If you are on any social media platform, it is highly unlikely that you haven’t come across a small video clip showing a tech-savvy pundit using technology to conduct ‘Griha Pravesh Puja’ much to the bewilderment of the hosts. That’s because that hilarious clip, which is from “Metro Park,” a new Indian American drama currently streaming on Eros Now, went insanely viral.
“We are flattered that the scene had such a reaction. When we were initially shooting the scene, we were very skeptical (as we are with many things) if it will work or not,” director Abi Varghese told India-West. “Luckily we have some amazing actors who work amazingly well with each other.”
“Metro Park,” with quirky Indian characters, is a light-hearted comedy that revolves around a Gujarati family based in suburban New Jersey. The show, which stars Omi Vaidya as Kannan, Purbi Joshi as Payal Patel, Ranvir Shorey as Kalpesh Patel, Pitobash as Bittu and Vega Tamotia as Kinjal, explores the day-to-day situations that an expat family encounters.”
“I don’t think there’s another Indian immigrant type of show that highlights Indian or South Asian immigrants’ lives in America. So that’s sort of the USP of the show but it’s about how Indians retain culture within America, how they let go of things, how do they live here and the idiosyncrasies of living as an NRI,” Vaidya, best known for his stellar performance in the Bollywood film, “3 Idiots,” told India-West.
Deep-rooted Indian cultural habits work as a catalyst for this nine-part situational comedy, according to Eros. Vaidya’s character Kannan is a South Indian married to a Gujarati woman, Kinjal. The story begins with the young couple, Kannan and Kinjal, who move out of their small apartment in New York City to go to New Jersey to stay closer to Kinjal’s sister Payal, and her husband Kalpesh.
“Kanan is a nice guy, a relatable character. He’s a dad, husband, who’s sort of begrudgingly changing that all fathers probably do,” Vaidya told India-West. “It was fun. Extended family can help but also, they can be weird and irritating. And all of those emotions are from my life, too.”
Varghese added that they tried to find comedy in real life in this show based on immigrants but did not go out of their way to single out the immigrant experience, a thought seconded by Vaidya.
“A lot of the show is based on instances that happen around our lives. Most of the show plots are driven from our families/extended families or things that happen around us,” Varghese explained to India-West. “A big part of the show is about living in the suburbs and the mundane things that we find very intriguing. For example, we wrote an entire episode on Kalpesh (Ranvir Shorey) finding a cheap karaoke machine at a yard sale. For us, this is very interesting material.”
“America is a country of immigrants and we just keep forgetting that,” Vaidya told India-West. “Once we live here, we think what’s mine is mine. The reason America is so great is because it keeps getting all of these new people with the new drive and new motivation and a willingness to give a 110 percent. These cultures, which some people in America may think are encroaching upon theirs or an inferior culture, I don’t really know, but if you watch the show, it shows that it’s a fun and enjoyable culture and it lets you in. It’s not discriminatory. It’s just people being people.”
Varghese reiterated that the story is not about the struggles of immigrants in the U.S. Instead, the focus of “Metro Park,” he emphasized, was to make a drama that audiences can identify with.
“Our objective was never to make a story about immigrants and the struggle because we feel those topics have been already done,” Varghese noted to India-West. “We primarily wanted to focus on how the family issues remain the same whether you are living in India, the U.S., Canada and the U.K. We wanted the show to be relatable to anyone who watches it. They should be able to identify with one or two of these characters.”
To celebrate the launch of the digital series, Prem Parameswaran, chief financial officer of Eros Group and president of its North America group, and Vaidya rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
“I did not expect that anybody was going to see it or that it would get picked up, but it got a lot of publicity, but I was hoping that it would turn out well and people have appreciated it,” Vaidya said. “There aren’t many family comedy series on streaming platforms, so this is sort of the first considerable one with decent production values. And now that it is clicking with people and Eros has been a very supportive partner, I’m hoping, and I would encourage people to keep tweeting and keep sharing your experiences watching the show. If you see the viral clip, that’s how the show is: a mix of modern and old. Even though it’s placed in New Jersey, it’s really a metaphor for India as its own, India’s modernization and how do they hold on to traditions.”
Varghese added: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we got to open the NYSE with our show. It was indeed a very proud moment for us as we never expected such a promotion for our show; usually it’s much bigger productions that get such a launching pad.”
Varghese said that they would continue to build on these characters and situations, all while keeping the essence of the show, adding, “The exposure that we got was amazing, but I feel that the true success of the show ultimately rests in our ability to create unique content that people are willing to invest time in watching.”
Vaidya, who is also hosting “The Omi Show,” a radio show available to listeners on Dash Radio, shared that while zeroing in on projects, he places an equal emphasis on content, and the creators.
“More than roles, I just try to work with really good people,” he told India-West. “You don’t really know how what’s on the page is going to come out. It all comes down to are you working with people who know what they are doing? If you trust them and they trust you, then you can make something amazing. People who respect my time and effort, and if they do, I put in the effort and I try to do a good job and that’s my goal right now.”
Quoting “Metro Park” as an example, Vaidya recalled how the team would be shooting multiple scenes in the same location for multiple episodes. Along with creativity, the trust the production team and cast put into each other determines the success of a project, he explained.
“We were shooting out of order based on location. So, we are like, ‘Oh! This is in the fourth month of pregnancy or eight month.’ You just have to trust the production with what they are doing. You are moving so fast that everybody has to play their role very well,” he said. “People behind a project should have a strong vision and good leadership. It’s not just the script.”
Vaidya added that he did receive some “good scripts” from Bollywood but did not greenlight those projects because it wasn’t a “whole package.”
“Even if it’s comedy, there has be some meaning behind it. Not just time pass stuff. I can create my own time pass,” he quipped. “But I want to create something. Making a movie is fun but also a lot of hard work, but I shouldn’t be having more fun than the audience, then there’s a problem.”