Decoupled: Separated but not entirely

Decoupled follows the lives of a couple who is separated, but not entirely. What is it like to live in an urban marriage?

Still from the series
Still from the series

Garima Sadhwani

If he had to summarise Netflix’s latest dramedy, Decoupled, in one sentence, writer Manu Joseph would say that it’s a distillation of everyday observations that he’s noted down over many many years.

For someone who always thought writing should deal with grand things and grand characters, Joseph recently realised that he wanted to write about the small things, about the many irritating things that people do. And thus was born, Decoupled.

Decoupled follows the lives of a couple who is separated, but not entirely. Director Hardik Mehta nods. “Urban marriage is an interesting beast, which not a lot of films and series have been able to capture, because people overlook the small things that actually make up our lives,” says he. He laughs that it is his urban marriage of ten years that motivated him to wear the director’s hat for Decoupled.

Is there anything though that the director would change if he got the opportunity to do the whole thing again? Probably some bits of filmmaking. But that’s about it. Mehta says that Netflix gave them enough time to carefully curate the music, edit the show and for post-production. He also feels that unlike films, which demand a lot of twists and turns, a series format actually allows the crew to show how a small argument can lead to a big event in the plot. He feels that’s also what makes each episode funny, because there’s no restriction. The filmmaker believes Netflix is as mainstream as it gets, and he’s happy to have invested his time and energy in a show that still cracks him up.

If there’s one thing that Mehta feels brings the whole show together, it is Joseph’s writing. Joseph shares that his writing is the comedy of observation. But it’s not just seeing things and recollecting them later on the writing desk. “So you remember what you see and then you extract the absurdity of things that are sometimes also an absolute truth,” says the writer. Joseph feels any scene can be funny, when you understand its underlying nature.

Having worked on the show, Joseph now feels he has a lot more respect for filmmakers. “They have to negotiate with so many people and situations. Compared to that, writing is so much simpler. A production guy told me that working on a set is like arranging your daughter’s wedding, and that wedding is everyday, and it’s so true,” says Joseph.

But other than that, Joseph is 200% sure that film sets are no less than magic factories. Anything you want, you’ll get. Joseph recalls that once while they were shooting, Mehta told the team that he wanted the kitchen glass frosted, and then walked away. And they frosted the glass! Joseph laughs, “I might write a series where the character’s ambition is just to live in a film set.”

But shooting while Covid was ravaging the world was definitely a roadblock for the crew. As much as Joseph enjoyed being on the sets, he laughs that after about 60 days of the shoot, they had a party and Joseph didn’t recognize 80% of the people. He had imagined them to be very different from what they actually looked like. But he says he’s fortunate that he got to work with an incredibly hard-working team.

Mehta agrees, He credits the actors, R Madhavan and Surveen Chawla, for the discipline that they brought on the sets. And he gives some credit to himself as well, for making the right choices as the casting director. “When Netflix was doing a behind the scenes interview with Madhavan and Surveen, the answers they gave were so amazing, as if they were a real couple,” says Mehta.

What Mehta liked the most about working on Decoupled though was that the characters, which he feels are very well-written, would make the casting director in him come alive. He says, “I would look at the faces of actors as they arrived on set, and then immediately turn to Manu to see if they have the kind of face that he envisioned for the characters.” Mehta feels this was an interesting exercise because Joseph’s writing is so character-oriented that you have to have the right face for that character, says the director.

Now that the show is just days away from being released, the team has started working on other projects. Currently, Mehta is writing a film that’ll be produced by Vikram Malhotra. And he is hoping that Joseph starts writing Decoupled Season 2 soon.

Sharing a piece of advice with aspiring writers, Joseph says “never study writing”. And if you can’t convince anyone to publish your book or make your movie, do it yourself, become an entrepreneur, says Joseph. As for Mehta, he believes the key is to collect experiences. Everything you experience in real life, helps you create magic in reel life. “So don’t aim to become a filmmaker at 24.” says he.

Decoupled releases on Netflix on December 17.

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