Sohini Sen

TV.NXT 2014: The worlds of TV, cinema and advertising

Prasoon Joshi and Abhinay Deo discuss passion, commitment and challenges in their fields.

It is not every day that Prasoon Joshi - the man with the magic words - sits and chats with Abhinay Deo, the man behind 24 and many other successes. It was a heartfelt, non-restrictive chat about creativity, films, advertising and what exactly their passion is. As a grand finale of this year's TV.NXT 2014, one couldn't have asked for more.

TV.NXT 2014: The worlds of TV, cinema and advertising

Roshan Abbas, managing director, Encompass Events, played host as Joshi, chairman and chief creative officer, McCann Worldgroup India and president, South Asia struck up a conversation with the founder of Ramesh Deo Productions.

The conversation started with Joshi talking about his passion and how sometimes the longest of projects are the ones closest to his heart. He explained that 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag', the biopic about India's star athlete Milkha Singh was something he had pursued for two long years. And therefore, it came from his heart.

Is there a difference between creating for screen and creating for brands? Joshi's reply is a mysterious 'yes - and no'. While passion and self-expression is necessary for success in both, there is an evident intruding characteristic in advertising. "Imagine the two of us talking about something. And in comes a third person, cutting us off mid-conversation. We will listen to him only if he is worth it and his story is interesting. Otherwise, we will just be irritated and angry. So it is with advertising where we interrupt something the viewer wants to watch. What we say then has to be worthy of the interruption," he advised.

He explained that in an earlier time, when people had fewer choices, they were mesmerised more by the medium. And were ready to go out and watch a Tagore classic converted into a movie. But now with so much on offer, it is a satiated society. So, it is a thoughtful decision to go out and watch a movie. One chooses it himself, while advertising is thrust upon him.

But is the creativity which is present in advertising, missing when it comes to making content for TV or cinema? Is there actually someone holding a gun to directors' heads, asking for better numbers and profitability?

Deo did not think so. His show, 24, which had a successful season on Colors, was an awakening of sorts for the television industry. According to Deo, Colors understood that they were trying to make something totally different, an experiment which will make both viewers and advertisers view TV content differently. With its quality of production, narration and marketing, 24 created a new, fresh way of looking at television.

Joshi also discussed how television thrives on habits formed and relationships created. He spoke about shows such as Game of Thrones, House of Cards and True Detectives which enjoy a huge fan base by creating familiarity with the characters.

Roshan Abbas let the cat out of the bag when he spoke about the weekly ratings. According to Abbas, it is the suspended reality when every Wednesday broadcasters go into a tizzy thinking of the numbers of in anticipation thereof. Joshi, however, felt differently and expressed himself by saying that television has a way of dumbing down society. He believes that people who want simplistic things are more in number. Joshi also opined that excellence dies when greed kicks in before its time.

Deo spoke about the way western TV viewing habits and technology have changed the way we look at television now. While in film school everyone was taught that TV is a medium for closeups, new shows - including Deo's own 24 - had a lot of long, wide and super-wide shots.

One of the points that both speakers and the anchor agreed to was that writers for television are often not duly acknowledged or paid. The problem here lies with the fact that people are interested in the meat once it is fully cooked, while the writer is involved right from the conception stage.

Joshi pointed out that had he not been employed, it wouldn't have been possible for him to invest his two years into writing Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The truth is that a writer's family will not survive on words alone. Therefore, it is not surprising if writers lose interest when payments come late, or if the project takes too long. What does a writer actually get paid annually? "It starts as a Catch 22 situation, where the loop keeps getting bigger and bigger. What it boils down to is the fact that you need to pay them for their time and, two, you need to pay them for research. For us, in six months we write 24 episodes while a big production house would have written 100 or so episodes," pointed out Deo.

Taking questions from the audience, the duo explained that India does not lack good writers. While a Banegi Apni Baat or Karamchand worked earlier, no one makes such shows anymore. That, according to them, is because instead of telling stories, the industry is now in the business of creating rubber bands. A few shows like 24 and Yudh are examples of a finite series and that is where the future is headed.

Making money while you are sleeping has become the mantra, felt Joshi. He ended the discussion with an open question to everyone, asking if the cultural impact was important earlier, why has that gone missing today? Why are numbers and ratings creating more news than necessary?

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