Director Raj Nidimoru Interview© HelloIndia

Raj Nidimoru, Of Raj & DK, On Succeeding In The Indian OTT-Scape

HELLO India Logo
Nayare Ali

One half of the popular director duo, Raj & DK, this filmmaker has been instrumental in creating some of the finest series on OTT like The Family Man and Farzi. We catch him from Serbia for a quick tête-à-tête.

OTT’s most popular director duo at the moment, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK — who go by Raj & DK — have created ripples in the online entertainment space by churning out hits, one after the other. Be it the gripping thriller series, The Family Man, headlined by Manoj Bajpayee, or Farzi, the black comedy led by Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi, the two certainly know the formula for success. Yet, the directors don’t take their fame lightly, the pressure of expectations hanging over their heads on account of their upcoming show, Guns & Gulaabs

Entertainment India - January 2023©GettyImages

With no time to rest, Raj Nidimoru is in a pensive state of mind as he looks out the window of his hotel in Belgrade as we speak. Currently shooting the Indian instalment of Prime Video’s spy series, Citadel, the versatile director chats with us, soon after waking up. While the Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden-starrer has already been released worldwide, we’re curious to decipher what would make the Indian account stand apart.

“Every series made under this umbrella has its own identity and story arc,” he explains. “It can be watched independently, and yet is a part of the Citadel universe. It’s a unique idea.”

Without revealing much about the plot, Raj also concedes, “Shooting in Serbia has always been a part of the script as we had a schedule planned for Eastern Europe. It’s working out well in Belgrade.”

Navigating Expectations

Notwithstanding their humble beginnings, the dynamic directors established themselves as filmmakers of repute through hard work and sheer determination. Having churned out back-to-back hits in the OTT-scape, we wonder whether the pressure to live up to expectations with Guns & Gulaabs and their other projects in the pipeline hit harder now…

“Earlier, there wasn’t much expectation. The challenge arose when we were making Season 2 of The Family Man. It was already popular, and everyone loved it. We had to ensure that we made Season 2 even better. We decided to shoot it as a brand-new series, with no set parameters to follow. This was the best learning: to clean the past slate by writing a new story and staying true to it.”

Entertainment India - January 2023©GettyImages

However, Raj recalls how that wasn’t the case with Farzi as comparisons are part and parcel of the game in this industry.

“It was tougher because everyone expected it to be as good as The Family Man, even though Farzi was an entirely different concept.” And while the expectations remain, he’s learned to conquer it over time.

“We faced the same challenge with Guns & Gulaabs, which is a completely different world and has no connection whatsoever to the other two series,” Raj shares. “The trick is to get as far away as possible from what we’ve created in the past and offer something new.”

From Humble Beginnings To Exceptional Success

Interestingly, Raj and DK both hail from Andhra Pradesh. They studied engineering in Tirupati, which was merely a temple and university town back in the day. It’s the experience of having grown up in a mofussil district and innately understanding that milieu that allow the directors to be able to etch out authentic characters.

“Our roots are Indian, small town and middle class. There’s a deep understanding of it from growing up in that environment. My life’s journey started in Tirupati, after which I moved to Tennessee in the US to pursue my master’s in engineering,” Raj remarks, adding, “I’ve always been quietly observant of things and people, in preparation to be a filmmaker.”

raj nidimoru interview©HelloIndia

Raj cites the example of the 2018 supernatural thriller, Stree, which he produced along with DK: “With how Stree was able to capture the audience’s attention, it was interesting to note that a Telugu small-town story could be based in Madhya Pradesh and still manage to look authentic.”

It’s this out-of-the-box thinking that significantly contributed to Raj & DK’s success saga. Going back a few years, he shares how they met during their engineering days.

“We were both academically inclined. We were also quiz mates and would participate in competitions as a team. I was obsessed with watching films and would often take three people along with me…”

“I’ve always believed that every Indian is a filmmaker at heart. In fact, I used that tagline for our short Telugu film, Cinema Bandi.”

The Making of Raj & DK

Raj perhaps embodied the tagline he created while pursuing his master’s. As a software engineer, he spent most of his time travelling through the country. And when he found himself stuck in a rut, he would turn to watching cinema with a vengeance and sharing this passion with his friend, DK.

“We were in different cities but used to call each other and say, ‘Let’s make a movie.’ But we didn’t know how to make one, or even write a story for that matter, back then. We taught ourselves everything.”

Soon, the two made a pact: they would earn enough money to return to India and turn filmmakers. “While preparing for this process, we made a short film called Flavours, for which we did everything on our own. The movie was appreciated at a local film festival… When we decided to move back to India, we each packed two reels of Flavours in our carry-ons to showcase it in India.”

Amazon Prime 'The Family Man' TV show panel, TCA Summer Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Jul 2019©GettyImages

Bollywood Bound

With no access to Bollywood, Mumbai was daunting for the two directors. However, they did have a friend there — their third partner, Sita Menon.

“We stayed in her living room and slept on her couch. During the day, we’d go around in her car. When we approached people with our scripts, nobody was willing to work with us despite being appreciative,” he recollects.

“That’s when we got into the habit of writing multiple stories, believing that at least one of them would work.”

“Initially, when we found no takers for the script of Shor in the City, we decided to make a short version of the film to make people understand what we had in mind. That was the turning point.”

For those looking to get a footing in this competitive industry, the wait is often the most challenging. But for the wise ones, there are always lessons to learn.

“It taught us the values of patience, perseverance and practicality.”

The Ideal Work Buddies

Their organic working relationship ensures that there’s no hard-and-fast rule between the two friends on who calls the shots. For instance, while Raj is currently shooting with one unit in Belgrade, DK is in another location, shooting with a different team.

“When we’re together on the sets, I tend to spend time with the actors, while DK hangs out with the technicians,” he explains, adding that the only downside to this association would be their occasional annoyance with each other.

Raj & DK have achieved the kind of success few can dream of, but unlike many, they remain grounded.

“All our close friends are industry outsiders. They keep us balanced. Our biggest fear is complacency. We’re still our best critics and sometimes make fun of our own work and discuss how we could have done it better.”

And therein lies their USP — in keeping it real, just like their shows!

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!