"When Ishqbaaaz was extended to an hour, we had to face big challenges" - Lalit Mohan

The director of renowned shows like Geet Hui Sabse Parai, Qubool Hai and others talks about camera angles, TRPs and his dreams.

Thursday, September 14, 2017 | 3:06:09 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Lalit Mohan, the director of Star Plus' mega show Ishqbaaaz, has achieved some major milestones in his career including the likes of Qubool Hai and Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon among others. 

Lalit became an assistant director in 2004 and ever since, things have been on a rise for him. He has had a hand in creating some immensely popular mainstream love stories, before donning the directors cap in 2007.

We at India-Forums, sat down Lalit and got him to talk about his journey so far in the entertainment industry. 

Tell us about your journey so far and the work you've done till date.

I started my career in 2004 as an Assistant Director and in 2007 I turned a Director. It's been 10 years of working continuously ever since. I started my career as a director with Bidaai and then directed some mainstream love stories on TV like Geet Hui Sabse Parayi, Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, Qubool Hai, Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil and now Ishqbaaaz.

You've directed some of the most iconic shows on television. How does it feel when your shows are critically acclaimed?

I think it is all the hard work that pays off, so that is what I believe in. 
Whatever effort you put into your work, it is always visible on the screen and nothing goes in vain.

How do you receive and put to use any suggestions coming from the actors as far as direction is concerned?

I never ignore any kind of suggestion from any of my actors. I always make sure I listen. I consider the suggestion and think about it from the script point of view. I try to picture if it fits the scene and whether I should incorporate it or not. I see the suggestion in totality. If it fits the picture, I put it to use, irrespective of where the suggestion is coming from.

A director is known as the captain of the ship and it is the director who holds the entire show together. How do you deal with all the pressure on the personal front?

On the personal front, it is very taxing. Everyday, I go home, lock myself in a room and sit alone for two hours. I listen to some music or just see something on TV. For that period of time, I don't talk to anyone else. 

The entire day, I have around 100 people who are blabbering each and every second about work. I have to keep a tab on the scene and the schedule constantly and handle around 20 actors in one frame for about 25 to 30 minutes. And I am also the person who is responsible for the quality of content that is being created, to deliver the episode on time, aim to fetch the desired TRPs and also have to save the producer's time and money. There is a lot of anxiety that prevails throughout the day, but at night I spend some 'me time' and think things through.

Often, shows lose out on a lot because they are being watched on mediums other than TV, thereby leading to the show being shut. What is your take on that?

Well, I think that a show should be watched on the medium that it has been created for, films too for that matter. When we begin to find substitutes for the medium, it spoils the essence of the show altogether. For instance, people watch pirated films and that is not a right practice. If someone is watching my show on YouTube or any other medium, I think it is wrong. If a show that is being produced for Netflix is being downloaded and seen somewhere else, then it will be wrong because the makers, broadcasters, producers and the channel put in lot of efforts and invest a huge amount of money as well.

Do actors give a tough time to the director? How is it like dealing with them?

Umm, actors tough time directors ko nahin, script ko dete hai. There isn't really any scope for the directors having a tough time, because they are thorough with the script and know what is it that we want from their actors. It gets tough when the director is not clear about the script and is not able to answer any questions or doubts that the actor has regarding the script. 

The entire Ishqbaaaz crew pampers you a lot. How does it feel?

I think I am very lucky to have these kind of people around me because they really pamper me a lot. Right from my first show, I've been really fortunate. Be it any show - Humsafar, Ishqbaaaz, Suvreen Guggal, Qubool Hai or Humse Hai Life, I've indeed got the most wonderful cast always. 

What genre do you think you fit the best in? Is there anything you'll like to explore?

I like emotions. Romcoms are easy and I think they are effective as well. But it is not like I don't like challenges. Emotional scenes and scenes with extreme dramatic impact, are way more challenging to do than they look. 

You are known to be the 'baap of romance'... 

However, I think I am done with romance now and have to go beyond that. I'd like to do something which has a totally mind boggling script and concept, something that will make me work very hard. 

There is a trend of web series going on. So will we see you doing one anytime soon?

I think I am in a very happy space doing Television right now, and obviously it is a bigger space than cinema and the web. So until and unless the web crosses and takes over the TV space, I'll stick to TV. Also, my producers have always given me the liberty to direct scenes in my own way. People keep saying that they get a lot of liberty when doing a web series. Par woh liberty mujhe yahan par hi mill rahi hai. Woh Rs.10 lakh ke 4 episode banate hai toh mai Rs.10 lakh ka roz ek episode banata hun. So in terms of budget and everything else, I am in a good space right now. Yes, but if it is for something as huge as Netflix or Amazon, I might have second thoughts about doing them.

The air time for Ishqbaaaz was extended from 30 mins to 1 hour. How have you been dealing with all the pressure of making an episode and executing it?

(Laughs) Kabhi cooker ki seeti dekhi hai, jab bajti hai aur udke gir jaati hai? When Ishqbaaaz became an one hour show, this is exactly what happened to me. I took almost 5 - 6 days to study and observe the speed of the actors, the team, the writer and everything. It was after this that we planned things like how we needed multiple cameras (upto 5). Then it became easy after 4-5 days as we fell into the groove of working, but the initial 4 days were very stressful. 

Ishqbaaaz has created a niche with the camera angles and the concept of keeping the empty space has been received well. How did that happen?

I was actually bored of placing the same camera every time with the same stories and the same emotions. Most of the stories were also the same, so we had to treat them differently. So, I thought that if there are three brothers and there was a 'body', 'mind' and 'soul' already to the concept, the love stories (which always do start on the same page) had to be treated differently and then decided to play with the camera instead. I did not want to keep the same old center frame, do something abrupt, something that would look a little 'mad' and hence, decided to tilt the camera a little and make things work.

And how did people receive this new framing? 

The most important reaction for me was that of Gul Ma'am (Gul Khan) and once she saw the frame, she said, "Okayy. This is Mindblowing." And my job was done. I didn't really care about what people thought about me or told me. People did bash me obviously, some technicians even made fun of me and remarked about the placement, the lightings and a lot many things. But after two months, everyone told me that they too want this frame.

If you had to list your most favourite as well as difficult scenes from Ishqbaaaz, which ones would they be?

Well, it is quite difficult to list down a few scenes, since I've directed more than 4000-5000 scenes for the show. But, if I had to name a few, one of the most affectionate scenes for me would be of the three brothers - Shivaay (Nakuul Mehta), Rudra (Leenesh Mattoo) and Omkara (Kunal Kulbhushan Jaisingh) are returning home after fighting in a pub and Anika (Surbhi Chandna) in bringing chocolates for her younger brother Sahil, when Shivaay's car runs over them. Anika, who has never cried in front of anyone ,hides in a corner and cries because she has nothing to give to Sahil now. That was one of the purest emotions that I had managed to direct and also one of my favourite scenes.

Another would be Shivaay and Anika's marriage where Anika slaps Shivaay in anger, following which the latter turns crazy and drags Anika into the room and tells her, "Kapde badal le, varna mein badal dunga". And after that, Anika runs away while Shivaay blasts a car in which Anika thinks Sahil is sitting. After that Shivaay makes Anika feel better by saying that Sahil is going to be totally fine. Shivaay then drags Anika to the mandap and forcefully fills her maang. That is yet another beautiful scene.

Irrespective of the TRPs, the love for both Ishqbaaaz and Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon? has been immense. But, at the end of the day TRPs do matter. What do you want to say about it?

I don't really know what to say here. Everyone works throughout the year and when the results aren't good, we do feel bad, it is obvious. Everyone is working so much, but when we do not fetch the desired numbers, it is disheartening. But at the same time, we do realize that at the end of the day, we are working passionately and very hard. So we motivate ourselves to do better next time.

There have been a lot of rumours and controversies pertaining both the shows. Do they in any manner affect you or your team?

No, I don't think such issues make a lot of difference to me because I've gone through this phase a lot of times. When Karan Singh Grover left Qubool Hai, there were a lot of rumours about the show being shut and the production house getting a letter from the channel about the same, with the off-air date as well. It is almost the same thing that happened then, which is happening right now. But at the end, Qubool Hai did work for 2 and a half years after this incident. So yes, I have seen it and that was much bigger than this one. Nothing major happened, Raqesh Vasishth Bapat joined the show... Karanvir Bohra aya...and the show kept going on.

Qubool Hai saw a change of three actors. How is it keeping up with them and how do you have to change your mindset?

Well, that is obviously a lot of homework. While Raqesh had only replaced Karan Singh Grover's character of Asad Ahmed Khan, there wasn't much re-working that was needed. But with Karanvir, the character of Aahil was totally new and it was designed in a totally new manner. So yes, there are certain things one needs to adapt to and alter with the change of actors.

With so many characters on board, there must be a lot to be worked upon the way every characters appear on-screen. What is your plan of action for that?

See, initially, there is a lot of hard work that the director has to put in. Talking about Ishqbaaaz, I wasn't just a part of the show from the time we started shooting, I have been a part of the entire story development, casting and look designing as well. I was also present at the auditions and I had my characters designed in my mind very clearly. It is like reading through the script and visualizing things in your mind. And what you visualize, you present on the screen.

You deal with all the pressure very calmly. How do you manage to do that?

Well, it hasn't been this way since always. Earlier, I used to break the hand mics. I would be called into the office and be shown all the mics that I had broken in that month. It were these very shows, the same producers and the same team. There was this one time when I was shooting for Qubool Hai at Taj Mahal and Gorky Sir and the entire team made me promise to not break even a single mic. Over there, we hadn't started the shoot till 3 in the evening and I had almost picked up the mic and was about to throw it, but I held it in my hand and just dropped it without breaking it. And I felt so calm after doing that, that I haven't till date, broken a single hand mic on Ishqbaaaz. It was from then that I have suffered soft anger and it is mad, but I am content now.

What is that one power that you have as a director? 

The power? That would be the director's IQ and his vision. A director should be able to visualize and imagine, If a director does not have it, there is nothing else that matters. 

As a director of such huge shows, what is that one factor that keeps you going?

Ambition. It is the ambition and the passion for work that I have. Everyone has this fear that they should not dissolve in the water. Everyone wants to be the wave that keeps moving. But until they hit the rock bottom, one should move ahead with all the force to keep moving. And moreover, there are dreams and desires yet to be fulfilled and there's a lot yet to come.

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Posted on: 17 September 2017 at 8:32pm
Got a peek into the mind of the artist behind the camera. Thanks IF. Lalit Mohan, you are doing a wonderful job in Ishqbaaaz.

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Posted on: 15 September 2017 at 11:44pm
Very well written piece! Flows beautifully! Congratulations Sanchita Jhunjhunwala for bringing out this side of Lalit.

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Posted on: 15 September 2017 at 10:39am
LM love u loads... If only u had more say in the story too... The current show wud hv been great... Nonetheless looking forward to watching ur non romance show

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Posted on: 15 September 2017 at 9:28am
Wonderful article. Loved reading the insight of the man that brings such wonderful visuals to screen and Lalit Mohan has done a tremendous job at it.
I'm confused as to what was meant by the "different framing/camera angles" and the "concept of empty spaces" though.

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Posted on: 15 September 2017 at 7:44am
Nice Article but why not Tag Kunal kulbhushan jaisingh can't understand.

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Posted on: 15 September 2017 at 12:29am
Lalit Sir ki Jai Ho!!
This I/V is definitely an inspiration to a lot of ppl :) Gotta love the last question!
Thank you for this, IF!

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Posted on: 14 September 2017 at 12:59pm
That's such a nice interview. Lalit mohan is such a great director. I like his ambitious nature :)

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Posted on: 14 September 2017 at 12:07pm
Sadly the story has lost direction and loses sync when dealing with two locations!!!!

His direction is great though!!!!

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Posted on: 14 September 2017 at 10:51am
Miss iss pyar ko and sarun so much...thankful to you for directing such a get barun sobti and sanaya Irani...

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Posted on: 14 September 2017 at 9:46am
I respect this man so much! The fact that I can recognize exactly when he's directing vs when he isn't n feel disappointed when the latter happens has never happened with me before. Lalit Mohan is hands down one of the best directors of indian television!

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angelorpari, -Urmi-, swriter, --Nargis--

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