Megha Ramaswamy’s coming-of-age series, ‘The Odds’, to premiere in LA

Indian millennials are chirpy, smart and approachable, says Megha Ramaswamy, director of the Abhay Deol-starrer, ‘The Odds’, which is the first series to premiere at the International Film Festival of Los Angeles next month

Updated - March 22, 2019 07:08 pm IST

Published - March 22, 2019 01:30 pm IST

A still from the series, ‘The Odds’ featuring Karanvir Malhotra (left) and Yashaswini Dayama

A still from the series, ‘The Odds’ featuring Karanvir Malhotra (left) and Yashaswini Dayama

While Bollywood films about Indian teenagers — like Student of the Year and Secret Superstar — have been embraced by audiences, Mumbai-based filmmaker Megha Ramaswamy (below) believes there is room for more complex depictions of young adulthood. “Every time we talk about younger people, their world is very limited to a certain style,” she says.

Now, with her series, The Odds , the filmmaker plans to provide a more nuanced spin on the classic coming-of-age narrative. While the show is still in production and will only release later this year, a 90-minute extract will be showcased at the Closing Gala Presentation at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, making it the only series to bag a screening at the festival.

The Odds is a whimsical story that follows a rebellious teen, Vivek (Yashaswini Dayama) and her school’s responsible head boy Ashwin (Karanvir Malhotra), as they skip school on an exam day to go on a fantastical journey through Mumbai. Along the way, they meet a variety of characters, both human and animal, played by an ensemble of actors that includes Abhay Deol (also a producer of the series) and Priyanka Bose ( Gulaab Gang, Lion ).

A lighter turn

Ramaswamy’s past work has been intense and serious-minded: she was a writer on the 2011 Bollywod crime film Shaitan, and directed an award-winning short documentary on acid attack survivors in 2014 called Newborns (it was funded by the Chicken and Egg fund, an international grant for non-fiction filmmakers). With The Odds, she embraced the opportunity to tell a more light-hearted story. With elements of ’70s punk rock, the series, she says, is also a rock-and-roll musical of sorts, with original music from composer Sagar Desai.

Even with the project’s playful tone, which is inspired by filmmakers John Hughes ( The Breakfast Club ) and Sai Paranjpye ( Chashme Buddoor ), Ramaswamy shares that she wants to showcase a more grounded representation of Indian millennials. “We talk about politics, we talk about art, we talk about literature. That’s the kind of conversations that they [Vivek and Ashwin] have,” she says. “At the same time, it’s not intellectualising everything, so it makes the characters very approachable.”

More to come

The director frequently works with young actors on her projects; her next, Reshma Shera , is also a children’s film. The process of working with younger actors is all about accidents, she reveals. “Nothing is planned, and you can only rehearse to a certain extent,” she says.

Producer Apoorva Bakshi, of FilmKaravan Originals, which produced the series, believes that IFFLA is a great platform to debut. “The strongest voices find good representation in the West through IFFLA, which is now taking the extra step of including an episodic indie programme.” She reveals that the multi-chapter series will have five to six episodes of 30 minutes. The final version has not completed shooting yet, in part because Deol and Ramaswamy decided to expand the story into a longer version during production, and also because FilmKaravan Originals was busy completing work on its Netflix drama, Delhi Crime, which debuted this week.

The Odds will premiere at IFFLA on April 14, 2019

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Deol turns producer

Abhay Deol plays the lead singer of a music band in The Odds. As producer, he was drawn to the relatability of the characters “even though it’s about a 16-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy”.

Deol shares that he didn’t want to get in the way of the director’s vision for the project. “She’s staying true to her voice and her style,” he says. He’s also glad that the Indian entertainment market has shifted to allow for more individual voices like Ramaswamy to express themselves.

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