What set up can we expect for the show's third series?
Well the truth is, Series 2 went down so well and, at that time, we didn't expect the situation we're in now with regards to still being in lockdown. So, regardless of the pandemic, we were talking about keeping elements of that second series going forward. I think the nature of being a bit more intimate changed the dynamic in the show and I think that people liked that.
Essentially, it's going to be very much like Series 2, except for that we're not relying on my internet for the show to work! It's going to be me in a studio, the Ranganation and the guests will be at home so it's the same as in my garage, except without the pressure of everything coming from my home. A BBC show relying only on my internet connection - it was so mad!
Is there anything you'll miss about filming from the garage?
Obviously the commute was amazing! During the first series I was in studio all day and very much in work mode the whole time I was doing the record. Whereas when I was doing the show at home, we would do rehearsal on the day and then I could walk inside and have a sandwich with the kids. It was such a surreal thing to take a break from work and be straight into my home setting immediately. So I will miss that a bit I think.
You can't get too nervous about the record when your family are just next door! But, at the same time, it's difficult to get into the work zone. The kids are so noisy and I found it so embarrassing. The crew would be outside and then they would see my kids sort of going crazy in the house and I thought they were definitely judging my parenting!
Series 2 seemed to bring audiences a lot of comfort during that first lockdown last year. Are you hoping to recreate that this time around?
To be honest we are kind of led by what public feeling, is which is the advantage of doing it week by week. When we did the last series, obviously people were very much adjusting to what the hell this all meant. That's how I felt, how the Ranganation felt and how production felt, so you sort of end up reacting to that and talking about what it's like to be doing shopping, homeschooling and all of that kind of stuff. But then equally when big news stuff happened we spoke about that, for example with Dominic Cummings and the Barnard Castle incident. So I think it'll be very similar in Series 2, and we will be very reactive.
Do you have any favourite memories/highlights, i.e. the most bizarre conversation you've had on the show?
There was one moment where Ex Banker, who is very much his own man - sent in a video apropos of nothing, of him on one of his walks. He saw a cuckoo and so he videoed it and submitted it into the production team as something fun to talk about. And then we put it on the show. It just was like thirty seconds of a tree where you couldn't see the cuckoo but you could hear one, somewhere. For me it's the moment that kind of summarises the Ranganation in a way. You don't know where we're going to go. It's impossible to predict how the show's going to go in many ways.
Obviously, we prepare stuff but you just don't know what they're going to come up with so it was such a mad moment. I can't believe he thought that was something we would broadcast but, in the end, we did broadcast it... so he was absolutely right!
The Ranganation brought a lot of comfort to people last May, what other shows or hobbies have brought you a bit of escapism and joy over the last year?
Because you've got so much more time, I ended up watching stuff that I was supposed to watch ages ago. For example over the last few months, my wife and I watched Game Of Thrones from start to finish. We're so late on that! I think you end up gravitating towards things that are so far removed as you want that escapism.
I also became addicted to the game Beat Saber on the Oculus [a set of VR goggles and controllers]. It's like Guitar Hero; you've got two lightsabers, and a song plays, and you have to slice these boxes to the beat. Anyway there's something completely meditative about it. I ended up having to be reminded that I've got a real life to get back to, it's so addictive!
DJing is the other thing I've been doing; I'm trying to learn how to mix. Where we filmed Ranganation last series I've got a whole mixing set up now so I'm doing that all of the time.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned you'd be Freaked Out Parent as your Ranganation character, in particular because of the challenges of homeschooling. Have you improved at all in that department, or have any new challenges come to light?
The truth is that I don't think we've improved at all really. I think the thing that we have done is accepted that there are limitations to what can be done at home. When we were homeschooling during the first lockdown, we were just sort of bricking it about getting all the work done and getting the kids into the routine. Whereas this time around it's still stressful, but my wife and I have become much more zen about going, "We're going to do what we can do."
If the kids get fed up, or it feels that we're pushing them too hard, or we're all feeling a bit over it, we will just take a break from it. The truth is we're just trying to manage and I think we've been a little bit more forgiving of ourselves this time. If we one day decide we're not going to do that much, I think we've sort of accepted that that is something that's alright to do.
Has Shanthi mastered the tech side of things now?
When the restrictions came back, my mum and I started doing this thing where we would we would call each other every day, so we started trying to put the calls on YouTube. Getting my mum to a point where she could do that was so frustrating. For example, we'd be on a Zoom and she couldn't figure out how to share the screen. And so I had to get her to video call me, and then point her phone at her screen so I could talk her through what to do, but she couldn't even get her phone pointed at the screen properly. So I'd be like "Mum, I can't advise you because your camera is pointing at the table."
I totally appreciate that she is coming from a different generation so I can't get annoyed about it, but this is, objectively speaking, incredibly annoying. It's sort of balancing being understanding and being empathetic, but at the same time going through one of the most frustrating experiences you could ever imagine.
What are your general hopes for 2021 and of course for this series of The Ranganation?
In terms of the series, I hope that we manage to do the same as we did last series in being a show that finds the light side of the horrendous situation we're all in. So I hope that the series does that and I think that we'll also be better at it, because last year it was in the garage and there are difficulties with that. In terms of the year in general, I'm just desperate to get back on stage and to get in front of audiences. Doing stand-up, I love it so much and it's impossible to do for obvious reasons. But even when you go and do The Ranganation in studio in front of an audience it's so much fun and I think people are desperate to get back out and do lots of things.
Going out and watching a comic or watching any kind of theatre or anything like that is something that I think people are desperate to get back out and do. In between lockdowns I was able to do some outdoor gigs, and people were just so appreciative and desperate to go out and have a laugh. So I'm hoping that this year we get back to that. I've got tour dates scheduled, so fingers crossed things go as we're hoping they will and we get back into it.