Zama Habib, Writer and Co-Producer of Star Plus' popular showSasural Genda Phool in an exclusive conversation with TellyBuzz...
Zama Habib, the Writer and Co-Producer of Star Plus
' very successful and unique showSasural Genda Phool
is today a happy man as the show produced by Ravi Ojha Productions has been accepted whole-heartedly by viewers.
Here is the writer cum producer in an exclusive conversation with TellyBuzz where he talks about his journey as writer, the responsibilities he had to undertake as Producer, on the success story of SGP, on the ensemble cast of the show and much more.. Tell us about your journey in the TV industry as writer?
Well, It's been around 12/13 years now…So far I have been lucky to have worked with good directors like Ravi Ojha, Sachinji's [Pilgaonkar], Raj Sippy [Satte Pe Satta Fame], Rajan Shahi
, Kaushik Ghatak, and producers like Sooraj Barjatya, Kavita Barjatya, Rajan Shahi
, Siddharth Malhotra etc. I have written shows for almost all the channels, Star Plus
, Sony, Zee TV
, Channel 9, Colors, DD, ETV, along with Zee Bangla and Star Jalsha…Have written serials like, Ajeeb Dastaan, Gilli Danda, Maamla Gadbad Hai, Zindagi Milke Bitaayenge, Phir Bhi, Bidaai
, Lo Ho Gayi Pooja Iss Ghar Ki, Ek Ladki Anjaani Si
, Pyaar Ke Do Naam Ek Raadha Ek Shyaam, Do Hanson Ka Jodaa
etc… You were part of the creative team of Bidaai when it reached its peak in terms of ratings. How was that phase of work with Rajan Shahi?
It was one of the most enjoyable phases. Rajan was first time producer with Bidaai
and he is very passionate about his work. I wrote almost 600 episodes of Bidaai
. For Bidaai
I must thankStar Plus
and its creative head Vivek Bahl. Vivek gave me full creative freedom and space, and the entire team has been great that's why we could see the great results. No other serial after Kyunki has crossed 10 TRP, but Bidaai
achieved that success in terms of TRP as well as accolades. One more thing, Bidaai
was the first move to the middle class values in true sense… When and how did Ravi Ojha Productions plan to come up with the Hindi version of OBS?
Well we have a great rapport with Star and after the huge success of OBS and Bou Katha Kau on Star Jalsha, we were asked to do something on Star Plus also. But we didn't want to do regular soap so we chose to remake OBS, because we felt this kind of show will bring some freshness on Hindi scenario. Though the call was risky we took the chance. Besides, Star India has immense trust in Ravi Ojha and when they gave the nod we also went ahead with our conviction. By November last year the decision was taken… Tell us about the success story of the original Bengali version Ogo Bodhu Sundori. Is the story on air even today?
We have just wrapped up the series on 4th of December this year. The show was a huge success over there. OBS became a cult show, a classic. Even in terms of TRP we saw huge success, it had touched 13 TRP. Even the last episode brought us 11.4 TRP. The impact of OBS was great, people have loved the family, each character became a household name… What are the various appreciations that the Bengali version has gotten for the channel and production house?
People in Bengal adore Ravi Ojha. The serial as I said has become a cult show. What went thro' the casting of Sasural Genda Phool?
Ravi, Mitali and I believe in performers, so we wanted actors. They are the ones who can take our scenes to the next level through their performance. And that's why we went for the seasoned actors, and we are very happy to have great cast. It's really fun to work with them. They don't struggle to catch the nuances of scenes. Casting was not really tough as even these actors were keen to work with us. Who should not want to work with a director like Ravi Ojha? What was your initial reaction when you got your leads in Ragini Khanna and Jay Soni?
When we had planned to do this show, the trend was to have newcomers for lead roles, but as I said we wanted to have great actors and that's why we chose Ragini Khanna
and Jay Soni
. Others might have felt that there is no freshness in the lead but we knew that through her performance she will do full justice to the character of SUHANA. So we went with her without any doubt and confusion, and Ragini has not at all disappointed us. Ragini Khanna as Suhana has climbed the ladder of success with this show. How do you rate her as an actor?
Ragini is too good an actor. I have this opportunity to have worked with seasoned actors like Kumar Gaurav, Kiran Kumar, Prem Chopra, Deven Verma, Ranjeet
, Himani Shivpuri
, Surekha Sikri
, Alok Nath
, Meghna Malik, and almost all the actors from SGP in past. I have seen great performances, but I must say if I have to pick an actor from today's generation Ragini is the best. No other actor from her age has this great voice modulation and spontaneity like she has. And not only Ragini, we have great ensemble cast. Supriya Pilgaonkar
[Badi Maa], Sudhir Pandey
[Dadaji], Anita Kanwal
[Dadiji], Mahesh Thakur
[KK], Sadiya Siddique
[Radha Bua],Shruti Ulfat
[Rano], Sooraj Thapar [Alok], Bhairavi Raichura
[Rajni], Pooja Kanwal
[Disha], Jiten Lalwani
and Sham Mashalkar [Inder and Ilesh], Moon Banergi [Panna], Meethi and all are great actors. We have cast good actors even for the chaiwala and Padosi roles. You just cannot take away your eyes when Jayati Bhatia
[Manju Aunty] enters the scene or Akshay Sethi
[Deepak] for that matter. Jay Soni fits perfectly into the role of the subtle and silent Ishaan. But at times, Ishaan seems to be the helpless and confused male. Is it the way in which his graph as a personality will grow?
He is…And he has to be like that…In SGP we should not look out for perfection in characters. Everyone has some flaws. Even Badi Maa has herself admitted that she couldn't become a perfect wife in pursuit of becoming a perfect bahu. As far as Ishaan is concerned, he is also not perfect. But yes he has a mind of his own, and he is not at all confused. That's another thing that he is not doing things as the audience wants him to do. Audience will always want things to be done as they perceive, but the story is always opposite and that's how it works. Everyone wants to see the end, but the journey has to be there. And I admit that the journey has to be interesting… Suhana at times is shown to be overdoing things in terms of her loudness and expressions. Is this a deliberate move?
Is that so…? She might have gone wrong in one or two odd scenes. But I don't think she can falter. She is a smart actor and understands her character in and out… Sasural Genda Phool is one show that gives equal importance to every parallel track that is running. How do you manage to keep the actors' interest in the show alive?
Yes, as I have told you earlier, SGP is not Ishaan-Suhana story. It's story about a family…Each member is important and they have their stories. Ishaan Suhana is the main thread, and all the stories will build around them. And till now we have managed to keep all the characters breathing and they have their presence meaningful… What do you have to say about the huge ensemble cast that you have got for the show?
I am proud of our cast. This is the cast we wanted and we are happy to have them on board. They have done full justice to the characters. Besides, no actor has given us any problem so far. They are very professional… The entry of Sonali and the track after that has got a mixed response from viewers. How do you justify her character?
Mixed reaction…? The track is working well for us. The people who watch television love the track. One more thing I must clear here that Sonali's arrival is not just to make Suhana jealous. No. This track has shown various shades of Suhana. First, Suhana feels everyone is giving more attention to Sonali than her. Then she feels the competition in relationship not only with Ishaan but with others also. Then she notices her husband is also keeping away from her. Sonali indirectly instills the new perception about her relationship with each character she is interacting in the Kashyap house. Apart from that, this is a universal fact that a character who comes in between a couple will never be liked by the audience, but that's how a story goes… Mr. Ravi Ojha has remained unwell ever since the launch of the show. How do you and Mrs. Mitali Ojha handle the pressure?
Ah that's the saddest part of the show. Ravi deserved to see all this success and accolades. But for more than four months he was in hospital. OBS is 'made" by Ravi, and it was his belief that this show will work in Hindi as well. It was really difficult for us to handle without him around. When Ravi was on floor I didn't bother much but after he fell ill I had to take over full-fledged and being new as producer it was really tough. All my life I have been into writing, or other creative aspects. I knew nothing about production, but thank God, I managed to sail through with great support of entire team. Rakesh who took over as director has been great support. Being writers of the show Mitali and I had a tough time as we have gone through so much of emotional trauma but we had to run the show and we did the same… What is the contribution of Mitali to the show?
Mitali is the base of Ravi Ojha Production. We just cannot imagine working without her. All the shows produced by ROP have been penned by Mitali. Besides, Mitali is involved in all the creative decisions. Even the look, set, styling and all, she is the brain behind… How is Mr. Ravi Ojha feeling now?
He is improving…Pray for him… You have always maintained that you are not making this show for ratings. So what is your perspective in giving viewers a show like SGP?
Ratings do matter to an extent. The survival of the serial depends on the ratings only. If your show doesn't rate well it will go off air. That's the brutal truth. But one should not work only for rating because seriously there is no formula to get the ratings, it's your belief and conviction that helps better. We believe that a good content works. A good story if told nicely would be appreciated. And that's why we never tried to pad up our show with dhadhang music or shak shak movements of camera… We have lately seen Disha's character undergoing a slight change with Elesh becoming an earning man. How will this track proceed?
Again, I will say no one is perfect…Ours is the Shakespearean characters, they are good with natural human flaws in them. But they are not bad people; Disha will see herself through this new journey. Till now you have seen Disha and Ilesh without money, but what happens when they get money is their story… Elesh who was shown to be dependent on his family has suddenly gotten very responsible, so much so that he had a fight with his wife on the same. What about this immediate change in character?
No we are not changing his character. We are opening the layers now. And the issue he fought for with Disha elevates his character… Deepak's story line has been dragging at times. What are we seeing in future regards this track.
See, we have so many tracks running at the same time. We have to tell our episodic story within 20 minutes. So sometimes some tracks have to be slowed down. And yes, sometimes we also go wrong… Suhana's transformation track has been very well accepted by the audience. What do you want to tell them, now that we have reached the major high point in the story line?
No, picture abhi baaki hai. Suhana wasn't there only to fall in love or to just accept the family. Suhana's journey is still on. Besides, we have Badi Maa's story to tell, Ilesh and Inder's stories, Sanjana's story, Deepak's story. How would you describe the love story of Ishaan and Suhana that is going to blossom in the New Year?
Again ours is not a love story. Ishaan-Suhana has romcom track but the story focuses on relationships. Even after Suhana's realization of her love for Ishaan you won't see any drastic change in Suhana or Ishaan. They will remain the same. What do you foresee once the chemistry between Ishaan and Suhana kick-starts?
More fun to come. More twists are waiting to unfold. SGP has become extremely popular in the last few months. What do you attribute the success to?
The foundation was laid so deep and strong that we are not surprised to see this success. We knew either this show is going to be accepted whole heartedly or will be rejected out rightly. Thankfully it worked… SGP and Saathiya have been a benchmark in terms of ratings, in the early evening band ofStar Plus. How do you feel to be the writer and Producer of such a show?
Well, it feels great to see your show doing so well at 7:30 slot. As a writer I had no worries at all but yes as producer I was little worried but today I am a happy man. The success again reinforces our belief that good content works irrespective of time slot… Today, the impetus is more on slot leaders rather than the #1 show. How do you see this change in TV over the years?
The scenario today is changing. The competition is tough, with so many channels and so many programs. There is no loyalty to one particular channel today. If a program is not good people shift to the other channel. So to survive, each program has to be good and has to have its own identity. Besides, the demography is also changed now. The TRP zone has expanded and because of that the range of target audience has become bigger now. Television today has become pan India entity. The product has to have the potential to cater the audience from all over India. That's why the programming has changed today… What is your favorite show on television?
I used to watch Sarabhai VS Sarabhai. What do you like the most – a show with a rural background which is based on a hard hitting social issue, or a show set up in contemporary India?
Any show that entertains as well as make you think positive even for a moment… Do you think the trend of rural shows should stop?
Any good story irrespective of backdrop is welcome… What do you have to say about channels and production houses wanting to take new comers as leads rather than the experienced actors.
Taking newcomers is not at all wrong. Why shouldn't a newcomer get chance? What makes me personally stay away from television is half of them are non actors. They just can't perform, they are cast by their looks. The girl is chosen for her bechaari or vulnerable look and the boy is chosen for his physique Will we see a change in this trend?
The saddest part of this industry is that any change depends on the success of a particular program… Who according to you is the best performer based on talent in your team of actors in SGP?
Genuinely, I cannot say…because each actor on board is great performer… What can the viewers look forward to in the New Year in SGP?
Come fall in love… Is Ravi Ojha Productions coming up with more shows in future?
Next year insha allah… At the moment we are busy shooting our forthcoming Bengali show for Star Jalsha that is coming on air in January next year . After the launch of our Bengali show we will concentrate on our next show for Hindi GEC. We don't want to make our production house a factory. We do what we enjoy. Otherwise we are there available as writers… What is the message that you as the writer and producer of SGP would give to the loyal viewers of your show?
We won't fall into the trap and will keep the flavor of the show as we have promised till now…But yes we are here to tell a story "we" have written irrespective of success or failure. And I must thank the audience for great support they have extended to us. Without their support we couldn't have achieved this success…Thanks a ton! Reporter and Author: Srividya Rajesh