Acclaimed writer Zama Habib, who has penned multiple episodes of Sasural Genda Phool, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Saas Bina Sasural, Pyaar Ka Dard and Gangaa among more, decided to don the hat of a producer for Star Bharat show Nimki Mukhiya in 2017.
In our new series ‘Meet the showrunners’, writer-producer Habib talks about his brainchild Nimki Mukhiya, projecting socio-political issues in shows and its new season Nimki Vidhayak.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
How did you develop the idea of Nimki Mukhiya?
Once, when I was travelling in Bihar, I saw a board that said ‘Mukhiya pati’ and below in small fonts was the name of his wife. When I tried to find out more, I realised the woman had become the mukhiya (village chief) thanks to the reservation but she still carried on with her household chores, while her husband managed her official work. That for me was a criminal act as they were misusing the power given to them. That intrigued me to write a story on how we as humans are sometimes not ready to embrace power or responsibilities. To be able to help others or use the power, the force has to come from within.
In the time of kitchen politics and supernatural stories, what made you choose politics as the backdrop of the show?
I have a very keen interest in politics. The flavour was new and I wanted to portray some important socio-political issues in our country. We wanted to address the problems but in an entertaining and engaging way. Maybe sub-consciously but films like Munnabhia MBBS or 3 Idiots have stayed with me. They talk about some very serious subjects but have a very light take to it. I wanted this show to be rooted similarly with characters having a comedy flair.
The show was a sleeper hit and even found a place for itself in the rating chart. When you started working on it, did you expect it to do so well?
Now when I look back, I did not think about it. For me, work is all about enjoying. Yes, when you helm a show, you want it to do well. Somewhere, I had the confidence that the characters, which are layered and multidimensional, would definitely strike a chord with all. Either they would be accepted or outright rejected, but they would get noticed.
Big stars help TV shows and you had a relatively fresh star cast. Were you apprehensive that it could go absolutely wrong?
I was very sure I wanted these faces for the show. Before going on floors, we cast Bhumika Gurung as Nimki and then trained her for the part. We wanted an ensemble cast that looks different yet very convincing. We wanted to keep that connect, and it did work in our favour. So there was no apprehension as it was a calculated risk.
The show projected issues like marital rape and polygamy. How do you choose these subjects or pick current issues?
I read a lot, and am very politically aware. Whenever I read about any issue like these, I store it and use it in my shows. This has been a habit for long as I feel we can address social issues through television shows quite well. For example, we wanted to portray the entire Mimi Chakraborty-Nusrat Jahan controversy through one of the tracks in the show. People created an issue over their attire, excitement and harmless selfie. No one realised that unlike many, they did not misbehave inside the parliament. Through the show, in a fun way, we want people to get convinced to not get involved in these kinds of activities as there are important issues to ponder about.
Does it also help in expressing your personal beliefs?
Of course, that was a reason why I became a producer. I feel blessed that Star has bestowed that faith in me and given me full liberty. Today, even if an episode doesn’t turn out well, I know it’s because of me. I wanted to tell this story and rather than wasting my energy convincing others, I decided to produce it. I could use the same energy in writing it convincingly.
Star Bharat still has a limited audience. Do you feel the show could have been a bigger success if it was on a popular GEC?
Honestly, when we started it, the show was to air on Star Plus. But the makers felt that it had a very rooted vibe and so would work better for the Star Bharat audience. And it actually did really well for us initially. But when TRAI’s new law came into force, suddenly every channel felt a major blow. Star Bharat, being a relatively newer platform, got affected more. But we recently made a comeback with some encouraging numbers. And I really don’t regret the decision as all I wanted was freedom to tell the story my way. The channel was a secondary factor.
Finally, what can we expect from the second season – Nimki Vidhayak?
As a writer, I am going towards a new dimension. Every interpersonal connection will go topsy turvy. And now with a bigger position as an MLA, the stakes are higher for Nimki, as she deals with bigger issues and stronger foes. Also, since she is living with emotional baggage, that layer about her personality would be worth to watch.
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