It was clearly my first defining moment. About nine months later, I took up a job with MTV. It was the schooling ground for me in media. I joined as production assistant but the content bug had bitten me. I graduated to directing my own shows. I think Cyrus Broacha was the one who made a star out of me. One day, the director didn't turn up when we were shooting with Cyrus and Lata Mangeshkar. They looked around and Cyrus said, 'Deepak, why don't you direct the interview?' Cyrus couldn't talk in Hindi, while Lataji didn't want to speak in English. I had this fun interview to start with and did it for four years.
Later, I joined a competing brand, Channel V, in 2000-01. I went on to do Pop Stars, the first reality show in India. It was about creating stars out of commoners. I personally directed two seasons of Pop Stars, which gave us bands like Viva and Aasma. The fear of unknown territory excites me. There were queues of people for auditions and, at times, we didn't know what to do with them.
I remember the first day of auditions when we were filming and I had no clue as to what to make out of the videos. I was updating Sameer Nair, then CEO, over an SMS from Chandigarh. Back came a reply that I will never forget. It read: "Deepak, remember, the show is not about auditions, it is about emotions." That hit the nail on the head. I made every girl 'cry' on that show. It became a soap series at the end of it, but was a great journey of coming of age for the girls. That was another defining moment for me.
Six years on I realised that I needed something more. My taste in music had also changed. Star was in the process of launching Star One, where I was absorbed. I ended up producing The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. It was the first stand-up comedy show but we had no clue if five stand-up comedians could make for a show.
I went to Delhi to get Navjot Sidhu on the show and the one thing that he suggested editing was the name of the show. It was earlier called 'The Great Indian Comedy Hunt'. Sidhu wanted it to be a laughter show and he surely made it one. That was truly a defining moment.
We had five back-to-back seasons of Laughter Challenge and I grew out of comedy. I left STAR as it could have only given me an opportunity to produce one show a year. My DNA is to juggle five or six balls at the same time. I was looking for opportunities, when Rajesh Kamat left STAR to join a brand called Endemol and he asked me if I wanted to take a shot at it. Nair taught me entertainment and Kamat taught me the business of entertainment.
Nair taught me about prime time content and Kamat taught me how to make commercial sense out of it. We started by taking Big Brother to many broadcasters, but people trashed it saying, "13 people in a house, how do you think will that make for content?" Finally, Sony happened and later, Colors. Big Brother turned to Big Boss, Fear Factor to Khatron Ke Khiladi. Since then it's been one show after the other.