Manraj Singh and Rajeev Siddhartha
“Because, I’m straight,” says Manraj Singh for the second time during our conversation, as he chronicles his effort of getting into the skin of his character, Jugal, a gay teenager, for Ekta Kapoor’s ‘Romil and Jugal’. “I interacted with my homosexual friends. It was essential for me to acquire the demeanour of college-going kids, so I lost seven kilos for the part. You’ll also notice that my shoulders droop, and I have a speedy pace in the show.”
The web show, a homosexual take on William Shakespeare’s classic, ‘Romeo And Juliet’, is Ekta’s first attempt at exploring the sensitive topic on sexuality.
Jugal’s Romil, Rajeev Siddhartha, credits his background as a theatre actor for his willingness to green-light a project around homosexuality. Intimate scenes in the Nupur Asthana directorial have been dealt with, rather sophisticatedly, with a particular lip-lock sequence evoking a word of appreciation, even from the back-row gigglers. A six-week pre-shoot acting workshop, says Rajeev, helped create the conspicuous chemistry between them. “We talked about that scene from the first day, so that we weren’t uncomfortable when we had to film it. Also, we’d already shot for 25 days prior to that sequence, so there was no inhibitions. We got it right in the first take,” says Rajeev, as Manraj humours, “Also, we knew that if we’d fumble, we’d probably have to lock lips another 10 times.” “To ensure that the audience didn’t feel awkward, we needed to be comfortable with each other first,” says Rajeev.