Double the trouble

Double the trouble

They are the mean guys of television, and identical twins on top of that! When Raghu Ram and Rajiv Laxman are the hosts and judges of a show, you can rest assured that the participants will have their hearts in their mouth while you enjoy the grilling sessions in the comfort of your couch.

The men, who shot to fame on the much-watched MTV Roadies, made a smooth progression from the show to start their own company called Monozygotic Solutions, and have now jumped on the bandwagon of web series. Pumped up about their upcoming reality show, Skulls and Roses,  which will soon air on Amazon Prime, the two talk about all things entertainment.

Here are edited excerpts:

Tell us a little about 'Skulls and Roses'.

Raghu:  Roadies  started in 2003, caught on in around 2005, and reflected the confusion of the youth of those times. But the world has changed in 15 years and so much more has happened. From taxis to love, everything is available at the touch of a button. To address the lives of the youth of today is exciting as love is increasingly being seen as a distraction. There is a lot of focus on 'me' as opposed to 'we'. The show is all about this 'me vs we' experiment, and we are really excited about it. For the first time ever, we have been able to mix adventure and reality. Each has its own rules and elements, and no other show has had an organic way of joining them. This is a hybrid reality show that has blurred the lines of reality and adventure and tested kids on both criteria - how tough and ruthless they can be, as well as how charming and attractive they can be.

Will we get to see the 'mean Raghu and Rajiv'?

Rajiv: It's different – we are older, wiser, calmer and more mature. We are more tolerant of some things and bored of others. We have a renewed idea about certain thoughts and trends and although these auditions aren't televised, interacting with the youth is always fun.

You are very harsh on your shows. How much of that person are you in real life?

Raghu: When I am making a show, there is a requirement for a certain personality. This is different from playing a fictional role, which requires costumes or rehearsed dialogues. To embody that mean personality, I have to look for it in myself and amplify it a lot. So, the person you see on television is not completely me, but it's also a part of me. I guess it's a mutated version of me.

Rajiv: It's not like a loud voice is hard and the soft voice is not. Yes, it's anger at one point, but also cutting humour at another.

Do you face a lot of flak in reality for your meanness?

Rajiv: I am new to flak. I don't even notice it! Only of late, the trolling culture has come up and it doesn't affect us. Whatever is required for the show will happen. We are professionals who are casting for a show, which is the most crucial element. We have zero control over content once the casting is done.

Raghu: I am a very regular guy, in fact, I am an introvert. But people love to hate me and I really like it that way! It helps me maintain a sense of privacy.

Tell us a bit about your company 'Monozygotic Solutions'.

Raghu: After we collaborated on Roadies  and Splitsvilla, I wrote my autobiography Rearview: My Roadies Journey  in 2013, and also became a campaigner for the elections in 2014. I had reached a point where I couldn't connect with Roadies  anymore. I had evolved from it and was done living up to everyone's expectations. When Rajiv suggested that we make a company together, I jumped at the idea. As you know, 'monozygotic' means identical twins!

So, we will never see you back on 'Roadies'?

Raghu: My approach to making reality shows is to express myself and deal with the thoughts of the youth instead of creating one that I think will work with the audience. Roadies  is something that doesn't match my thoughts anymore. Like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde  in which Dr Jekyll is good and Mr Hyde is pure evil, I was Hyde on Roadies. In my book, I have distanced myself from that Roadies  guy and said goodbye to him.

What do you think of the popularity of web series today?

Rajiv: It's an evolving space but there is a lot of misunderstanding about it. A lot of show makers think 'kuch bhi chalta hai' (anything works). Some of them approach us saying 'my movie didn't get sold so let's make a web series out of it'! Some ask us why we need so much money for a show? But they need to understand that it's a very specific platform going out to very new but psychographic, English-speaking audience who consume international entertainment on Netflix and Amazon. You can't just do anything and expect it to work.

Moving on from web series, how were you two as kids?

Rajiv: We were mischievous and got a lot of attention wherever we went. Our parents and sister felt isolated because we were too into each other. But that made us comfortable with the idea of being different and that's why now, we aren't overwhelmed with the attention we get.

Raghu: I was dreamy and absent-minded much like the kid in Taare Zameen Par. My teachers would think I wasn't paying any attention in class. Whenever any elder would ask me what I wanted to be when I was older, I would simply say doctor or engineer or pilot without even knowing much about these jobs. I was good at English and History, but didn't know what I could do with it.

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