Rajya Sabha TV is entering the commercial market with a series of film and TV projects on ‘nationalistic themes’. It has already involved some big names of Hindi cinema, including directors Shyam Benegal, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vinay Shukla.
Some of the themes include feature films on Subhas Chandra Bose and Vallabhbhai Patel, the history of the Indian Army, TV episodes on lesser known struggles of the freedom movement, evolution of Hindi as a language and as a political movement.
Owned and operated by Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha TV does not come under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and remains free from government control. While the channel’s revenue goes to the Consolidated Fund of India, it recently received permission for using the revenue it earns by selling its programmes. It has opened a bank account for the purpose.
Rajya Sabha TV CEO Gurdeep Singh Sappal told The Sunday Express: “We are producing features films, besides a series of TV episodes and documentaries. We will sell these to other channels, go for theatre releases. It’s the first time that we are venturing into commercial production.”
Dhulia will direct a film and a six-episode TV series on Subhas Chandra Bose and the INA trials conducted at Red Fort in Delhi. Shukla will direct a film and a 10-episode series on Patel and the integration of princely states. Benegal will direct a feature on the history of the Indian Army. These films are in the phase of casting, and are likely to see theatre release by the end of 2016.
The idea to hit the market emerged after the success of the 10-episode series on the making of the Indian Constitution which Rajya Sabha TV produced last year. Directed by Benegal, each of the one-hour episodes focused on various aspects of the drafting of the Constitution, after which several channels approached Sappal for its rights.
Acknowledging the “nationalistic tone” of his programmes, Sappal said: “We have not documented the history of last 70 years. I do not know any single TV series on the Hindi language. It is our national language, also a political movement.”
Another “off-beat” TV series is on “100 editors of India”, beginning from Mahatma Gandhi to S Nihal Singh.
Sappal was a scientist with CSIR before he decided to leave the job and travel across the country to know the “ground reality”. Four years ago, he approached Rajya Sabha with his idea of a channel and became its founder-editor.
So how does he distinguish his channel from the rest? “We are into a world other than cricket and politics,” he said.