Written and produced by Leena Manro and Hiral Shah, DesiCiti chronicles real life stories of girlfriends living in the big city. We caught up with Leena and Hiral recently to find out what DesiCiti is all about.
What sparked the idea for DesiCiti?
Hiral: I went to India and while discussing Indian TV programming with producers in Mumbai, I noticed a lack of quality programming and came up with the concept of a scripted comedy about South Asian women in NYC. Leena and I then brainstormed to create the characters and potential story lines... and the outcome was DeSiCiTi.
Leena: We wanted these characters to be a reflection of Desi women as well as men… the main characters are four strong females from a broad range of South Asian cultural backgrounds, each with its own unique challenges. They live through the challenges that are unique to South Asian women, but in a way that is universally understood; you don't have to be a "Desi - girl" to relate to these women.
So, single South Asian women struggling to find good men in New York City?
Hiral: The theme is not actually "single"... its a multi-dimensional theme that incorporates the dating lives of South Asians in New York, mixed with career issues and family pressures. In fact, even though the main characters are female, we have strong male characters (some of which are introduced in the pilot, others appear in later episodes) whose storylines also educate and entertain the audience about the various issues they face, being South Asians in NYC.
Leena: The broad overarching key themes have to do with love, dating, careers, and family. Within those broad arenas are a host of smaller areas that we delve into in each episode. For example, in the pilot, Sarah (aka Sarabjit Dhillon) is much freer in her love life than her date would accept. As a result, she has to hide who she really is and pretend to be a "good girl", even though this is not necessarily who she is.
Hiral: In addition to storylines about love and dating, the show really delves into issues such as workplace racism, divorce, homosexuality, abuse...deeper issues that are faced by South Asians as well as other ethnic groups. This is not just a Sex and The City type show. And all of these issues are dealt with in a funny light hearted way so that they do not pose controversy but are still put out there, in the open, for everyone to watch and think about. I’m really proud of that aspect of DeSiCiTi. In addition, all of the characters are interesting in their own right, with various levels of depth that everyone can relate to. One can really start to bond with them and understand their strengths as well as the various struggles they go through, laughing the entire way.
Is there a universal message in the stories you tell?
Leena: Authenticity and acceptance… I would hope that when people watch DeSiCiTi they come away with the feeling that even though its very challenging, it essential to be who you are at your core. Each episode will have a particular "theme" or several "themes" explored throughout the episode. For example, the pilot uses themes such as "a love test" to explore why we wear a mask and hide who we really are when trying to find someone to love.
Hiral: I feel this is about putting forth important issues that we all face as a young generation of urbanites in the western world. The beauty of DeSiCiTi is that is does it in a very entertaining and humorous way, and also breaks stereotypes while highlighting the wonderful aspects of our culture such as beautiful Bollywood dance scenes.
Who do you connect with most in DeSiCiTi?
Leena: I can see myself a little bit in all of the characters... Hiral and I created them based on who we are as Desi women. However, I'd say I relate mostly to Laila... she's a romantic, a dreamer... and deep in my heart, I know that I am too. She does strange things, funny adventures and experiments that sometimes only she sees the logic behind... I must admit, I've engaged in such experiments (though I've never worn a mustache in public... but I thought about it. Hiral refused to partake). And in my spare time, I also bollywood sing and dance... just as the character fantasizes about from time to time!
Hiral: I actually don’t relate to any one character although most people would liken me to Maya since we are both lawyers. I think they are parts of each characters personality that are very similar to my own personality. So depending on the situation they find themselves in, I can probably relate to any one of the characters at the time. How has the response been?
Leena: Fantasic! It appears that South Asian or not, people generally do identify with the themes.
Hiral: I agree with Leena. The response has been absolutely amazing by people of all races and of all ages. People have laughed out loud in the right places and have provided extremely positive feedback. Even within the television industry, DeSiCiTi has made waves by being selected in the Banff International Pilot Competition as well as being nominated for two AMPIA Awards
Why should people watch DeSiCiTi?
Hiral: Because they will love it!
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