20 Nov 2017
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The man behind the two-show-a-year production house

MUMBAI: Saurabh Tewari is a popular name in the Indian television industry, thanks to such shows as ‘Madhubala: Ek Ishq Ek Junoon’, ‘Rangrasiya’ and ‘Mehak’. His new show ‘Ghulam’ (on Life OK) has attracted eyeballs due to its hard-hitting subject.

Starting his career in 1999 in advertising, Tewari shifted his allegiance to television in 2003. He started out by writing stories for shows such as the courtroom drama ‘Siddhanth’ on Star One. In 2006, he joined Zee as AVP of programming and moved on to Viacom18 after two years. He was part of Colors’ start-up team and headed the channel’s content division. He oversaw the launch of shows like ‘Balika Vadhu’, ‘Na Aana Is Desh Laado’ and more.

In 2012, he floated his own production house named Parin Multimedia. Regarding his stint as a TV executive, he says that the experience helped him immensely in starting his own company. “The contacts I made and the learning I had when working at Zee and Colors really helped. At Colors, I had worked with several research and marketing people. I greatly benefited from the experience in terms of understanding audience profiles, different kinds of content, ratings and more,” he says.

Unlike other production houses, Parin Multimedia hasn’t been very prolific because the producer has consciously limited the output to two shows a year. Explaining the rationale, Tewari says, “We don’t want to do a lot of shows in a year; we want to do good, memorable shows. I like to keep it simple. The two shows that we do a year help us keep a tab on the quality of each product. I like to concentrate on one show at a time in order to come up with something really new. Creating too many shows may work for other companies, but I am comfortable limiting myself to two shows a year.”

For Tewari, offering novel content is the need of the hour. This content can span diverse genres, themes or topics, but it has to be narrated in a new and clutter-breaking way.

“These days, there are 50–60 shows on air on different channels. We have no other choice but to offer unique concepts in this clutter. Playing safe in today’s atmosphere is the most unsafe thing. We try our best to come up with creative content, and with the advent of digital, it has got really competitive. Moreover, with content getting compared not only in the national market but also internationally, we need to be on our toes,” he adds.

Speaking of international markets, the producer has struck gold with ‘Ghulam’, which is currently running on Life OK and is doing quite well in the overseas market. Work on ‘Ghulam’ started a year back, when Life OK was shifting its focus to more male-centric content. That was when the channel briefed the producer about a show based on a real-life incident.

“The channel wanted to produce a show that dramatised real-life stories with darker themes. Being from Northern India, both my writer and I were familiar with incidents that were quite edgy and brutal. We decided to handpick such an incident and set it in a fictitious town, which was how the name ‘Berhampur’ came into being. Though the place is fictitious, the incidents are real. They are inspired by real incidents, and as we started developing, the characters also started emerging.”

Considering the overall bleakness of the theme, one of the challenges for the producer is to sustain the entertainment quotient of the show. Writing gets tricky as they need to strike a right balance between the quirkiness and edginess of the characters. “Things get difficult especially when we try to push the envelope. We have to go back to the drawing board, thinking of ways to balance it out. We try our best to keep the entertainment quotient intact. It is important to foreground the entertainment factor when you are narrating a dark story. That is one reason why the characters have worked and we have received good response.”

Moreover, there is the challenge posed by the production scale as they have to shoot every new sequence at a new set every alternate day. “Since it is the story of a fictitious place, our sets differ for every new sequence. It’s unlike a regular drama show, where the set is one particular house. Besides, it is exhausting both from the shooting perspective and from the writing perspective as we do it non-stop for months, but that is also the fun part as the whole crew is in it together,” Tewari explains.

The producer is not burdened with the production cost as he has the full support of the broadcaster. “It is impossible if you don’t have the broadcaster’s support, and right from the day the show was conceived, we knew what we were getting into. Things have always been under control,” he says.

Like every other production house this day, Tewari is also interested in riding the OTT wave and hopes to create shows for the digital medium in the future. Nothing has been finalised yet, but he has plans to produce a show for a digital platform this year. Until that happens, his focus will be on ‘Ghulam’.