Kenny Sebastian on new show Die Trying: Wanted to depict artists living in bubble of denial
Uncomplicated, relatable and honest is how one would describe Kenny Sebastian's material and Die Trying, his new Amazon show, is just that
From discussing problems/adventures of being from an Indian middle-class family to having his own Amazon exclusive, Kenny Sebastian has come a long way. With over 7 million views on his stand-up videos, he is one of the most-loved comics of his time. Uncomplicated, relatable and honest is how one would describe his material and Die Trying, his Amazon show is just that. Set in 2004 Bangalore, it revolves around Kenneth (played by him) and Rohan (played by Vidyuth Gargi), two musicians aspiring to make it big.
With just 7 episodes, Die Trying has already been binge-watched by a lot of his fans, already hoping for a second season. Although the question about another season remains, Kenny opens up on what led him to make a web-series, the actuality of it and the medium he finds most fulfilling. Excerpts from our conversation:
You have a humongous fan base, both on and offline. What drove you to foray into this medium?
I love being on stage and creating films. When I was in 10th, I first discovered my love for making movies. From that I got into theatre to improve my acting skills that went on to improve my directing skills. Eventually I also started a band because music has always been fulfilling. Stand up happened incidentally when I took my excessive talking on the mic and transformed that into a structured set. My skills of shooting an editing while having extreme persistence to keep uploading is what eventually led to the audience base.
Die Trying is about two musicians striving to make it big. Is it based on real-life experiences?
The germ of the idea was from when I was in college and tried to start a band. We made an album from our savings but nothing happened. We faced constant rejection for years no matter how hard we worked. I wanted to make a show about something I knew and also about artists struggling and living in their own bubble of denial. Music seemed to be the ideal choice as I had a complete journey with it. I tried and failed. It seemed ideal to pour in all my experiences into it.
What was the biggest challenge of working on Die Trying series?
The biggest challenge of writing a series is having a story and characters that are worth following for seven episodes. Creating a believable universe and also have enough story payoffs at the end of each episode that not only make you want to continue watching the season but also feel fulfilled from every single episode. The story has to be a comedy yet have enough emotional weightage so that you care about the characters' journeys. Since the setting is about musicians, I also wanted to make sure that everyone can related to the core idea, hence keeping it stripped down to the level of 'having a dream and going after it no matter what people say'. I personally love shows where each episode is rewarding and not just the end, Hence our goal was to make sure every episode plays out like a three-act short film with its own feel-good ending.
Tell us how the story was developed
I always had the premise in mind. Ajay Nair (creative head in OML) was the brains behind these web series. Once we were given the resources and freedom, it was a race against time to faithfully realise it. It's the first time I am writing a long fiction show, Thankfully with a great writing team of Naveen Richard, Urooj Ashfaq, Rohan Desai and Vaspar Dandiwala, I could do it. I had an incredible production and post-production team that could handle the tonalities of the show. Also with the band When Chai Met Toast and musician Nigel Rajaratnam came in, I knew the music also was in good hands.
Which medium do you find the most rewarding?
Stand up comedy is still the most rewarding. Mainly because it is the most intimate medium. You are standing in front of your audience. It is the most brutally honest form of entertainment and it also gives you an instant response from the audience. I love the timelessness of being a creator of film/video because that work stays longer than you do. Fiction/film gives you complete control of your storytelling which is quite fulfilling too compared with stand up where the audience equally drives the performance. Acting is quite a challenge, I went through acting workshops to make sure I deliver as an actor, too and not just be a comedian delivering lines. My motive was to ensure the story is told the best way it can be.
Web series are all the rage right now in India. Do you think we'll get to see more highbrow web content soon?
In terms of writing, the challenges to write a light-hearted breezy show, a dark thriller, an emotional tragic story are all the same. Highbrow content lies in the eyes of the beholder and also what the audience is responding to best. The pattern of content is directly related to what the audience wants. Creators also make what they want to watch. I guess since the medium of web series is so new, what you are seeing is what the creators want to see themselves!
Any reason why you chose to release the show on 14 Feb?
Well, it is one of the most conflicted days of the year. If you are single you are stressed about being single while on the other hand if you are dating, you are stressed about over delivering. I was hoping that releasing the show on this date would be an ideal Valentine's Day gift for people out of ideas. And what better gift to give people other than the gift of laughter.
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