Two Halves of a Whole - Dheer and Dar Gai Momaya

They began by producing television commercials and low-budget music videos, and moved on to releasing major feature films like Teen Aur Aadha and Namdev Bhau. Dheer and Dar Gai Momaya have more than proved their mettle in the competitive field of media. They’ve travelled the world together, became best friends and even came to be each other’s support systems. So marriage was only a natural progression for them! The dreamy duo gives us a glimpse into their marriage and shares some interesting anecdotes of their work and love life, sharing their personality, career, and couple goals.

Dheer Momaya

Tell us about when and how you first met?
Dar had already been living in India for three years when I first met her. She was teaching creative writing and appreciation of cinema at Whistling Woods while also teaching Argentinian tango for fun. That’s where my uncle met her. He quickly realised her intellectual depth and uncanny ability to execute great ideas, and became really close friends with her. I had just then decided to spend more time  enhancing my skill as a filmmaker and jumped into it full-time. He phoned me on a late August afternoon – I remember that call vividly even today – and said there’s someone I may be interested in meeting, and that I’ll be completely blown away by her ideas. So we set up a professional meeting, for which I was prepared to speak a whole lot about my ideas and philosophy for the cinematic artform. But she came in like a whirlwind and almost threw me off the chair with her energy! Soon after that, I remember telling a friend, “I need to marry this girl!”

But when did you really decide, ‘she’s the one I want to spend my life with’?
Dar and I often get into socio-political debates, and we vehemently argue about a lot of other things, too. However, the one thing that we always used to agree upon was that marriage is a social construct, and we may not be able to adhere to something so rigid and archaic. Somehow, over our five years of dating and living together, we focused on building our work, our individuality and, of course, a deep emotional bond exempt of societal labelling. And we did so quite consciously.

I did say that I was going to marry her as soon as I met her, but we were a long way from that back then. Over the years, we adapted to each other’s personalities and felt like we were becoming one entity, while maintaining a deep sense of an individual character. Simultaneously, we read a lot of literature and prose written by master craftsmen like Eric Fromm, Milan Kundera, Haruki Murakami and so on, which slowly made us romanticise the forever-together idea. But still, there was always that nagging question as to why? Why let the legal and social structure define our relationship? Why adhere to historic human behaviour? But then a stronger question arose. Why not? And we really couldn’t find an answer to that!    

One thing you’ve always loved most about Dar?
I guess it’s her abundance of empathy, her supernatural ability to crawl into the hearts and minds of people and feel what they must feel in any given scenario. This has also given her a great ability to flesh out meaty characters that don’t exist in black-and-white, but in grey, like most of us.

She’s also the most whimsical, loving, self-aware person with a ridiculous sense of sarcasm and wit. There’s never a dull moment with her. Her mind is like Mohammed Ali in the ring, floating like a butterfly but stinging like a bee.

The decor at your wedding was breathtaking. How did you conceptualise it?
It was all my mom, Chhaya. She has a very specific design aesthetic that she adheres to, and tonality-wise, it’s grandiose and elegant. So all the credit goes to her for this.

How do you balance your work and personal lives?
It’s quite challenging, to say the least. We just do not stop working. Even after coming home from work, we tend to discuss characters, plot lines, logistical hurdles, and so on. Often, our personal relationship can be strained by creative disagreements at work and vice versa. The greatest thing is that we have built our foundations on each other; she’s literally my widest support system, and no matter what, she’s always with me through thick and thin.

Who’s your inspiration?
Dar is my biggest inspiration. Her work ethic is unparalleled. She’s spontaneous yet calculative with every decision she makes. She’s a shark at making deals and doesn’t let a single logistical error fly from under her nose. She’s tender, wise, and persistent. She has shaped the culture in our production company into something that’s dynamic, yet sustainable. She’s got the right balance of yin and yang. Most importantly, she made me believe in magic.

When can we expect your next production?
We’re currently in production for a film titled Last Film Show, which is written and being directed by Pan Nalin (Samsara, Valley of Flowers). It’s a hyperlocal story set in Gujarat, but with a global reach. It’s an Indian-French-Hungarian co-production with an idea of releasing internationally. We’ve also just closed the financing for Dar’s next project, which we’ll hopefully begin shooting in the Andamans early next year, depending on the availability of dates for talent.

What’s the one work ethic all budding filmmakers and producers should adapt?
Well, I’m looking for some good advice myself! But attention to detail is the most important thing, especially in India, where the industry is so used to putting out half-baked stories. The script itself is probably far from the finished product, and the rushed post-production schedules leave no time for artistic and technical rigour. Just because audiences are used to consuming a low-quality entertainment product, it doesn’t mean that’s all they’ll like. We really underestimate the intellect and sensitivity of people outside.

Dar Gai Momaya

What were your first impressions of Dheer when you met him?
I think it was a very interesting meeting. He was with two other friends when we met on work, as suggested by his uncle. We were both into filmmaking then. I found him very good looking! My first thought was, “He could make the ideal boyfriend like they do in movies!”

Do you believe in love at first sight?
It’s a difficult question for me. On one hand, it’s a beautiful concept. I personally think love is a very complicated subject, rather than just falling in love by the looks. For me, it comes down to the experience with the person, how we’ve changed and influenced each other, whether we were able to grow together, and evolve into better and interesting people.

Does it get difficult sometimes to keep your professional and personal lives equally prioritised?
I think we’re lucky to be working together, as our work consumes a lot of time. We worked together for a good two years, where we saw each other for almost the whole day. We vacation together, discuss ideas, thoughts, and feelings at work and travel for shoots together. It has worked really well for us. This experience has made us much closer than we already were; it has taught us to accept and support each other.

Coming from a different background, what was your reaction to the Indian style of wedding?
I was quite comfortable with it, as I’ve been living in India for the past nine years. I feel that I’ve become a part of the country and its culture. My mother-in-law and Nirmal helped me decide my outfits, and decorations too. My parents, on the other hand, were intrigued by the Indian way of the wedding. They fell in love with the various types of celebrations here. My mum invited a few Ukrainian musicians to perform after the pheras, as our idea was to combine the two cultures, which made the wedding all the more special.

When did you feel that Dheer was ‘the one’?
I met Dheer regularly after the first meeting. I narrated a script to him for almost two and a half hours, and not once did he get bored or fall asleep. He listened to me with utmost patience and also gave his feedback. I thought, that’s a great partner to have. While working with him, I noticed how patient and empathetic he was towards people; how attentive he was to all my ideas. And his everlasting support for me stole my heart.

What are your most and least favourite things about Dheer?
I think my favourite quality about Dheer is how he’s ready for new adventures and how he comes up with new stories to execute all the time. He is very sensitive and knows what he wants. He’s a combination of a soft nature and a great, confident leader. He’s someone who can inspire you, support you and, at the same time, he doesn’t let you feel unconfident around him. I can always discuss any ideas with him. We’re as comfortable with our silences as we are with talking continuously.  

My least favourite part about him would be his habit of breaking his nails. I’m trying to teach him how to use a nail trimmer… so all the best to me!

What makes you connect with each other?
I feel that our natures are very similar. And of course, our work, interests, the way of looking at other people, the idea of evolving and travelling the world together, and our empathetic nature. But the most important thing is that we’re like the same person but also very different. It’s not like two halves have met; we’re two individuals who become one weird creature when together.

What do you do in your free time?
We watch movies, read books, discuss books, but mostly, keep discussing ideas and shoots. Our work is not work-work; it’s a lifestyle, something which helps us grow and evolve each day. We’re lucky to find each other in this field. What makes us so good for each other is that we create. It’s the most important thing for us. This creation, I feel, is the fundamental basis of our relationship. So our free time is always about creation and recreation.      – as told to Ishika