Anurag Kashyap, Mahesh Manjrekar, Madhur Bhandarkar and Vikram Bhatt are among those new generation filmmakers who have developed their own niche in the world of Hindi cinema. Their USP lies in the fact that they try to tell their stories in their distinctive styles, even if not always successfully, but never shying away from giving their signature treatment to their films.
Now, the four have kind of joined hands in a mission. And the mission is: bring a sense of sanity to what we call as television entertainment, which in India translates more or less into saas-bahu dramas, never-ending joint family intrigues, conspiring women, and always- ready-to-attend-a-wedding dresses worn by characters. Even those shows which start off with the promise of being different finally end up treading the same old beaten track once they taste success and the channels decide to elongate their existence on the airwaves.
And that is exactly what the four are seeking to change, by backing an initiative to bring onto Indian television the concept of mini-series, something which has been wildly popular in the West for limiting stories to a certain number of episodes, and giving scope to their makers to try out something new. Sony Entertainment Television (SET) is the channel that have brought the foursome together, getting them to helm four projects that will roll out in the same week, each on a particular day of the week, March two onwards under the series name Specials@10.
Each of the four series will wind up in exactly 12 episodes, and as SET’s head of fiction Sanjay Upadhyay puts it, there will be no extensions unlike the traditional soap operas that rule the roost. So, it will be Anurag Kashyap, fresh from the success of Dev.D and promising to bring to the audiences a hard-hitting political thriller in the form of Gulal, who will be the creative director of Rajuben, a story of a woman who takes over the reins after the death of her underworld don husband.
Tuesdays will be reserved for Vikram Bhatt, who has written and presented Shurat, Nafrat aur Showbiz, the story of a young, small town girl who follows a heartless superstar changing her own life forever. On Wednesdays, Mahesh Manjrekar will present Har Kadam Par Shaque, a whodunit set in hill station Kasauli, and on Thursdays it will be Madhur Bhandarkar who will present Heroine – Zindagi Ke Panno Se, a series of 12 stories about strong women, something he revels in telling even in his cinema.
While each of the series will be directed by different directors – Rajuben by Lalit Marathe, Shurat, Nafrat… by Sanjay Khanna, Har Kadam.. by Mukul Abhayankar and Heroines… by prominent directors like Ashok Pandit, Ravi Rai, Ashvini Chaudhury, Sanjay Chel, Shrabani Deodhar and Suhail Tatari – the four will provide creative direction to them.
“This is an effort to bring back the lost era of Indian television, when the best talents of Indian cinema used to make some fine programmes. There was a time when the likes of Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Sudhir Mishra, Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza, Aziz Mirza used to make serials for TV. Maybe with this effort, that trend will return,” says Upadhyay.
The four directors are quite gung ho about the idea of helming limited-period content creation, which they feel would bring a breath of fresh air on to Indian television scenario. “We all are products of TV – be it myself, Vishal Bhadwaj, Abbas Tyrewalla, Raju Hirani, Tiggmanshu Dhulia or Sriram Raghavan. But in the last decade or so, the direction TV has taken – I cannot relate to it. The line between TV and cinema has to blur, and this is an effort towards that,” says Kashyap. Manjrekar, who says that TV has become “huge” now for big film stars like an Amitabh Bachchan, a Shah Rukh Khan or a Salman Khan to host shows, aggress with Kashyap. “Since the last few years, the audiences have been getting tired with those 1,200-1,300 episodic serials and the spectacle of reality shows where controversies get highlighted without any reason. In that scenario, this concept of a series with 12 episodes of 45 minutes each is great,” he says.
For Bhandarkar, it is an opportunity to tell those stories which he might not be able to say in films. “There are so many stories that are very interesting and belong to my genre, that we can tell on TV,” he says. “These are the stories that will hit the audiences hard,” says Kashyap. Well, Indian television sure does need a hard rap on its knuckles, to make it see that there is a world beyond the soapy. Maybe, this will give it that.