By Priyanka Bhadani
Why did you choose television so late considering it is the most popular medium to reach the masses?
I kept away from TV for the longest time as I had not heard anything great about working on TV in India. But almost a year-and-a-half ago, I got to meet Uday Shankar (CEO, Star India) during which I got the opportunity to discuss about my content company, Content Project, which is India’s only company of writers. “The Mandali” of writers that is mentored by me, develops content for various mediums. The meeting led to a series of events which led to Baawre. We also got creative independence and did what we wanted.
How is your show different from what is seen on television these days?
I am trying to pull off something different in content while being within the grammar of television. The show brings the sense of poise and grace of narrative radio.
When a person from a different zone enters television, a change is expected. What change have you brought?
Well, since we have never done TV, it is our biggest strength. We are doing things our way instead of following the conventions.
But you are doing the show along with a company (Sunshine Productions) that has been into TV production for quite sometime now. Isn’t it influencing the content?
Both the channel and Sunshine Productions have been really cooperative in letting us follow our story. They have been guiding us in the best possible way. They are executing our writing as we are trying to innovate. One of the interesting experiments has been the introduction of a narrator, that is me. Since I am appearing on the show, my personal experiences whether in my journalism days or otherwise feature in the show, giving it an interesting twist. For example, my experiences during the coverage of the Kargil war.
When Sanjay Leela Bhansali entered the television space with a fiction show in 2013, it was much talked about. But his efforts to bring about a change soon fizzled out. What makes you confident?
In anything that I have done so far, whether it is setting up of India’s first content team, or starting a radio narrative show or Gaon Connection, the reaction that I often get is, “This is a brilliant idea, but it will never work.” I’ve heard that repeatedly but my confidence comes from my past success. Even in radio, people wondered why I told relationship stories at the prime time when other “interesting” programmes were on air. We tend to diminish our audiences thinking they want only a certain type of content while the fact is that there’s not enough given to them. Even within the confines of the fiction format of TV, there’s a lot that can be done to break the stereotypes.
Have you taken any steps to ensure you don’t lose track of the plot?
While the number of episodes haven’t been decided, we know how the story will progress and where it will end. We are not going to add plots and sub-plots unnecessarily.
How did the magazine show Humara Gaon Connection happen on Doordarshan?
At one of my talks at the Patna Literature Festival after the launch of my rural newspaper Gaon Connection in December 2012, Mr Tripurai Sharan, director general of Doordarshan, heard me talking about the paper and proposed the idea of doing something along the lines. One thing led to another and the magazine show happened. We have a 52-episode contract after which it will be extended depending upon the response.
What’s the purpose of the show?
When you talk about a rural show, people usually perceive it to be based on agriculture. However, a lot more is happening in the rural areas of our country. The youngsters have become brand conscious and are more ambitious. The show on Monday-Tuesday anchored by me captures the innovations, the role models, the stories of women. It is an effort to bridge the rural-urban divide.
The show features rural areas from across India, how are you managing to capture that?
We have reporters in various parts of the country to bring the geographical and visual diversity to add to our content. We are also capturing stories that never reaches mainstream media.