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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Never Kiss Your Best Friend, 2: Day of the pun, family fun, and well begun is half done

Never Kiss Your Best Friend, 2: Day of the pun, family fun, and well begun is half done

Four members of the cast of this ZEE5 OTT web series were present at the Taj Imperial Hotel, Mumbai, on 11 April, and another two joined through a video link, to be grilled by anchor Siddharth Kannan about the series, their roles, and their interactions during the making. They were joined by the director, and the five then fielded questions from the good media turnout. Nakuul Mehta, Anya Singh, Karan Wahi, Javed Jaaferi and Harsh Dedhia were present physically, while the video link that largely functioned very well, put us face to face with Niki Aneja Walia and Sarah Jane Dias on a split screen wall. Season 2 of the series begins streaming 29 April.

A continuation of Never Kiss Your Best Friend (NKYBF), which had a successful run in early 2020, just before the Covid pandemic, Season 2 was shot in London, during the pandemic, amid very trying circumstances. Around two thirds of the shooting unit was denied visas, and for most of the time, the heads of each technical, and behind the scenes, team did the work of his/her whole unit. It could be seen and heard that the whole unit bonded very well indeed, and the non-stop banter bore testimony to this fact. As often happens, all the speakers seemed to have become members of one large family, joined a mutual admiration society, and kept showering praise on each other. They also revealed tit-bits of information about each other, and about the one night when they all partied like mad and coined the term ‘passion fruit’, and had loads of fun. In spite of repeated probing, they steadfastly refused to reveal what the term ‘passion fruit’ stood for.

Season 2 adds some members to the cast, led by veteran Jaaved Jaaferi, who is now 60! That is hard to believe, considering I often held his hand, and that of his kid brother Naved, as a little boy when our parents met on festive occasions. On 11 April, he was the source of a pun-a-minute, which is hardly surprising, considering he and a few of our friends to indulge in pun-fun a good 35 years ago. Unlike me, he has a phenomenal memory and picks out the right ones at the drop of a hat, while I need to search a bit. Well, I am a good ten years older, so give me some consideration.

Back then, I used to call this ‘gang’ the ‘punny fersons’. So, as soon as someone mentioned Gym, he came up with Jim Carrey and when director Harsh was called, he said he could not be harsh on Harsh (Harsh means happiness in some Indian languages). So much so that when I did put up a question to him about his on-screen chemistry with his romantic interest, Deepti Bhatnagar, naming her as Deep Tea Butt Nagar, he initially gave a straight reply, only to interject when somebody was answering another question, by saying he had a kaafee (‘coffee’) good relationship with her (kaafee means ‘very’ in Urdu), a delayed pun.

While Season 1 was based on an eponymous book, Season 2 which ended with Tanie and Sumer’s break-up, subsequently, the two are forced to reconnect, after two years, since they both land jobs with the same media production house, Meraki Studios. Tanie, as expected, is the writer, and Sumer, the director. What confounds the situation is Tanie’s newfound attraction for Karan Saxena, one of Meraki’s star actors. For his part, Sumer is getting close to Lavanya, the heir to the Meraki throne. There is another track, featuring a character called Bittu, a die-hard romantic, whose lady love has married and moved on, 30-35 years ago, but he remains single and still nurses the same feelings for her. Tanie is played by Anya Singh, while Sumer Singh Dhillon is Nakuul Mehta, Karan Saxena is essayed by Karan Wahi, Lavanya comes to us as embodied by Sarah Jane Dias. Jaaved Jaaferi is Bittu and Niki Walia is Anya’s mother.

Nakuul Mehta: “It feels great to bring a new season of Never Kiss Your Best Friend to our audiences. At a time when most shows on OTT are thrillers and drama, a slice of life show about friendship and love is what I look forward to personally as well. This is the easily the most relatable and fun series I have worked on, and reuniting with Anya and jamming with Karan, Sarah, Sapna and Niki Walia was an absolute delight.”

Anya Singh: “We had no idea the kind of love Sumer and Tanie would get when season 1 released. Because it is about relationships and friendships, I believe that young audiences related to our show and will continue to with S2 as well. It was such a joy to work with my besties, Nakuul and Niki Ma’am again. In season 2, our family has grown with Javed Sir, Karan, Sarah and Sapna Pabbi, who are all wonderful artistes. We hope that we put a smile on your faces once again.”

Karan Wahi, Javed Jaaferi, Nakuul Mehta, Harsh Dedhia, Anya Singh, Niki Aneja Walia and Sarah Jane Dias

Karan Wahi said, “When I watched S1, I thought to myself – What a fun and relatable show this is, in an era of crime thrillers and action dramas. So, when I was offered to be a part of S2, I jumped at the opportunity, and what a ride it has been. I am confident of the final product and am extremely excited for you’ll to catch us soon.”

Sarah Jane Dias: "When you are having fun working, it doesn’t feel like work, and that’s what NKYBF S2 shoot was all about. The energy and the vibes on the set were infectious and that has translated so well on-screen. I am excited for the première of this slice of life, romantic drama, and I am sure that many hearts will race seeing so many talented and hot people together”.

Just a little note: Do not look out for Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, Rituraj Singh, Vivek Mushran, Bryan Lawrence, Paloma Monappa, Zain Imam, Sanjana Puri, Shaizeen Persha, Adi Chugh, Elle Winchcombe, Kishore Bhatt and Sammy Jonas Heaney, who were part of Season 1, which began with, “Tanie lives a monotonous life and spends her weekends with her boss only for free alcohol. That’s when she runs into Sumer, her former best friend, and this sudden meeting triggers some memories.” It was directed by Arif Khan and written by Durjoy Datta and Sumrit Shahi. Writing credit(s) for Season 2 were not provided in the Press Release.

Never Kiss your Best Friend, Paperback – Unabridged, by Sumrit Shahi, was published on 25, May 2015, and is available on Amazon for ₹156. Here’s a bit about the novel, “Getting attracted to a close friend of the opposite sex is very common these days. This often leaves us in a dilemma of how we want to define this relationship and take it forward. Would you want to stay in the friend zone or take the plunge and end up being more than just 'friends'? 'Never Kiss your Best Friend' elaborates on this confusion lying within many youthful hearts and rekindles your memory of all the crazy and stupid things that you have done in your teenage years.

The book redefines the rules of friendship between two best friends. It lays out a long list of crazy things like dancing with her in your boxers, crying on his shoulder when you break up, boring her with football talk at 3 a.m. and a lot more. The book also posts a staggering question. What happens when it doesn't work out between you and your best friend? Will you lose out on this friendship as well? Sumrit Shahi is an Indian novelist and screenwriter. Other books written by him are Just Friends and A lot like love a li’l like chocolate. He has also worked as a script writer for some television shows too, namely Sadda Haq, Veera and Million Dollar Girl.

A longish trailer, 2.57 minutes, was screened on the occasion, with frenetic cutting and repeated voice overlaps on to the next shot. Viewers who might have seen Season 1 could have possibly related to it, but it made little sense to me. What made up for the lapse was the double entendre that some of the cast indulged in, and they even slow danced, to the delight of some of us. There were anecdotes galore, including Harsh telling us that his cast used to reach the set before him, and that Anya has a fetish about the bathroom door being bolted when she goes to sleep, even if it is two doors away. Whereas Karan, Anya, Nakuul and Sarah span the 29-40 age-group, Jaaved, Niki and Deepti, cover the 39-60 age bracket. Conclusion: there is something for the seniors too, in Never Kiss Your Best Friend. As was explained at the press meet, the title is not a warning or an order, but merely the title of a book, and it is no crime to kiss your best friend, if you have that kind of feelings for him/her.

A word about the compère, Siddharth Kannan. He was exuberance personified and went over the top on a few occasions. A little variation here and there would have enhanced his performance. Another RJ tuned compère, Sidhharth has either cultivated a deep baritone, not too different from Darth Vader, or knows how to manipulate the microphone and amplifier to his desired effect, or was just born with such a voice. In my 38 years of teaching compèring, I have come across many students who mistakenly feel that a bass/baritone is the only voice that works. That is not true at all. There is no denying that he has a sense of humour too, though, after being subjected to Javed’s of verbal humour, he joked that he should become a disciple of Javed. His Hindi was good, but his English was better. Incidentally, most of the proceedings were conducted in English.

It was about 2.15 pm when the organisers decided to call it a day, and the attendees were all but heading home, hungry, as could be expected, when word spread that some snacks were on their way. They did arrive, at about 2.30, too little, too late, but most welcome to the turnout, most of who had arrived at the scheduled time of 12 noon, and were battling hunger pangs. The mini pastries were delicious, as were the micro vada-paavs. This was my first visit to the Taj Imperial, and I was given wrong directions by a security guard, who assumed I was driving, whereas I was on foot. That took me a good kilometre, and 15 minutes extra, to reach the hotel, which was almost exactly opposite from where I had started in the first place. We all keep learning, don’t we?

The event was full of joy, with all the speakers gushing and the excitement brimming. Going by the trailer launch and press meet as a beginning, well begun is half done.



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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