Saurabh Tewari, the creative genius behind the two popular shows on Colors - Madhubala - Ek Ishq Ek Junoon and Rangrasiya is suddenly in news after his split from Nautanki Films which he had started with partner Abhinav Shukla. While there has been much speculation about the reason for the split, Saurabh clears the air and talks about his new company Tequilla Shots, his equation now with Abhinav and also tells us as to what happens next.
So we hear that you are ready to announce your new production house. Tell us more about it.
Well as you know, I have named my company Tequila Shots and we will be making an official announcement about this soon. There will be investors to put in finances but there are no partners with me. I wanted to do this and do it to see whether I can pull it off and suddenly I have a new challenge.
The name is quite different and interesting. How did you come up with it?
Nautanki too was a very atrangi name but we are in a profession where we have to catch the attention so whether it is a new subject or a name I feel that the first communication has to be bang on and it has to register with your target audience. We thought of the name Dramebaaz too but then that is an extension of Nautanki so how is it different? The other day I was sitting at home and glanced at the bottle of Tequilla in my bar and I thought of naming my new company Tequilla Shots and the name was heavily criticized by 20 out of 30 people I share my thoughts with. They outright rejected it with a very strong reason for doing so and that is when I felt that if just this name has evoked this emotion in someone then it has to be worth it since if I had kept a simple name no one would have thought of me twice. So for me it is the same whether I write a story, or a concept it has to create an emotional connect, so from day one we are starting on a high which is great way to start.
What are the projects you are working on now for Tequilla Shots?
For Tequilla Shots, I am working on two TV shows, one a love story and one a social drama which will launch soon and a feature film which will go on floors in November and the casting is in process. I am still debating whether I should start with one or two shows since everything is still on a discussion level. However, I would like to clarify that I will also be available exclusively for Madhubala and Rangrasiya and even if I start a new show on a competitive channel the timing of my new shows will not clash with these two shows.
Will you have the same team with you working on the new shows too?
Yes, I have my own group of people who are all freelancers and have worked with me for years now. There is Sumeet Chaudhary Saincher who will work on my new feature film as the executive producer, my team of writers like Gautam Hegde, Raghuvir Shekhawat, Shivani Shah, Mukta Dhond, etc., and director Siddharth Sengupta amongst others who will be working with me now on the future projects. My wife Vibha who has written the lyrics for the title songs for Madhubala and Do Dil Ek Jaan will continue writing the lyrics for my new shows too, so I have quite a strong support in these people.
Can you please throw some light on the arrangement between you and Nautanki Films?
All the creative on both the shows are 100 % mine. When we decided to split all the three parties concerned which is me, Abhinav and Colors came to the conclusion that since we both had started these two shows together so we will continue doing exactly what we were doing till now but later projects we will not do together. So Abhinav continues handling the production and operational side of it and I continue with my creative aspect so all the script, story and vision of the show will be mine whereas he will handle the production but because I am out of the company I have no financial stake in Nautanki Films now so the profits and losses in terms of numbers will be Abhinav's. Job profile wise, role wise, responsibility wise everything stays the same, so it is more of a financial business arrangement rather than a change in the working pattern.
There was news that you both may split the shows with one show going to each one of you. Is that happening?
No. Today if I or Abhinav move out of the show it will not be technically or ethically correct because both the shows started with both of us we are here to take both the shows to their culmination end together till they are on air. Madhubala was Prashant Bhatt's idea and he had just told me that he wanted a story on Bollywood and a girl who wants to become a film heroine and then I developed the story and the plot whereas Rangrasiya everything right from the story, the concept, the plot was mine. However, if given an option leaving Madhubala would have been painful for me too since one fine day you just cannot cut something in two parts and I know that the division has been as painful to Abhinav as much as it has been to me.
So we discussed three options - what if we split the shows, what if Abhinav takes over both the shows and I continue as a creative consultant on the shows and the third option was what if we continue this thing and we handle our individual departments and our profiles remain the same and I work in the capacity of a co-producer and not consultant but we work out a financial arrangement which will be more of just paper work and will not affect the company as such and after much discussion we decided to go along with the third one.
What lead to the split between you and Abhinav?
The decision to split was entirely mine and I decided to move out. Recently there was a baseless article which said that the split happened due to some land scam and all but there is no iota of truth in that. I have immense respect, attachment and regards for Rajeevji (Rajeev Shukla) and Anuradhaji (Anuradha Prasad) of BAG Films. No journalist can drag parents in something like this without knowing the facts.
Having said that I would like to tell you that since the past six months I realized that when it came to the vision to run the company, (and not the vision to run the shows) we both had totally different visions which we realised only after we spent two years together. We were debating and have differences on an operational level and after some point I started feeling that what Abhinav has been saying is correct on his part and nobody is right or wrong and he had a strong opinion on something which even I had. When these things start growing and affect your working style it is important that one person takes the initiative to withdraw. We had managed to see success together and create the brand and it was important to survive separately otherwise one day it would have blasted and become dirty. I wanted to finish the film 21 topon ki Salaami which we did in January.
It was not Abhinav's problem but my adjustment issues since I have this fundamental issue that someone who controls the money should not get into the creative aspect and the creative person should be allowed to independently run the company. How much it is practically possible is a different thing but then you cannot blame the other person since that's my vision and just as I have this vision the other person too has a right to have some other vision and outright to say no to my vision. So I decided that I should be responsible for the profits and losses of the company and run it independently.
So it has been an amicable separation?
It was a peaceful separation. However, if there were never any issues we would have never separated so there must be something somewhere so all the debates and discussion were very much there but it never became ugly. Even today me and Abhinav pick up the phone to talk and discuss work related matters but I will not deny that there is an uncomfortable phase between us which is not unnatural but we are getting over it.
You seem to love challenges... you quit Zee TV to move on to Colors which you then quit to join Imagine before turning into a producer with Nautanki with Abhinav and now launching a new company again. How does it feel coming out of your comfort zone yet again?
Nautanki was in a normal space where Abhinav and I would have sat down and sorted our disputes and start a new show too but then there was no fun and I will be very blunt in saying that I wanted to run the company 100 % my way. I was not okay with the way it was working but that doesn't mean that the way Abhinav was functioning was wrong. Two people have two different styles of working and difference of opinion and with due respect the way he was running the company it was perfectly fine and nothing wrong in it but I wanted to run it too! I have reached that space where I am done with working as a programming person, then in a secured job, then as a producer where I wanted to test whether I could translate my vision into something or not, then sitting across the table as a channel person which is something else altogether and now I wanted to see whether I will be able to handle the entire finance and all on my own. In all these years I have never got into profit and loss or balance sheet but now I am learning and I love to learn.
Suddenly for the past 15 days since I am in the process of forming this company I realised that there were 10 different forms that I need to fill and register which earlier I never actually cared about and I give entire credit to Abhinav for that since all these things never reached me and I was concentrating only on the creative aspects of the show. Now I start my day talking to my CA and lawyer discussing and taking decisions but then it is okay since it is important to do this too.
Well, we wish Saurabh all the very best in his new venture and hope to see him unleash his creativity to entertain the audience in his new shows.
Seema Khot Mattoo