What was the thought-clincher that made you decide to do a fiction show on television?
I had always nurtured the idea of doing a television serial at some point in my career. So when the opportunity came, I readily agreed. Actually agreed would be wrong because it was something that was initiated by me. I sought to do a TV serial, shared the thought with a few like-minded people and fructified it. Yudh is the end result of that exercise.
TV is another beast. I am well-aware of your association with Kaun Banega Crorepati, but shooting episodes on TV with the pace that it requires and the sheer amount of content to be shot — did you enjoy that?
TV is no beast. It’s a fascinating medium and one that has been most welcoming as far as I am concerned. Any creative work needs dedication, time and concentrated association. As far as pace and content are concerned, we had already taken care of it by mutually deciding that Yudh will be a finite series — it will have a beginning, a middle and an end. And the process in doing so was planned out in advance. We decided to shoot the required episodes even before its first broadcast, in order that the pressures of time do not weigh upon us. I am unaware of how others work but this has been our method. I have found it to be most convenient, challenging and enjoyable.
The team of Yudh makes it a clutter-breaker already. Could you describe the synergy between Anurag Kashyap and you?
I am gratified to hear that the media has already nominated Yudh as a ‘clutter-breaker’. I do not understand the meaning of such expressions. I presume they are saying that our TV serial seems to be doing something different from an existent and tested norm. Yes, it is an attempt to make a serial the way we felt it to be made, and hope that it shall garner appreciation. Anurag Kashyap is a celebrated director and producer, and when the creative ideas were being discussed between us, I decided that he would be the right person to be on board. When approached, he readily agreed.
He came on as the creative director, put up an efficient team with Ribhu Dasgupta as director, and we started work. I have enjoyed working with him. He does not necessarily conform to the tried-and-tested, and his penchant for innovation is admirable.
His first brief to me was not to confine myself to the exact written word, to know the context and then feel what needed to be said , and not to be conscious or aware of where the camera was or was being placed. He has put together a very select and talented cast and the experience of working with them has been a learning and a joy for me.
Because of his other commitments he was unable to be on set all along, but has been kept informed of all that we work on and he keeps making suggestions. He edits finally. In his absence I requested Shoojit Sircar to come on as a consultant and I am grateful to him for that. It is most heartening to see stalwarts from the industry come together for a common creative cause.
Between Anurag and Shoojit who had the ‘veto power’?
Shoojit, as I said, was asked by me to come on as creative consultant to the project. I shall be eternally grateful to him for having done this for me. The ‘veto power’ lies with every member of the team and cast. For the betterment of the project each and every member has respectful admissibility.
I’m curious to know if you watch TV? Do you have any favourite shows?
Whenever I get the time I do watch television, and yes, serials and sports and other informative material is what I contribute my spare hours to.
What are your favourite American series?
Yes, I do watch TV serials from overseas too — Game of Thrones, The Killing, True Detective, and several others.
Indian television for all its mammoth reach does not quite enjoy the respect that films do. What do you make of this?
I think it to be slightly insensitive to be asked this question. Every nature of creative work, indeed of any work, shall, in my eyes, always be respectful. To label television to be lesser in any respect, pardon the pun, is not acceptable to me, irrespective of whether I am connected with the medium or not. Creative minds, and the efforts put in by them, to both film and television, require hard, honest and arduous work, under severe extenuating circumstances.
There is as much dignity in it, as it is in your medium. But that apart, may I just inform you that the turnover of television in India at the present moment is three times that of films. Your own acceptance of its ‘mammoth reach’ not withstanding, the 100-plus channels notwithstanding, the popularity of TV shows where films go to for their promotions notwithstanding, this recent, most blossoming, geometrically growth propelled medium, is deserving of every possible respect. Kindly do not, I beg, bring in any untoward comparisons.
Saraswati Audio Visuals Pvt Ltd had produced the brilliant Dekh Bhai Dekh. Any memories of that? Were you creatively involved with it or was it totally Jaya Bachchan’s brainchild?
That was entirely Jaya’s brainchild, a pioneering successful effort.
There are so many films that inspire television shows. Do you think there are any films (especially yours) that could maybe be rejigged for TV?
Inspiration is subjective and objective both. Nothing in this universe is ever too far away from inspiration. It is the quality of the inspiration and its reflection that matters. If then, this yardstick is maintained, I do not see any issues. My only issue is that I am individually incapable of assessing whether any film could be ‘rejigged’ for television — mine or any other.
Is the pressure of TRPs as big as getting a terrific box-office opening for a film? Are the stakes higher because you’ve produced the show also?
Yes, of course. Wherever investments and commercials are involved, the returns are always looked upon with immense profitable anticipation.
As an artiste, how creatively fulfilled do you feel with Yudh?
I hope I shall never have to ‘feel fulfilled’ in my work as an artiste. That would be the death of any possible creativity that I could very modestly hope to possess. As an artiste, the challenge of a new day and a fresh horizon is what keeps us going. We hope that our work put in for Yudh is appreciated. It would make us happy. If not, we would try again.