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How long does it take to fall in love? New movie claims its 'Seven Days' in isolation

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Rita and Ravi are spending a lot of time with each other. They don't really have a choice. See, Ravi is in town for business when his mother sets him up on a date with Rita. Then the COVID lockdown hits. Flights are canceled, and Ravi is stuck.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "7 DAYS")

KARAN SONI: (As Ravi) I think I can just look up a hotel or something really quick. I think there's one in this town, right?

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) Yes - the Sunset on Bellamonte.

SONI: (As Ravi) Got it. Oh. It's saying it's closed.

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) What?

SONI: (As Ravi) Yeah.

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) I guess you could use my couch.

ELLIOTT: In the film "7 Days," we watch Rita and Ravi learn about each other and love as they're forced to shelter in place together. And actor Karan Soni, who plays Ravi and who co-wrote the movie, joins us now. Welcome to the program.

SONI: Thank you. Wow, your voice is very soothing.

(LAUGHTER)

ELLIOTT: Your character, Ravi, is adorably awkward. His mother has been setting him up on dates to meet the perfect wife in the traditional Indian way. But tell us, what is Ravi looking for in love?

SONI: I think he's honestly looking at love like he looks at many other things in life, which is just to check it off a list. And I think that is his primary problem. It's this thing where you turn 30, and suddenly you're like, I'm going to look for a husband or a wife. And then you're just checking a lot of these superficial boxes. And it's so sort of what he's doing.

ELLIOTT: He's pretty rigid about this woman that's going to be his wife, right?

SONI: Yes, he is. Which is actually - this movie was inspired very loosely by my partner's experience, where - Roshan Sethi, who is my partner in life and creatively - and he grew up in Canada, and his mother really wanted him to have potentially an arranged or introduced marriage. And there was a lot of these rules that were in there, which was, you know, to have a wife who's vegetarian and doesn't drink. And then my partner came out. So (laughter) all those rules really went out the window.

ELLIOTT: There's this hilarious moment in the movie where you really realize that Rita is not who she's portraying herself to you. And you catch her, and she's in the refrigerator eating fried chicken and...

(LAUGHTER)

ELLIOTT: ...Drinking a beer. And you kind of freak out.

SONI: Yeah. No. It's his worst nightmare coming to life. That fried chicken was days old. That scene was (laughter) meant to be shot at a different time.

ELLIOTT: (Laughter).

SONI: We shot this in the end of August, early September of 2020, if you can imagine it. We were not really going into restaurants or anything. We had a PA go through a drive-thru and get us some KFC. And then we just didn't end up shooting the scene the day we were meant to. And then there was soggy fried chicken just hanging out...

ELLIOTT: (Laughter).

SONI: ...In this fridge for days. And then Geraldine was a real sport eating that chicken.

ELLIOTT: That's Geraldine Viswanathan, who plays Rita. And she really, really rattles Ravi time and time again.

SONI: Yeah. She really does. She just knows how to get in his space by basically just being a human woman. He can't handle it.

(LAUGHTER)

ELLIOTT: There's this scene where Ravi is getting ready to clank some pots out the window in support of the health care workers. And Rita is, like, falling apart at this point and can't take it anymore. Let's listen to a little bit of that scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "7 DAYS")

SONI: (As Ravi) You're the real Avengers.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLANGING RHYTHMICALLY)

SONI: (As Ravi) Rita?

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) I'll be back.

SONI: (As Ravi) You're not even wearing a mask.

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) I don't care.

SONI: (As Ravi) People are dying.

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) I don't care. I don't care. I don't care.

SONI: (As Ravi) It's our last day together.

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) You can't control me.

SONI: (As Ravi) I'm not trying to control.

VISWANATHAN: (As Rita) You think you can make everything happen exactly the way you want it to at exactly the time you want. Guess what? You're not going to meet someone seven days before your wedding, hear a bunch of clanging bells in your heart and fall in love. Sometimes there are no bells, Ravi. Sometimes it's just deafening silence.

ELLIOTT: You know, this sort of speaks to some of the universal fears we have about being lonely and finding love. But it also talks about how a lot of that really came to the surface during the pandemic, right?

SONI: Absolutely, yeah. To us - like, people come up to us, and they say that they feel a catharsis having watched it a little bit because it sort of is about the pandemic but also not because it's really about what the pandemic caused for a lot of us, which was to reexamine our lives and see these rigid rules, like Ravi had of what he wanted. It really gave him that pause, like a lot of us, to stop and be like, is this the life I really want, and what changes do I want to make? COVID sort of is the reason why this movie even exists 'cause we were doing nothing, and then suddenly we were feeling so creatively starved.

ELLIOTT: Now, I also read that Roshan Sethi, your partner and the co-writer here, who was also the director of the film - he's also a doctor.

SONI: He is, yes. He's (laughter) a palliative oncologist. He has always sort of juggled both, which is writing and medicine. And he comes from a little bit more of a traditional Indian background. And so being a doctor is a little bit more important. He does love it. But it was sort of a nonnegotiable (laughter) that he had to do medicine on top of any other interest he had. But he had this whole break. And we began writing during that break and then made the movie very quickly after we finished the script.

ELLIOTT: The movie begins and ends with a montage of real-life couples, or at least it looks like they're real-life couples, talking about how they met and how they've stayed in love. What inspired that?

SONI: Yeah. Well, they are real-life couples, including my parents who are...

ELLIOTT: Oh, wow.

SONI: ...In the interviews. And my mother is really enjoying her five seconds of fame. But yeah, that was an interesting thing how that came about. We were watching a lot of rom-coms as we were thinking of the idea for this. And "Harry Met Sally" was a big one. And we loved the way that movie did sort of those interviews. But I believe those were scripted. And then we started writing them, and we were like, well, we know so many people who've had arranged marriages, from family members and family friends. And we were like, maybe we'll just interview them on Zoom because it feels appropriate 'cause now we're all on Zoom during this time.

And what came out of it was we were laughing and crying and hearing these wild stories of how these people that we've known how they met - they were also very funny and bizarre, but also very emotional because all these couples have stayed together, and some for decades. And we really with the movie are not trying to make an argument for whether arranged marriage is good or bad than, like, a "love marriage," quote-unquote. But we really want it to feel like - we haven't heard the perspective of people who've had successful arranged marriages in Hollywood movies as much as we've seen the other side of it, which makes it look maybe barbaric and, like, completely nonromantic in every way. So...

ELLIOTT: Yeah. They told tales of how their love developed over years - right? - how it took a little work.

SONI: Yeah - which I think is true for every relationship. There's so much work that it takes once you've figured out that you want to be someone's partner. It's really funny. Like, a lot of my single friends that watch this movie who live in America - and they just go, you know what? This doesn't look so bad to me. Like, I want to be off the apps.

(LAUGHTER)

SONI: And I'd much rather have, like, someone just be like, what about this person? - and, like, take it from there.

ELLIOTT: No more swiping.

SONI: No more swiping. Yes. No more dating apps. Yeah.

ELLIOTT: Karan Soni, who plays Ravi in the new film "7 Days" - thanks so much.

SONI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.