Proma Khosla and Radhika Menon follow in the spirit of Broad City. The self-described best friends/roommates/wives/writing partners wrote, produced and acted in their first short after being inspired by New York.
The film is about, more or less, finding love in the city. And "though you'll find it speaks to a niche," Khosla said, "I think the difficulty of finding that love is something plenty of young city dwellers can identify with."
The Local Dive talked to the writing duo about their first foray into screenwriting, New York City and how we're all kind of Ilana Glazer.
Cailey Rizzo: So how did you guys end up in New York?
Radhika Menon: So we graduated that May and then we both worked on movie sets in Michigan. And we were like, 'this is cool, but this is still Michigan. We don't want to be here' And then after those shoots ended, we were like, "What the hell? How do we do this?" And it sucked. And then we finally were just like, "Ok, we'll find any random job and do it." She found a random film shoot. I found the lowest - paying internship ever. And we were just like, "Let's do it, Let's go."
Proma Khosla: I came here with, like, I think a 10-day shoot. That was it. I came with a big suitcase and one job lined up ....
CR: How do you even find a film set job? I don't even know how you go about doing that.
PK: I had had three film jobs when I came here. And honestly, it was just contacts. The first one came from a friend of a friend through Michigan and it was an Indian movie. And then that person asked me and got me in there. But I was completely green, I had never done anything before.
CR: And was it the same for you, Radhika?
RM: No, I was just looking up stuff that was filming in Michigan and I just Google searched and cold e-mailed a lot of people and then somebody got back to me.
CR: And then with HIM, was this the first time that you guys have done something like this? Like, controlling the whole thing?
CR: What was that process like? How did you get started on that?
PK: The writing was super easy.
RM: Writing was the easiest thing ever.
PK: We've dipped in and out of screenwriting classes and sampled just to see what it's like, but we've never taken a long course just because they're very expensive. But given that and given that we never went to film school, it came very easily.
RM: I remember in college we had started meeting up and we were like, "We should try to write something." And we kept meeting up and we kept trying to do something, but for some reason we never really came away with anything.
And then we started writing for ourselves and it was so much easier and when we thought about the topic or the story line ... it was actually kind of something that happened to us. We kind of saw a beautiful man and Proma was kind of like, "Oh my god," dreaming about him, and then the whole thing at the end: him being a FOB, that has happened to me. So just putting all that together it was like, "This is us. This is our life. Let's just put it all together and make a linear story out of it.
PK: And just amping up the absurdity of it. In writing since, we've been like, "Ok, this kind of happened but let's increase this and make this crazy." And just typing it out and putting it on paper was so easy because it was stuff that had happened to the two of us.
RM: It sounds like the way that we talk. All of our lines are the way we naturally speak.
CR: And you guys watch Broad City?
PK: We live Broad City.
CR: How would you compare, if at all, your dynamic to their dynamic?
PK: I think we feel very tied to them because that show premiered right after we moved here. And we saw them live a little after the premiere. And we were like, this seems like it's really spooky on point.
RM: But we go back and forth about who's who because there are certain elements of each of them that we both embody. There are some times where I'm like, "Oh my god, I'm so Ilana..."
PK: And then she does weird, outlandish things and then that's me. And then we watch Abbi fall about in social settings and are like, "That's me!"
CR: One thing I wanted to talk to you about. The locations where you chose to film it: How did you decide, "Ok, this is going to be set here, this here?"
PK: Bryant Park is actually where I saw the beautiful Indian man, so I was like, "This has to be here. I feel his energy here." But part of it, we've watched a lot of New York movies and we were like, "There's so much token landmark stuff." And we thought it would be funny to do the same thing: throw in token landmarks and have us jump around in what would never be a logical path.
RM: And in every part of our conversation, we were in a different part of the city. It was very much on purpose. Like, we are in Bryant Park and then we are randomly in Flatiron the next shot.
PK: And then we get on Union Square subway, and you actually can't tell, but...
RM: We get out on the Upper West Side. It was totally on purpose.
CR: And what role does that location play in film and in your writing? Are you thinking about it at all?
PK: I think so.
RM: New York is its own character and everybody says that but it is.
PK: Everybody says that, but it's so true. A lot of people who I know who watch Broad City who don't live here, look at it like, "Oh, they do all these absurdist things," and I'm like, "no, that's very real.
RM: That is exactly what could happen.
PK: Yeah, that's what it's like to live in New York. Like, yeah, of course you pick up an air conditioner off the street. What else are you going to do? Lug one from Bed, Bath & Beyond?
Since we moved to New York, what has driven me crazy is watching stuff that's supposed to be one city and is filmed in another. Specifically New York. I can't watch stuff like How I Met Your Mother and Friends now --- which are supposed to be New York and aren't. Because there are whole episodes where they don't talk about the daily interactions that you do have the city. No one ever walks into the scene and is like, "Yeah, today someone on the subway asked if they could touch my eyebrow." Like, you don't go a day where that doesn't happen.
CR: I think that speaks to how a city is more that just what it looks like. I was just talking to someone else for the site and he was saying just how the city is just kind of, like fucked up people who are just weirdos
RM: It totally is. You can't find that in other cities.
PK: Well, not this level of it.
PK: Should we talk about the FOB thing?
RM: Oh yeah, we could. The whole reveal is that this man is just straight from India and it's a turn-off for these two characters. Which is, totally something we have lived and felt. When that does happen -- and it has happened -- it's such a turn-off.
Our friend who directed it kept asking us, "I just wanted to know: Why do you think that is? I just want to know."
PK: We did research. I somewhere have a Word document. I asked my friends and was like, "OK, say you saw this beautiful person and then you went out and it turned out that he was a FOB, how would you react?" And a lot of them were, like, "Ehh, I wouldn't be into it." And we actually struggled collectively to parse exactly what it was, which was interesting.
RM: Yeah and I still don't know what to say about it. It's something about the accent and what that brings to the table, what kind of experiences they have versus what I have. Something like that.
PK: We're two groups that should have very similar experiences and think we understand each other's experiences, but when you get down to it, we actually completely don't.
RM: We're completely separate.
PK: I've met a lot of people straight from India and, like, I have friends and family from there too. But especially my family, when I go visit, they have certain expectations of me. They're like, "Oh, you grew up in America. You must think like this, look like this, walk like this, act like this." And I'm like, "No, actually, I'm actually a whole, complex person and I assume you are, too."
So that's kind of what I came up with in the end for me. I associate it with these, like, pre-formed expectations that aren't true. They so clearly expect one thing and I'm not that.
RM: For me, it's much simpler. I'm just not attracted to that accent. And it sucks and it's not like, "Oh, these people are inferior" or anything.
PK: There must be something in there, like, "It's our parents' accent."
CR: I think it's also interesting how you guys did that but used Bollywood themes in it, too. Like when you're running through the park, I was dying.
PK: That was honestly the easiest part to write. We sat down and I was like "This is the music we're going to use, we're going to use this clip of it, this is how it's going to look."
That legitimately happens to me fairly often, where I have that, what did we call it? Bollywood Fever Dream. Where I'll just be like, "What would we look like singing about our feelings?"
CR: And I like the way you guys mixed it all together. It felt equal parts Bollywood and Broad City.
RM: Those are two things that really informed, I don't want to say identity...
PK: Our sensibilities. Because we've also talked about other shows where they use Indian characters and how they integrate it and it felt like sometimes something that people need to switch on and of for narrative purposes. Because there was no pressure, we were just like "let's do it our way" and it felt really easy.
RM: And that was the funniest part, like we have all this Bollywood stuff. She's literally dreaming about it being a Bollywood movie but at the end, he is that man and she doesn't want it.
And in the end...I don't know what we're trying to say about that ... but she is a complex character.
PK: We build it up so much as a romantic comedy. And then at the end we're like, "Oh maybe this *character* Proma, actually doesn't know what she wants and actually made a very wrong decision."
RM: She literally just saw him and she knows nothing about him. She just made a rash decision.
CR: Who doesn't?
RM: Yeah, exactly.
PK: Both of us do. All the time.
Proma Khosla and Radhika Menon's Guide to New York
Proma Khosla and Radhika Menon met at the University of Michigan where they bonded over the hotness of Josh Holloway and other, less important topics. They live in New York City, where they have shared a bed, a room, and now just an apartment. They watch too much TV and write too many stories, and hope to one day combine those pursuits.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.