One-liners are improvised on the spot. “How did your father Sachin Pilgaonkar cast you in your first play? Did he ask for an appointment via text message?” Shriya Pilgaonkar is asked. “No, he asked me via intercom,” she tells them. In the episode featuring the cast of Sairat, the duo show up with a couch at director Nagraj Manjule’s house. “We have got the couch, now you do the casting,” they tell him.
These scenes set the tone for much of the humour on Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun, a Marathi web series produced by a group that calls itself the Bharatiya Digital Party. Inspired by Zach Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns, the English subtitled series has aired seven episodes with such guests as Sai Tamhankar, Priya Bapat and Radhika Apte.
Starring actor Amey Wagh (Aiyaa, Popat) and Nipun Dharmadhikari, who has directed numerous plays and has previously written the script for the Hindi film Nautanki Saala! (2013), the series is based on a simple premise: the two hosts are wannabe filmmakers who are looking to make their first film. They invite numerous stars for a “casual” interview, but unbeknownst to these stars, these interviews are only a guise to convince them to participate in the duo’s upcoming film project.
Wagh plays the desperate actor who is ready to take on the roles of Shah Rukh Khan, Dilip Tahil and even Kajol in a proposed Marathi remake of Baazigar (1993). Dharmadhikari is the straight man in this double act. He is well-liked by the stars who come on the show and they are willing to work with him, on the condition that Wagh is not involved in the project.
It’s refreshing to see celebrities so willing to be lampooned. In the opening episode, Radhika Apte escapes their clutches by citing that she is “booked till 2021” and needs time to spend with her husband in an “igloo in Antarctica”. In another episode, an irate Lagoo leaves the show after the duo secretly make her do a screen test by making her reenact scenes from her films like Vaastav (1999) and Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hain (2000).
The chemistry that Wagh and Dharmadhikhari share with the guests lifts every one of the episodes. This is most apparent in episode three, which features television stars Sakhi Gokhale, Priya Thombre and Swanandi Tikekar. This episode is the most risqué of the lot, and the expletives fly thick and fast. The trio almost convince Dharmadhikhari to shoot a Marathi version of 3 Idiots (2009) but “Who will play Aamir Khan?”
While the jokes are not as mean as the ones on Galifianakis’s show, Casting Couch has humour in abundance. The improvised quality often lends an unexpected hilarity to situations. Wagh and Dharmadhikari might not have to “quit filmmaking and sell wada pao” as they wonder in the most recent episode featuring Sai Tamhankar, after a series of rejections, any time soon.