Every married couple out there will probably relate to Mini Mathur and Cyrus Sahukar as they try to re-ignite the fire in their married life on Amazon Primes's latest show, Mind The Malhotras, directed by Sahil Sangha, who previously wrote and directed the romantic comedy, Love Breakups Zindagi (2011). Briefly, it's about the quirks and insecurities of a dysfunctional urban family. On the surface, Shefali (Mini Mathur) and Rishabh (Cyrus Sahukar) are like any normal married couple with three kids, but as the show goes on, the struggles surface. Rishabh's parenting skills, his fear of turning 40, the daughter's tattooed boyfriend, the kids' falling grades at school; Shefali's issues with her mother-in-law, and divorce. The light-hearted series touches upon issues of marital stress and parental fulfillment.
Adapted from the Israeli comedy La Famiglia, the show highlights the family's problems with humour as Shefali and Rishabh seek therapy in a bid to put a spark back into their relationship to avoid divorce.
“My character in the series is that of an average good man,” Cyrus told THE MAN in an exclusive interaction. “He doesn't like to go out and party every night, is responsible when it comes to his family, is concerned about turning forty and worried about his future. Basically, in the middle of an ever-changing world, Rishabh is dealing with his own madness.”
Cyrus who is an anchor, comedian, writer and actor, enjoys his work as he gets to live many lives. "Rishabh is going through several dilemmas. He is a man who is married, has kids, has to worry about their future, etc. In real life, I have no such responsibilities. So, enacting such a vibrant character helped me understand another side of life. Experimenting and trying new things in different fields gives me happiness. The content is more important than the medium, and I never let my work get monotonous."
Mini, who has been away from television for some time, swears by a good script. "This is my first piece of fiction,” she said. “I wanted to do quality stuff and to stay away from shows that do naagin and kitchen politics. Mind The Malhotras was a piece of work I instantly said yes to. It was something that resonated with me and what I believe in. It's a great comedy with a good script and I'm glad it has got so much love from everywhere."
Cyrus believes the digital world helps the audience decide from a vast menu, unlike in the old days when television offered limited options. "The digital experience has been amazing. It feels overwhelming when people come up to me and say they have liked the show. The content has become better and now you can access it on the run - on your mobile phones, iPads, laptops, etc. It's the way forward.
The show is about a couple going to a therapist to resolve an issue they were unaware of. Rishabh and Shefali don't hate each other. Cyrus discussed the importance of seeing a therapist: “We believe that counseling helps couples. Earlier, we would go to our relatives or friends who had limited knowledge or a one-sided perspective about relationships, and which have become complex. Today, it is important for couples to see a therapist, not because they have problems, but perhaps to better understand themselves and their relationship with each other."
Mini added, "Going to a therapist is as normal as turning to your friends for relationship advice. It's okay to see a therapist and it is no longer taboo."
Across countries, the issues remain the same. Mind the Malhotras points the lens at the various relationships in a modern Indian family, and attempts to bring out the complexities with humour.
Cyrus and Mini admit their screen characters are much like their real ones. "I am very much like Rishabh,” Cyrus says. “I too have hidden anxieties about the future just like Rishabh. In one scene, Rishabh is giving advice to his son Yoyo, while his mind jumps to some weird thoughts like the world is going to end, and that there is going to be no money. I too go through such thoughts. Just like the screen character, I just want to be left to myself." Rishabh’s optimism is another trait that Cyrus shares with his screen alter ego. “Underneath his anxieties and craziness, Rishabh is someone who always hopes things will work out.”
Mini describes Shefali as an exaggerated version of herself. "Shefali is very much invested in her husband and kids. She is trying to be that Doberman guarding the gate and protecting the family. I am the same; I guess most women are. Rishabh and Shefali are buddies, and are comfortable with themselves and with each other. I am a hyper person in real life also, so that's another similarity. This is the one thing that attracted me to play Shefali. I didn't have to actually act. I am like that. Everything needs to be perfect for her, from her husband to her kids. Of course, they are not! Everything that could go wrong does go wrong. The show is about taking life with a pinch of salt."
Mini says her own kids are even more difficult, "I could relate to the script and was constantly giggling while reading it - I hear such weird demands from my kids; I never get back change, and have to handle curfew time. I have dealt with a lot more."
The producer-filmmaker, co-owns the banner Born Free Entertainment with his wife Dia Mirza.