So, here is Tellybuzz in an exclusive chit-chat with Sudhir Sharma wherein he talks about his journey in TV industry of his shows on air, niche concepts and much more.
Describe your journey in television.
I was completely into news and current affairs and have directed many non fiction shows for Rajat Sharma. In 1997, I moved to Mumbai and started with small ad films, music videos etc. From 1998, we started a trend in India and packaged promos for television shows. We became the #1 in promos and packaging. Initially, the makers used to cut a portion from the footage and use it in promos. But we brought in this change, and have made promos for shows like Kasautii Zindagi Kay, Kumkum, Kanyadaan, Ghar Ek Mandir and many Balaji shows. We got invites then from many production houses to set up new shows for them. But we were not keen on making shows and restricted ourselves to directing songs for few films as well as for fiction shows. About 7 years back, we finally thought of making it as hardcore television producers.
What did you want to achieve as a Producer?
We have always aimed to do niche shows and our policy has been to concentrate on that. Three years back, we thought of giving viewers a very happy, bright and today's generation show. In 2008, Miley Jab Hum Tum happened. We put in six months of hard work and got the right casting before we put it on air. Today the show has completed over 450 episodes, and had been the #1 show on the channel for a good time of one and half years. Then came 12/24 Karol Bagh for Zee TV, which is based on the backdrop of Delhi which is something new to television.
How did you conceive 12/24 Karol Bagh, the only TV show produced from Delhi?
We wanted to do a middle class show which appeared real to the audience. It was a joint effort from us and Zee TV to move away from the tried and tested formula and do a real show. The biggest plus point of Karol Bagh is that we shoot in real locations always and we have not used a single out door studio till date.
What do you think is the USP of Karol Bagh?
There are two things – firstly it is a real middle class show with no elaborated costumes. Secondly, every single locale we have shot in is authentic.
It is learnt that Karol Bagh is set in a farm house. How did you think of having a set there?
See, first of all we were shooting out of Mumbai and needed a good location to shoot. Unlike Mumbai, we do not have many Studios in Delhi. The studios which are there are always full and we can't get desirable dates. So when we got this six acre farm house we found it to be ideal for shoot. The basic idea was to have enough place where we could recreate a sequence. In this huge area, we have a permanent structure and also a portion of it which can be changed to any kind of location. We also have a huge vacant area, a jogging track, a fountain. My entire unit is happy and bright, shooting in this beautiful environment. Life is stress free out there and shooting friendly too.
Did you initially encounter any problems shooting out of Mumbai?
Apart from Mumbai, if there is any place where we can dream of achieving something like this, it is Delhi. Yes, the initial phase was difficult but as we know we encounter problems when we try out anything new. Today, Karol Bagh has completed 200 episodes; I can say that it will be easier now to set up another new show here. We have trained workmanship now; we know how to handle with the data bank and have enough resources.
Zee axed Do Saheliyaan recently because of low TRPs. Do you think TRPs rule the content of shows?
Well, TV system is based on TRPs and I am nobody to question that. My only concern is that this system should be made a bit broad. I have a feeling that it is a very narrow way of judging what people like or dislike. Karol Bagh has surely had its share of success, and we enjoy making it. We are not #1 when it comes to ratings, but have got a lot of critical acclaim. We have a target audience who have been watching our show from day one and continue to do so even today. Our ratings do not rise or fall based on the drama quotient that we air on a particular week.
Karol Bagh has been going steady when it comes to numbers, but has not got a rise too? What do you say about it?
We have had a good jump in numbers during 2-3 occasions. Take the Jagratha involving Narendra Chanchal as example. We touched a best of 3.9 in that episode. We have always been steady in numbers, and I would say we are doing fine.
What is the kind of response you got for some tracks that were sensitive in nature?
The Rajeev Bhalla marrying Simi track gave us a new high. We did not use unnecessary gimmicks. We showed that a girl is under extreme family pressure for getting married. We even showed an unreal situation here where the father slaps the fellow who is ready to marry his daughter. We wanted to show here that the common man too can get small victories. We spread across a message to people that the father will not like pushing his daughter into a bad scenario by getting her married to a guy like Rajeev Bhalla. The audience loved it.
Then came the Milee rape incident. When a girl goes thro' such a trauma, the basic instinct of the family is to not talk about it. However, this would mean that we are encouraging such human beings to be scott-free in society. We got a fantastic response from people all over. In fact there were people from UAE, London etc sending complimentary messages. We touched on the aspect of education too which was accepted well.
Do you think the leap in MJHT has worked? What is the response that you have got?
We have got a mixed response so far. People are in love with the new characters introduced, but many are still upset over the fact that Nupur's character is not there anymore. As I have said, we needed to do something new to change the track. Also Miley Jab Hum Tum is a slice of life kind of show where it gets difficult to churn new stories. The fact that the show has completed more than 450 episodes and has sustained is an achievement in itself. At times, we tend to experiment on tracks which can either be liked or disliked by viewers.
There has been a strong reaction coming from viewers over Nupur's character being shown dead. What's your take on it?
Viewers who have patiently watched our show till the 400th episode can get happy again. They should wait for some surprises where we plan to get the old feel of the show back.
Do you see Rati's return to the show?
See, we make our shows for viewers and not for private viewing. Creative satisfaction is got only when audience is with you. So it is important that we do not neglect or ignore the viewers' feedbacks. All I can tell viewers is to wait for future surprises, and you might get Rati back.
Don't you want to make a show for Star Plus or COLORS?
We are in talks with various channels, and are closely working on another show that will go on floor soon. We are in the research and scripting stage as of now, and plan to come up with yet another niche show that is of a different type.
What is your and Seema's level of involvement when it comes to your shows?
We both work as a team. Seema is completely into content while I take care of strategy related issues. Seema has a good knack of deciding on the look and feel of the show and characters. She has great ideas when it comes to content.
What is your take on the changing TV scenario in terms of content?
A year back, all channels wanted a hit show but nobody knew the formula for it. Today we are seeing a lot of different shows and this makes me and Seema hopeful. In the present scenario, we have channels telling us that we do not want the usual run-on-the-mill stories and want something different.
What are your favourite shows which you like to watch and why?
I used to like watching Khichdi a lot. Currently I like Pratigya as it is high on aggression, and different. I like Jhansi Ki Rani for its grandeur. I like Karol Bagh not because it is my show. SAB TV's programming is great, and so is Sasural Genda Phool.
Who are your favourite TV actors?
I like Rati Pandey, Smriti Kalra from my shows. I like the talent of Manini De. Amongst male actors, I am fond of Rohit Khurana, Abhishek Rawat. When it comes to my shows, I like Ravi Dubey, Arjun Bijlani. Abhishek Sharma who played the role of Benji is a fabulous actor.
Your wife Seema is equally involved in your work. Does it make things easy for you both?
Yes, we have been working together since 1994. Things get very easy when we know that we have the other person for support. But the only problem is that we tend to take work into our bedroom too.
What lies ahead for Sunshine Productions?
In the next two or three months, we aim to come up with at least two very good shows of a different genre. We are working on a movie too. Since we both are from a non fiction background we intend making non fiction shows on television, but that's not coming immediately.
Reporter & Author: Srividya Rajesh.