about how they want to use their learnings from long-form series while directing films in the future. More so, you definitely want to know how it was an instant yes from both Kapoor and Sethupathi to be a part of Farzi.


Edited excerpts follow.

There are only a few days left until the release of Farzi, and the anticipation is high for various reasons. What's your current state of mind, given that it's happening amid your busy schedule too?

Raj: It's good in a way, right? You can take the pressure off; instead of feeling all stressed about the Farzi release, you'd rather go shoot and not think about it till it comes out.

DK: Also the thing about the series, right? It's a large beast, I mean, Amazon with its huge network across the countries, we delivered the shows like three months before it releases. So we've been off for Farzi for the for a while now, technically, we are just waiting for the release just like everybody else. And of course, we are responsible for promoting it now. But yeah, otherwise, we, you know, it's out of our hands now. Our baby is out in the world.

First things first: during the trailer launch, Shahid Kapoor and you both hinted that the collaboration was first set to be for a film. How did it transition into a series?

Raj: We had an idea a long time ago. Most of our ideas pretty much stay with us in our minds for a very long time. We keep making notes over years. Whenever the time is right, we pull it out and start writing the screenplay for it. So Farzi has been there in our heads for like eight years plus, The Family Man was there for a decade, and Stree was there for like 12 years. You just marinate it in your head before pulling it out at the right moment to do so, and we have quite a few of these. As feature filmmakers, we tend to put whatever idea we get into a feature format; that's all we know at that point. So at that point, all we knew was the feature film format. So we were trying to fit the story of Farzi into a feature film, and it wasn't fitting. We were trying; we were forced to fit it and see if we could make it somehow, but it wasn't working out. So thankfully, we waited on it, and then once the series world opened up in the country, we thought this was a great idea to do it as a series.

DK: Shahid, one day, while we were talking about something else, out of the blue, he called and said, "You know, I want to do a series; do you have anything for me in a series?" And I'm like, "Are you sure?" Because he is probably the first star of his stature who was consciously wanting to get into the world of series. This was before being in a series was cool, right? I've got to give credit to him, and that's because I think he really wanted to sink his teeth into a character in a long format and hold the audience for that much longer. So it's a challenge. It's a challenge for any actor. First and foremost, as an actor, I think that's what he wanted to do. Whether it's the right decision for a star or not, I think he did that as an actor. We were more than happy to say, "Oh, here it is, Farzi, perfect for you."

Was Shahid Kapoor always your first choice?

DK: Yes, yes. He was our only choice, actually.

Raj: He was because the range that this character needs is also quite a bit from wacky crazy to fun and sweet to dramatic and angsty. So there was a lot to it, and a guy who's very relatable is also a middle-class guy. So we really thought he would fit that role very well, and he was the only choice.

At the OTTplay awards, you mentioned, "Let's cast actors true to the characters." You started that extensively with The Family Man, and now Farzi, by casting Vijay Sethupathi. How did you approach the actor about appearing in a show that is mostly in Hindi and also in an episodic format?

Raj: Yeah, we have a little book; we write down our favourite actors and make a short list, and we're always thinking about how we get to work with these guys. When this character we had in mind, Farzi was always in the back of our heads, like I said, things are always in our heads and we were shooting The Family Man 2 in Chennai with Samantha and Manoj (Bajpayee) and one of the days, Vijay was around shooting I think. So we all met up and were just chatting, and Manoj was very excited to meet Vijay. They both were chatting, we were all there. DK and I looked at each other and said, "Should we ask him for the next one?" So we didn't know anything about him beyond, of course, what we saw on screen. We were like, "We want to talk to you." And he said, "Yeah, any time." He was so excited, so accessible, and so easy to vibe with. We kept that in mind and went back a few months later and called him and said, "We have a great role for you. Would you like to do it?" All it took was a quick Zoom call.

DK: No, we were also quite apprehensive because now this is in Hindi, it's a series, and everybody knows that Vijay Sethupathi is the busiest actor on the planet. Correct? Even he knows that. We were wondering, "Will he have time to do it. Will he want to do it?" But the only thing is, like, what harm is there in asking? So we just asked him, and in one Zoom call, he was super excited to do it. It was during the pandemic, and once the restrictions were lifted, we went and met him and pitched the whole story to him. After that, he was on.

Shahid and Vijay don't share as much screen time as many thought they would. Was it a very conscious decision to keep the actors on a parallel track?

Raj: I don't think a lot of people know what's in the show. So all it is, is a little teaser that we have out. So there is a lot more, there's a lot to it. I shouldn't comment on this bit because there's a lot to see. Of course, the fans are not going to be disappointed for either of the characters, either the actors or for any of them for that matter. We're not the kind to be catering also to a certain image saying, "Hey, I want to give him an intro and this and that." None of those formulas are really there. It's just great characters to watch and wheel.

With your work on Prime Video, the boundaries are completely removed, and people expect a new concept from you at all times, just as you did previously. Does that come with an added responsibility, knowing that a benchmark is created every time?

Raj: I don't know, I think we've always kept to ourselves, we write from our houses, it's as simple as that. So we have an idea, we talk to each other, and we let it sit. On a good day, we pull it out again and say we should be making this. So far, we haven't been dictated to by what should be done, what needs to be done, or what there is a demand for; we just move on to what we like next. I think that's the way we like to do things, which is good because that's what will drive us to make something new. Otherwise, you'll fall for the trap of thinking, "Oh, this worked, so let me make another one like that." We tend to not get into what is required from us, versus just making what is exciting for us and for people.

DK: That is why we went from Shor in the City to Go Goa Gone, right? It's like when we make a Shor in the City, everybody thinks we're going to make another hard-hitting, serious or however you look at film film except nobody would have thought would make a zombie film. I think that's been the one of the exciting factors for us because we can do it and we want to do everything and not be limited.

Raj and DK do what no one else is doing. But Farzi seems to be about con artists and crooks, something we have seen before. How would Farzi stand out from other movies and series based on cons?

DK: Firstly, I'm not sure the word "con artist" is the right description. But I mean, it's just been used because it's in the context of a cop versus a con, and he's an artist. But a con artist is somebody who goes around and tricks people and cheats people; that is literally not the character of Sunny. He is actually an artist, a middle-class guy with a lot of angst and a dying desire to prove that he is a great artist. Of course, he has a permanent angst that a lot of middle-class people have; in his words, they are the "middle finger" class, and the system is rigged against them. It's rigged in favour of the rich, so there is that dying ambition and aspiration for him. Being an artist, he creates the perfect piece of art, which will be the system, and that piece of art happens to be the currency note. So that's the gist of the story. So he's not really a con artist in that sense, which is what a lot of which is what would look like the surficial thing that always a con artist, it tricks people but that's really not what he's doing.

Most of the actors in the series are doing a long format for the very first time. How did you narrow down the character development for each, knowing that it had to be more layered and detailed than a movie?

Raj: That's the best part about the series, right? You have time to build on a character, you have time to peel layers of a character, you have time to use the plot in ways that time doesn't limit that way, you know, you can take the plot, the subplots that join them, so there's a quite a bit of it that we tend to do in our shows, to keep the interest to keep the excitement as much, if not more than a feature. Feature, at least have some song breaks; here we don't have that either. Here you are sitting by yourself most of the time, and you can stop it at any point. So the idea is to keep it exciting, and we structured each episode like a packed feature film. Because we're feature filmmakers, we tend to make that so, and our scenes are very basic, and usually, if you look at the other series, they're all quite languid in that sense. They'll have to happen in, like, two or three locations, and that's it. We shoot like a feature, we edit like a feature, and I think all those things will add up in terms of the viewing experience.

Counting Farzi, there are almost four long formats you are helming this year. Any plans on directing feature films or series? Has this become a comfort zone for you both as filmmakers?

DK: I don't know about the comfort zone bit because that makes it look like we can do it very easily. It's not easy; it's a lot of work. On any given day, creating a series is much harder work than creating a film. Especially even the writing part of it because of the layers, and the sheer length of it. Also, to keep in mind, it's never going to be one season, right? There's always gonna be more seasons, so that's much more harder. 

Raj: We are feature filmmakers first; we started off like that, and we still are. We are thinking of taking all these learnings and trying to put them into a shorter format. You have the test match playing skills now; go back to T20 and learn how to get all the nuances into a shorter format. We can't wait to start on our features this year.

So, you have films in the pipeline?

Raj: Yeah, we have a lineup that we had to pause because of the pandemic. We didn't want to jump into it at that point, and now we're ready to start again.

When The Family Man was premiering, you were already shooting for the second season. Can we expect the same for Farzi?

Raj: We should have, right, before we make a new series, we need to know where it's heading. So as creators of a series, we have an idea where it's going to go. We have not just an idea; we kind of have the path where the series would head, so we have that in our heads. We'd love to wait until this time to see the release of the series, watch people's reactions, and learn from them. We have a template, we have a story, and now we're going to write it as soon as the show releases.

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