By Anil Merani
There was a time when the television industry was enriched by the serials of well-known and talented film directors like Shyam Benegal (Tamas) and Ramesh Sippy (Buniyaad). With the advent of the daily saas bahu soaps, however, content rich serials were replaced by mundane kitchen politics and the synthesis between the two main forms of entertainment industries come to a standstill.
But thankfully with limited series shows like 24, Ishq Kills and Savdhaan India, not to mention that Anurag Kashyap will be helming the television serial being produced by Amitabh Bachchan, the trend of Bollywood talent coming helming television programmes is slowly making a comeback.
Director of 24, Abhinay Deo, who made the hit film Delhi Belly says, “The only reason good film-makers were keeping their distance from TV was that they had no creative inputs. The story flow of soaps changes every week, depending on the TRPs. On the other hand, 24 had a start-to- finish bound script. We also shot every episode like a movie. 24 is coming back with season 2 as well,” he informs.”
Another reason for talented directors staying away from television was that directing 20 minutes of content every day gets strenuous, hence they just launch shows and move out. Well-known TV director Imtiaz Punjabi, who has launched several hits shows including Maryada, Parvarrish, says, “At least in the initial phase (pre-telecast bank), you are given the liberty to do your own thing, but once on air, the pressure starts.”
Director Shashant Shah, who had made films like Chalo Dilli and Bajatey Raho and has directed four stories of Ishq Kills says, “I directed The Great Indian Comedy Show (Star One) for two years, but there is a point of saturation creativity wise, and once that happens you should move out. But yes, you need to hand over the assignment to a person who is also in love with the concept. There are many talented youngsters who are just waiting for an opportunity.”
Limited edition series, however, don’t have these limitations. In Ishq Kill and Savdhaan India, directors are hired for single episodes. Says Shashant, “The best part here is that my team was involved with the writer who is the main brain behind the story. The channel and production house took us into confidence on every creative call. Another major plus point is that as we don’t work under the pressure of canning a certain number of scenes per day, hence deliver higher cinematic quality.” Abhinay also feels that in limited edition shows, the story does not stretch beyond a point and one doesn’t need to resort to gimmicks to retain audience attention.
TV director Siddharth Anand (Rajdhani, Seven) says, “If a director for the limited edition shows is well known, the channel EP (executive producer) or the creative director will not interfere.” Another director who did not want to be named seconded Siddharth saying, “It is sad when youngsters who hardly have any experience start telling old industry hands about what is right and what’s not.”
Well-known director and producer Vikram Bhatt, who anchors Ishq Kills, however, says, “We need to wait and watch if such limited edition shows work, before we can say directors have it better now.”
However, Sachin Khote, director of film Ugly Aur Pagli, who makes episodes for Savdhaan India says, “Today more talented directors are confident to pitch stories as channels are now receptive to different and interesting concepts. Gone are the days when only kitchen politics rocked the small screen.”
Punjabi, who has also turned producer for a Life Ok show Nadaan Parinde, is also not too optimistic about one-offs changing the ball game, “Even here you are handed the scripts late. We lack in planning.” Tell him that some big directors feel that such short stories can herald a revolution on the small screen, and he quips, “Some people are scared to tell the truth, unlike me who is honest .” Shashant, however, adds “ At least in my case, the channel gave me the option to change the lead actor, who I felt, did not fit the bill.”
Normally the director is the captain of the ship when it comes to films, but in TV, it is the producers who call the shots. Yash Patnaik, producer of Veera and Main Na Bhoolungi says that in television, the scenario is very different from films. “A producer conceives an idea, pitches it to various broadcasters, develops it into scripts, does the casting, builds the sets, hires the entire cast and crew and then hires a director to shoot. Directors rarely sit for the scripting, post production, music. Having said that, I must say there are still some directors who like to be involved with most of the processes. But the numbers are few.”
Although TV directors don’t have much scope creatively, they are paid well according to Bhatt. Veteran producer Manish Goswami, who has produced shows like Sarkaar and Kaisa Yeh Ishq Hai for Life OK informs, “ If a TV director has been there for more then four to five years and if he is good at his work then he is paid anywhere from Rs.20,000 to 35,000 per day.”
Daily soap directors earn more moolah as opposed to limited series makers Siddharth says adding, “A daily soap director earns much more as he works on a daily basis, while a limited edition series director’s work is limited. But if a big film director demands, he can get a bomb from the channel even for a limited series. ”
So the message is clear, while television producers still call the shots on the tube, film directors are slowly gaining as well.