Indian television

On the sets of ‘Naagin 2’, Mouni Roy, a few trees and imaginary snakes

The superhit Colors TV show is in its second season.

Illusion is everything in show business, and it is needed now more than ever before to believe that a handful of trees and burning frankincense represent a jungle.

At a studio lot in suburban Mumbai, beyond air-conditioned vanity vans and to the right of a garbage heap, the shoot for an episode of the highly popular television series Naagin is underway. Produced by Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms for the Colors television channel, Naagin is in its second season. In the first season, Mouni Roy played the shape-shifting Shivanya, who encountered various obstacles during her quest to hunt down the killers of her parents. In the second season, Roy is back as Shivangi, the daughter of the original character. Dressed in a gold costume and with brown contact lenses to emphasise her reptilian connection, Roy is the picture of poise and professionalism.

Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.

The visual effects in Naagin 2 are added later, and before the eyes are scenes stripped of their true impact. White canvases are held up to balance the light, while frankincense is constantly burnt to create a misty effect. Beyond the set lies a typical bustling Mumbai street, and were the camera to move a bit to the left, it would capture mounds of plastic and trash.

Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.

There have been several films and television shows on snakes in human form, and Roy counts Sridevi’s performance in the 1986 blockbuster movie Nagina as one of her favourites. Roy attributes the TV show’s success to its snappy narrative and promise of a finite number of episodes, unlike other competitors that drone on until eternity. “You feel good when a show is so successful, and you feel a sense of responsibility that makes you want to act better and do your scenes better,” Roy told Scroll.in.

Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.

Naagin and Naagin 2 meet the demand for fantasy fiction in India in the same way as Game of Thrones and Twilight do in the West, Roy added. “Each episode is pacy, and the show is not stagnant and starts and ends on a different note,” she said. “When I read an episode, I want to know that happens next.”

Roy has become a major star after the show, and she describes it as a milestone in her career. Are the movie offers rolling in? “I am okay with being where I am – I am not very ambitious, and while I would want to do different roles and projects, they have to be really good and substantial,” she said.

Naagin is aired on weekends, and everybody in the crew puts in 12-hour shifts to wrap up the week’s offerings. Roy’s life resembles the video game Temple Run, she said.

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Mouni Roy talks to Scroll.in.

As the shoot rolls on, actor Kinshuk Mahajan, who is perspiring in a patterned cape and a velvet dhoti the colour of stage curtains, patiently performs retakes of a scene in which he has to lie unconscious as Shivangi attends to him. Mahajan plays Rudra, a snake in male form who teams up with Shivangi to protect themselves against evildoers who want to grab a powerful stone.

The drama in Naagin 2 is combined with visual effects, which have been criticised for their tackiness. But series co-director Rakesh Malhotra points out that it is impossible to create magic on such tight shooting schedules. “We run two episodes of an hour each every week, and we barely manage to finish shooting them,” said Malhotra, who has been with the series from the beginning. “For better special effects, you need time. Hollywood films take months for pre-production.”

Kinshuk Mahajan. Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
Kinshuk Mahajan. Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.

Viewers don’t seem to mind the ’80s-era visual effects. There are other elements in Naagin that provide distraction: the glamorous cast, the heavy costumes (by Anuradha Khurana), and the fast-paced narrative and numerous twists. “Ekta Kapoor wanted the episodes to be fast to hook audiences – if you show them something for too long, they can figure out the gimmicks,” Malhotra said. “With Naagin, we can experiment unlike in a daily soap – we have romance, drama and a thriller element too. And there are snakes involved.”

Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.

All the snakes have been created on computers, alongside other creatures, such as mongooses and peacocks. This season, the snakes have acquired colours. “They are orange and blue – something different,” Malhotra said.

Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
Photo by Venkataraghavan Rajagopalan.
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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.