‘You find home in bits and pieces’
The title of the show belies weightier issues that the third season attempts to grapple with – the fluid idea of home, identity and the act of gently taking your parents off that pedestal and seeing them as flawed individuals who tried their best. But above all, it is about the delicate dance between intimacy and independence. “If lovers have their individual aspirations that don’t feature their partner, can they still be a unit? That question was far more interesting to me,” he explains.
Sehgal is not big on the grand sweep of love stories but is drawn to the smaller intimacies which he says are his canvas. In Little Things, food is like the third wheel in Dhruv and Kavya’s relationship. “I worked on Jaideep Varma’s documentary Baavra Mann. We once talked about how our typical Bollywood hero and heroines don’t eat or sleep or go to the toilet. Who are these people? I love food. You are never suspicious of a person when he’s eating on camera. South Indian films weave in food beautifully but Bollywood largely only features chaat,” Sehgal elaborates.
Citing Lena Dunham’s Girls as a reference to the show, he says, “It’s been my biggest learning when it comes to TV series because I loved the first, fourth and fifth seasons, hated the second and was indifferent to the third one. But when I finished the show I realised that I loved these characters. And they don’t care whether I like them or not. They are just living their own lives. I have disagreed with them so many times but you have to respect the characters’ evolution,” he opines.
Two episodes in the third season delve into Dhruv and Kavya’s relationships with their respective parents, unearthing everyday familial resentments. He attributes it to his personal pining, “My parents are diplomats. Every three years we would shift. I was in London, Delhi, Kuwait, Muscat, Pune and Bombay. I ask myself, often, where is home? I have been able to answer that question after a very long time. This (Mumbai) is my home, because I have my partner here and a cat comes to my house every day. You find home in bits and pieces. That leitmotif connected with a lot of millennials.” At a time when so many Mumbaikars are falling in love with the city all over again, Sehgal has also been a part of the spontaneous protests in the wake of the JNU, Jamia and AMU violence. “It’s so amazing to see Bombay being Bombay. I don’t believe in the whole spirit of Bombay but I believe it is the most energetic and compassionate city. Like Dave Chapelle looks at the Trump era, there is so much solidarity and empathy in such dark times. These protests just prove that.”
Looking for the political
Sehgal is not as concerned about being typecast in the slice-of-life zone as he is about losing the opportunity to learn something new because of his stubborn outlook. “I am an ardent admirer of Noah Baumbach and Alexander Payne. I would mostly read books about suburban America and the Russian working class. But now I want to broaden my horizons. I want to understand how a character, unlike me thinks. But the ‘everyday-ness’ of things is still my forte,” he emphasises. He would love to write a story in the detective/thriller genre. “I’d like to fuse the political with the mundane in my work,” he continues.
When asked to name a series he wished he had written, he is quick to reply, Lakhon Mein Ek. “I even auditioned for the second season, but didn’t get the part,” he laments. Sehgal came to Mumbai harbouring aspirations of acting but held on to Jaideep Varma’s advice like a talisman, ‘You have an eye of a storyteller. The only way you’ll survive as an actor is if you have the skill set to create your own material.’
He prefers writing over acting. “That moment between action and cut is very exciting but I have to be careful about things. I can’t eat pasta at night and that’s a problem,” he jokes before he reveals that he has anxiety. “I really enjoy the process of writing. On bad days I can choose to not write. I can go out for a long walk or not be in Bombay. But when I have anxiety and I have to act, those are the worst days. I get sweaty palms and my heart starts racing. Many scenes involved holding Mithila’s hands and my palms poured out a river. But till date, she hasn’t said anything. I think she understood.” Sehgal credits the team on set for helping him get through anxiety-ridden days. While reminiscing about art that saved him, he mentions two books, Catcher in the Rye and Lust for Life. Sehgal admits that he’s far more productive when he’s anxious but aims to have a healthier and a more aligned life in 2020.