You can make out her sharp creative mind as she speaks about all the shows she has produced along with husband Tony Singh for their company, DJs Creative Unit.
In an in-depth conversation with TellyBuzz, producer Deeya Singh sounds excited as she talks about her latest show Ek Mutthi Aasman and also shares her views on the changing Television scenario.
How did the concept of Ek Mutthi Aasman come to your mind?
We always wanted to do an aspirational story which everyone can relate to. We were thinking what to do next, Jassi mein Ugly ladki ho gayi, Radhika in Chhoti Bahu ho gaya, Parrvarish mein teenage issues ho gaye, so what next? Then the whole thought came as to how I have met many such women who want to achieve something in life for their kids. Like my maid who sends her son to Shaimak Davar's dance class and she actually takes time out to go for his dance programmes too. I am constantly zapped by the zest of these women.
Whenever I go to places like hospitals, police stations and I see these parents with kids who are so well turned out, well educated, who look so smart and well-mannered too, that it got me thinking. This is a new India we are moving towards so why are we not showing it? Why do we always think, destiny will decide what will happen to your life, and poor will always stay poor? Why can't they have ambitions of travelling in a big car and buy a good house in a big complex? Every person should think this so we thought that whoever doesn't think like this we should give them that thought and those who already think like this give them the confidence that these things can happen. When you see people around you they are very much upward mobile, they want to grow and don't want to be where they were 2 years ago.
We wanted to show that there is a woman who does achieve all this and she doesn't do it the wrong way, she doesn't cross the lines, she does it the most righteous and straight way because any success which comes rightfully is valid otherwise even rich people get success but they do it by cutting corners and all that but she does not, she does it rightfully. Then we thought of the story and of how we can have these two girls from two different families and things started falling into place. We had made a little promo for Zee TV that time and had interviewed maids too and showed it to them which they liked. It was one year in the making because any idea which is a little breakthrough takes time as it has to be valid. Also we had to get the right looks because it is also entertainment so we wanted to get the right cast.
Talking about casting, how did you zero in on Shilpa who had quit the glam world for marriage and motherhood?
It took us 5-6 months to find Shilpa and then get her to agree for this role and I had no other option as I had nobody else but her in my mind. I never bothered thinking of anybody else and there was no other name in the list for her character while casiting but not for this role. Why Shilpa? Because I have known her to be a good actor who has not got her due. Also because she had left everything due to her marriage and as she also rightly says that there was a phase in films when only one type of films were being made which commercially had to do well. Today an actress can exploit so many different genres which was not the case earlier.
And you think Shilpa fits the character?
Yes, absolutely. There is an inherent goodness in Shilpa as a human being and as a person which reflects on her face. You want a person who is believable and doesn't need to act. She just slips into the character and that is something I noticed immediately. Once she was convinced she was like jab bhi hoga, I am there. This kind of confidence comes from a good human being and anybody who had to play Kamlabai had to be a good human being. Like anybody who played Jassi in Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin
too had to have a good nature.
So was it easy convincing Shilpa?
At that time, Shilpa had just come to India and she liked the story the first time we narrated but then there were lots of adjustments to be made, how would she take care of her family and all that so those things we had to understand. So we waited and that was good because then it happened when it had to happen. Then she wanted to work. Today she is the one who tells me, Tell me when you want me to be on the sets and I will be there'. It doesn't matter, nothing else is important because now for her the show means a lot. I guess I had seen a lot of positivity in her. You can't just write a particular character and sit, somebody has to take it forward too.
I was trying to work with Ashish for long but it never happened because he was into films and all. However, one day at a gathering he told me that he wanted to experiment since things for him were restricted to comedy and he was capable of so more that he wanted to do much more. In the show, he is not an antagonist, he is a hero, a mentor, he is someone who looks like a hard tough man, but he is somebody who has gone through so much in life in real life as well as the character. I am trying to play as close to real life. As a character he has had a very hard childhood and he comes back in the show and he grows up to be much, much more stronger.
In fact, I had paid him a signing amount much before he was finalized for the show. I was dying to make films and he said you just have to give me a signing amount so I immediately took out 11 bucks and gave him. However, I never made the film and we decided that we will use it here, film toh baad mein kar hi denge!
Will the character of a maid in a daily soap sustain for long?
We have made Kamlabai as a person who is real and we are trying to keep it as real as possible. We have sorts of bais but other than being a bai the character of the person too is very important. I rather give a message than not. So that character is not that boring as a person. Kamlabai is not a school principal who is boring, she is very natural and optimistic as a character. I see no chance in it getting heavy.
With the leap and the story of two girls, one from a rich and the other from a poor background, will it resemble another Uttaran?
No, I don't think we are making another Uttaran
. The basic concept of Uttaran
and Ek Mutthi Aasman are totally different. Our story is that Kamlabai raises both the girls as her own and there is no competition between the two girls. They always know they will have to divide her and will have to share her love. Here the story is from the point of view of Kamlabai. However, what happens later you never know after you start to do something but the intent is at all times to tell the story of a women who will fortify the loss to make something out of her daughter but who will also consider the other girl. She will raise the other girl as her own and watch over her, make something out of her too so that she goes beyond her mother's upbringing. So Kamlabai is like Mother India.
It is also common knowledge that househelps and maids are amongst the biggest audience for daily soaps... Do you ever turn to them for an opinion?
Yes, of course I do! The women who helps my mother I always sit with her and sometimes when she
gives me lines for my show it is very exciting. She copies the character and lines. And if she doesn't like something she just gets up and leaves and at that moment I immediately realise that I have done something wrong. So you do learn from them. When I am watching the episodes in the night she will voice her opinion or is glued to the sets and then subtly I ask her questions.
When we did Chhoti Bahu... Sindoor Bin Suhaagan my maid would never leave nor getup from her seat till the show got over. When we were casting for Dev I actually asked a girl from my office before finalizing Avinash Sachdev. We had a Muslim girl, Nafisa in my office who would come wearing a burkha and then change while working. She would come to help make tea and all... so we asked her to select the guy but she was shy and after much persuasion she pointed at one picture and it clicked. So lot of times you should get their opinion and they help you to think what is right and what is wrong.
How is the response to Ek Nanad Ki Khushiyon ki Chaabi... Meri Bhabhi?
The response to ...Meri Bhabhi is good and people are liking it. The story is opening up and it has become interesting for the viewers. We are expecting lot of tough competition so we are going to be at it.
Whether it is ...Meri Bhabhi or Bade Acche Lagte Hain or Jee Le Zara... we are seeing a lot of mature love stories? Do you think the trend is changing?
I think today people want to see all sorts of characters on TV, whereas earlier it was only about one type. Today it is 2-3 different type of ideas which are floating... I think the trend on TV is always to be realistic. It had as it yet not found a place on TV because till now we believed it was not right. Every story of a woman must find a space on TV.
Taking Parvarish off air was a channel decision. Maybe the channel didn't want it to deteriorate, and take it off air when it was doing well and maybe they want us to come back with another thought. Maybe they want us to revamp the show but I don't know about it at this moment. I know it was an amazing show and to be honest it haunts me every single day. It is one of the first show that depicted the parenting on Indian TV in a daily soap format which was entertaining as well. People still ask me about it since it has affected them. It they remember it even now then you can gauge its success. Whatever happens, happens for good.
We are developing another show, something for Disney. It is a show for teenagers and it is a format that we are adapting is all I can say. Also we will be back with something on Sony TV
Seema Khot Mattoo