Posted: 13 April 2005 at 4:13am | IP Logged
Interview with B.A.G. Films Ltd managing director Anurradha Prasad,
'TV, as a medium, has to go through its own catharsis'
Posted on 12 April 2005
In the 1980s, when Anurradha Prasad, a jeans and T-shirt clad twenty-
something journalist, went to cover Parliament proceedings, senior
print journalists looked upon her rather curiously - not to say
enviously. But young Prasad was determined to prove herself in the
up and coming electronic medium. After learning the ropes in the
erstwhile PTI TV and Observer News Channel, Anurradha carved a niche
for herself as a programmer and bagged her first slot on DD with Aaj
After having floated B.A.G Films, Prasad got down to serious
business. She took the news and current affairs route and then added
infotainment to her repertoire. Today, she is the brain behind one
of the fastest growing production houses in the country. Not just
that, a look at her programming list proves that she is one of the
hottest programmers who is tuned in to the audience's pulse across
different genres- be it soaps, docudramas, current affairs or crime.
With more than 1,500 hours of diversified content, Prasad has always
broken new ground in terms of concept, treatment or TRPs. So, be it
a Rihaee on Sony, a Sansani or Red Alert on Star News or a soap like
KumKum on Star Plus. And apart from the programming part of it,
Managing Director Prasad is also involved in running and expanding
the company. Thinking ahead of her times, Prasad believes
convergence is the future as she plans to take her company ahead
with 30 sec and one minute content on mobiles and broadband.
Prasad gives Indiantelevision.com's Seema Pherwani the gen on what's
happening at B.A.G. Films. Excerpts from an interview:
You started off as a journalist way back in the late 1980s. So how
did you turn to television which was in the nascent stage then?
Since my school day I always wanted to be in the media, but I didn't
realise that I would get into television. I started off as a trainee
journalist with PTI news and my dream was to work with The Times of
India and the erstwhile Sunday magazine. One fine day, Shashi Kumar
who was then heading PTI TV just asked me - Why don't you get into
TV and I said to myself 'why not'? Then I joined PTI TV which was
one of the first production houses in the country. I moved on to
become an assistant producer, and worked on a business programme on
DD called Money Matters.
After learning the ropes there I moved on to the Observer News
Channel. Those were the early days of electronic journalism and it
was real fun because we were experimenting with the medium. On the
other hand, it was also a fight with senior print journalists. They
were not able to digest that a twenty-something jeans-clad reporter
in sneakers could enter Parliament with her camera. So, I remember,
there was a huge ruckus the first time I went to cover Parliament
proceedings. But the writing was on the wall - the younger
generation was all ready to take on the print order and TV was going
to emerge as a more aggressive medium.
How did you get around to floating your own company?
Some time later, the Observer News Channel shut shop, they probably
didn't realise how the medium would grow. I pitched them the idea of
starting off a production house. They gave me a small room in the
Delhi Observer house and I started off on my own. The deal was: if
it didn't work, they would shut it down.
I did a programme called Fiscal Fitness on Zee TV (1991) and later
did a few business programmes which Pritish Nandy anchored. So, I
had honed my skills and proved a point. TV was booming and things
were happening and later I decided to move on. I then landed up
floating a company. Three names were rejected but later I went on to
call it B.A.G Films Ltd i.e Bhagwan Allah and God.
You got your first break with DD. Was it a conscious decision to
stick to news and current affairs?
Well, since I was based in Delhi, I concentrated more on news and
current affairs. Later, I also went on to do more investigative
programmes like the Lens Eye.
Over time I also ventured into infotainment, so there was a cookery
show Zaika ka Safar then musicals like Picnic Antakshari on DD.
After two years we were thinking of joining hands with a corporate
structure like Subhash Ghai's Mukta Arts, but then things did not
'Nowadays, I am concentrating more on running a corporate
organisation, since I am much more responsible to my investors'
Your recent docu-drama Rihaee which deals with crime against women
on Sony Television has created quite a buzz. A few years ago you did
a show called Haqeeqat on Sahara, which dealt with human rights
violations. So, was Haqeeqat the first step towards Rihaee?
Yes in a way. Haqeeqat was the first step towards Rihaee. Haqeeqat
taught me that there was a huge audience waiting to be explored. And
everything is not just nice and beautiful. It was the first reality
show of its kind which managed to shake people up.
Rihaee deals with a sensitive topic i.e crime against women. So, we
have dealt with the subject with care and sensitivity. Also, since
it's on a mass entertainment channel, the stories have been very
sleekly packaged and we are also offering a positive solution to the
Does it worry you that it has been pitched at a time slot that will
directly compete with the most popular serial of our times,
I am not looking at it as competition. Kyunki is a landmark show, on
a saleable platform and is a habit for viewers. It has created
history by being a number one show for so many years. Also, one has
to keep in mind there is also a lot of difference in Star and Sony
platform ratings. We are targeting people who are looking for an
alternative to Saas Bahu serials.
I hope to set in motion a paradigm shift in terms of programme
pitching and watching. As far as the success of the show goes, I
think in today's scenario, no content aggregator can say that this
will work or not, simply, because TV's such an evolving and dynamic
medium and one has to re-engineer every second. Viewers are
fickleminded and the remote is in their hands!
What do you think a programme like Rihaee will achieve for general
entertainment channels and for people, in general?
I hope the show takes the medium back to what it was earlier
expected to be. The protagonist team in the serial, led by
Rajeshwari and Nakul, take you through a story and help the woman
find a solution to the problem. A show like this is also all about
viewer interactivity. Our phone lines have been ringing incessantly
with women willing to share their real-life stories.
In our country, the biggest culprit is the government machinery,
which has failed to help out people.
Was Haqeeqat (on Sahara) a show before its time, considering it was
not able to shake up the government machinery or solve too many
That was the sad part of it. If it was on a bigger platform like
Star maybe it would have achieved more. Also, there was to be a
follow up by the channel, but later they changed focus to other
entertainment shows with bigger stars.
What makes B.A.G. Films tick and which shows have proved to be a
paradigm shift for you?
I always do a paradigm shift within the organisation. The USP of my
company is that it is a multi-genre production house. So, if I do a
Kumkum well, I would also like to deliver a Rozana or a Haqeeqat
well, which has been one of the most critically acclaimed shows. I
can claim that a Sansani on Star News has emerged as a number one
show across the news channels then a Kumkum has helped turnaround
the afternoon viewing. If Red Alert is an investigative show then
Poll Khol is a political satire.
What have your two shows Sansani and Red Alert been able to achieve
for the channel? And why has the channel commissioned two shows in
the same genre for you?
Sansani is a crime show and Red Alert is a huge investigative show.
Both the shows have done extremely well for the channel. I try to
package my shows in the most entertaining manner. Also, when I do
entertainment programming my news background comes into the picture
and when I do news programming my entertainment background helps.
So, a show like Poll Khol which is political satire was structured
so that everybody could laugh and enjoy it. Also, for all our shows
we use our library to the maximum.
You share a special relationship with Star considering you have more
than three shows on Star News and two on Star Plus?
I do share a good relationship with the network, but if my shows
don't do too well the relationship will not help.
The selling rate of crime shows across channels has really gone up.
What do you attribute this to?
Television, as a medium, has to go through its own catharsis. The
way crime shows are being packaged today, they are able to prick the
sensibility of viewers - whether good, bad or ugly. If they do that
then they've done their job. As a programming person, I can say that
news is being presented by anchors in the most entertaining way. I
don't know what will sell tomorrow.
Also, I believe the numbers game and fight for eyeballs between the
news channels has also led to the proliferation of the genre. News
channels are trying to show things which are stretching everybody's
sensibilities. Also, with the increase in the crime rate our people
are in a crisis and these shows fill the gap.
'With 'Rihaee', I hope to set in motion a paradigm shift in terms of
programme pitching and watching'
Your show Kumkum on Star Plus had seen a dip in the TRPs recently.
The TRPs had dropped because of the change in the plot. The Wadhwa
family face financial problems and have to leave the Wadhwa house.
So, people were not ready to accept that. The lesson is that TV has
to be entertaining and at the same time aspirational.
What makes the serial tick, as it has been the key driver for Star
in the afternoon band?
I would say the serial has worked because it doesn't show a person
marrying three different people. It's very true to its characters.
Kumkum is the best bahu and there is no major scheming going on in
her mind. She's a woman of today who's able to serve as an anchor
for the family. The serial is actually based on a real simple story
which has found a place in people's hearts.
How much credit would you take for your successful shows?
TV is a medium for units. It's all about team effort and I am only
the team leader. Though I try to re-engineer myself, I have my own
limits.One can't always go on doing all the things all the time -
365 days a year. Then my people will feel claustrophobic. I give my
creative people the direction they require and I ensure that they do
their jobs well. Nowadays, I am concentrating more on running a
corporate organisation since I am more responsible to my investors.
What's the structure of the organisation ?
I have a board that has people like the former cabinet secretary
Surendra Singh, my husband Rajiv, corporate lawyer Pallavi Shroff. I
also have financial institutions' nominees on the board as the
guiding force. The day to day management is handled by me and my
team, which means I have a CFO and a MD.
How does the company's bottomlines look like?
B.A.G. Films is a debt-free company. We had raised funds through an
IPO for our Convergence Studio and the Media School, both of which
are up and running. Our media school is one of its kind where we
offer post-graduate course on broadcast journalism, media
management, in the art & craft of TV.
But there are so many such schools in the country. Why one more?
Half of the schools are just (teaching) shops. We offer a full-
fledged course with theory and practical work. We have the best
people from the industry with us and Subodh Lal, who was the
president of Zee earlier, is the dean.
What kind of movies is B.A.G. Films producing?
We are working on two films, which are at the scripting stage. One
of the films is based on a novel by Taslima Nasreen called the
French Lover. My aim is to make films that will be entertaining and
What is the company's growth strategy?
I see myself as a content aggregator and will like to enter newer
areas. So, from TV we will be moving on to films. B.A.G. is also
working on providing content on mobiles and on broadband. With
convergence happening, we will be moving towards 30 sec and one
minute content on all platforms. So, we'll be doing things like
cricket updates, news and stock market details etcetera.
Is there any likelihood of a network buying a stake in your company?
Right now there's nothing of that sort happening.