Writer-director Siddharth P Malhotra recently got his popular series Sanjivani back on television. While the reboot stars Surbhi Chandna and Namit Khanna in the lead roles, Malhotra played his ace card by getting the original cast Mohnish Bahl and Gurdeep Kohli to reprise their roles. The nostalgic factor has worked in favour of the show as it continues to impress the audience with its storyline, drama and performances.
Malhotra started his career in the entertainment industry with Cinevistaas before branching out to set his own company Alchemy. In two years, the new production house has churned out seven shows which consist of Koi Apna Sa, Haasil, Ichhapyaari Naagin among more.
Siddharth P Malhotra also has had a fruitful journey in Bollywood, having helmed films like We Are Family and Hichki. He recently also bankrolled Dia Mirza-Mohit Raina’s web series Kaafir for ZEE5, which received a thunderous response.
In our second edition of ‘Meet the showrunners’, indianexpress.com got in a conversation with Malhotra about Sanjivani, making stars out of actors and how he juggles multiple hats.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
What made you get back to Sanjivani?
Well, I wanted to get back on television but not with a saas-bahu show. Keeping that in mind, I spoke to Star about launching a medical drama, which is something I really enjoy. While scripting it, the discussions cropped up about the hospital Sanjivani and the mentor-protege factor. All that automatically took me back to the original show. But we wanted to make it something new. We had already done a sequel (Dill Mill Gayye) and we did not want to just make a remake.
Now, with the language of cinema changed so much, we wanted to take it a few steps ahead and make it watchable and enjoyable to all, be it on television or the internet. We are just hoping that numbers help us say that. We keep talking about new content but it’s the naagin and dayaans that usually get all the ratings.
What’s this special connect you have with medical shows?
Usually, on television, writers and content creators tend to start borrowing ideas from films. There’s nothing original happening. But I feel a medical drama gives a chance to create original and new stories. The lives of doctors are so dramatic and they experience a vast pool of emotions at any given time. Also, when corruption is at its peak, and there are multiple scams and medical rackets happening, it gave us a bigger canvas. But importantly, my maternal grandfather was a doctor and I have seen him work till he was 90 years. People came from far to consult him as they trusted him. So it all comes naturally and quite well to me. It’s my genre and I enjoy making it. This also needs a certain formula, which I don’t think most of the other medical shows managed to crack on the small screen.
Things have changed on TV and the medical world from early 2000, when Sanjivani was on air. What was the process of making a new show?
We didn’t want to change the couple angle, as people have loved it, so we got Ishani and Sid. Also, the whistle tune and having Mohnish-Gurdeep worked as a nostalgia. We did have an old wine in a new bottle but we wanted to package it as per today’s time. So we added new characters, and the relationships and emotions are more complex this time. With the Indian audience having access to medical dramas from all over the world, we wanted to make a show as per that standard. It had to be believable, watchable and entertaining – something that we can all be proud of.
Was it difficult to get Mohnish Bahl and Gurdeep Kohli back?
Not at all. I had to just call them and they were like when are we shooting (laughs). Actually, the same happened for most of the cast. Most remember Sanjivani as the Mohnish Bahl show. We have a panel of three doctors on the sets to guide our actors and help us with the medical detailing. You won’t believe, one among them became a doctor because of Sanjivani. She decided to pursue medicine after seeing Dr Shashank in the show.
All your shows have made stars out of actors. How do you go about with the casting?
I think it’s all guts. From Sanjivani launching Gurdeep, Gaurav Chanana and Mihir Mishra, Dill Mill Gayye having Karan Singh Grover, Jennifer Winget, Shilpa Anand, Sukirti Kandpal, Drashti Dhami or even Ek Hazaron Mein, which was the first big outing for Krystle Dsouza, Nia Sharma, Karan Tacker and Kushal Tandon, it all happened just like that. Honestly, it’s a small industry and most of the actors are friends. When I have someone in mind, I call them, and fortunately, most of the time it does work out. They are also hungry actors, and if you have something good, which can present them in a new shade, they are happy to come on board.
Television usually works on faces, so how important are actors for any project?
I think a correct casting is half the battle won. But yes, only till the time those actors are professionals and not act like superstars (laughs), demanding their own terms. A good actor is actually very important, equally as the writers and directors, because it’s them, who has to emote it on screen. TV doesn’t throw money to producers and writers but only actors, and that sometimes gets on their head.
There’s suddenly a trend of getting seasons or reboots. Do you feel it promises more success because of brand recall value?
There’s no doubt that it will help sell but at the end of the day, it’s all that you have. Kasautii Zindagii Kay started on a good note but saw a decline and then rose again. So it’s the content that has to pick up and deliver. Nostalgia and brand value can only give you a good opening. You need to work harder from that.
With Hichki and Kaafir, you have tasted success in all mediums. Which one do you prefer?
A good story is what excites me. The web, of course, is a medium where you don’t need to churn out a never-ending story, and the return is also better. I will keep on making a couple of shows and enjoy that experience. But my focus will definitely be web and of course films in the coming time.
What do you enjoy more? Being a creative man or producer?
I hate production, it’s the worst thing to do. Also, it’s a very thankless job (laughs). Thankfully, I have my wife Sapna, who is the backbone of the company and handles everything. She is in a way taking care of all of us and it would have been difficult without her.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a film script and should be done soon, and then YRF will announce it.