The actors talk about why they chose to be a part of the project, the challenges of shooting during a pandemic and more

Until recently, cinema was the prefered platform for non-theatre actors in India to showcase their talent. Television was lower in the hierarchy of recognition. A bigger screen meant greater fame. But breaking into cinema, for most aspirants, was like getting to the princess in the Super Mario video game. The advent of digital streaming platforms has changed this. It provides upcoming actors with an alternative space to practice their craft, invalidating the ‘bigger screen equals greater fame’ equation. This relatively new avenue has produced and nurtured young talents, especially in the Hindi entertainment realm.

Amol Parashar (who played Chitvan Sharma in TVF’s Tripling) and Tanya Maniktala (Lata Mehra in A Suitable Boy) are beneficiaries of this platform. They will be starring in a Netflix anthology, Feels Like Ishq, which also features several other actors largely seen in digital streaming platforms — Radhika Madan, Neeraj Madhav, Rohit Saraf, Simran Jehani and others. The anthology comprises six short films that narrate modern-day love stories with people from different walks of life.

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Different journeys

Amol, a mechanical engineer from IIT-Delhi, debuted with Rocket Singh, starring Ranbir Kapoor, in 2009. For the next eight years, he mostly got supporting roles until Tripling (in 2016), wherein he was one of the main characters. A few more web series came his way. Then, last year, he acted with Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar in Alankrita Shrivastava’s film Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare. Now, he will, for the first time, play the lead in Save The Da(y)te, the short directed by Ruchir Arun in Feels Like Ishq. He, however, doesn’t perceive this as a level progression.

“I’m just seeing it as an extension of the work I’ve been doing,” he says, “I don’t think you should get too excited — just do your work properly and hope everything falls into place. The reach of Netflix is huge. So, that does mean something. But I don’t want to overthink these things.”

Tanya, meanwhile, got a big project fairly early in her career. The 24-year-old actor did just a couple of web series before signing up for Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy, which was released last year. She was about to quit acting after the first two series. “I am grateful that A Suitable Boy happened. The opportunities it has opened up to me, I don’t think I would have had them otherwise,” she says.

Apart from Feels Like Ishq, in which she plays the lead in Jaydeep Sarkar’s short, Ishq Mastana, Tanya will be seen in Santosh Sivan’s Hindi remake of Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Tamil film, Maanagaram. She will share the screen with Vijay Sethupathy, Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey and other stars.

Shooting during a pandemic

The shooting of Feels Like Ishq began towards the end of 2020. Shooting with COVID protocols was different and more difficult than usual, say the actors.

“Actors can’t be wearing masks all the time. So, it makes us more vulnerable to the situation. And it just means that the crew has to be extra careful around us,” says Amol.

Despite shooting in Goa, he didn’t venture out as he might have in normal circumstances. “The news you hear is so grim. So, I am just grateful for work. I even told my friends, ‘I am not going to Goa, I am going for a shoot’. It doesn’t matter which city I am going to, it was just going to the hotel room, going to the set, and back to my room.”

“Tests were happening every second day,” says Tanya, “There were curfews and other restrictions. So, we had to work around a lot of other things. It was challenging, there was always a little fear. But we all worked with it.”

(Feels Like Ishq will stream on Netflix from July 23)

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