Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Producer Rajan Shahi: Industry pundits foretold Anupamaa won’t pull through, proved them wrong

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Rajan Shahi, the man behind television’s biggest daily soaps including Anupamaa, and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, opens up in an exclusive chat with The Pioneer about breaking stereotypes, themes, Bollywood’s renowned director Mahesh Bhatt being his mentor, and more.

Shikha Duggal

The wisest producer in the television industry Rajan Shahi is so sentimental about his mother Deepa Shahi that he added panache to his soap-operas for the sake of his mother.
The ongoing serial Anupamaa, produced by him truly shows his love and care for his mother’s feelings.He also disclosed his mother’s Telugu roots that we’ll be exploring further in the interview. Still, let’s not forget we are speaking to the top producer of the television fraternity at the moment and he gives us awareness about what goes on behind the screens, his serial ranking number one on the TRP charts and addresses the controversies also surrounding the show.

“I am in the television industry for the past 31 years — I had complete credo in the script of Anupamaa. I am known for creating shows that break stereotypes. Started with a simple textured show and here we are with a trending serial. Even so, the first show touched upon the colorism issue, and presently, we are dealing with a homemaker showing so much courage. Changed the dynamics of star plus, because many of my shows were charting the TRP list! We have seen a transition now: dialogues have ethics, the camera isn’t the one acting now and we hardly see netizens mocking the television fraternity now.

Mediocrity has changed,” asserts the producer who owns Director’s Kut Production.
Talking of the themes he’s willing to spark a debate from, he continued, “I don’t go for the subjects that’s rocket science. It’s time for us to address human emotions. Again broke the trend and saw Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai running for more than 14 years, it’s still on the air. I still remember, industry pundits, predicting that my ongoing show won’t be able to revive the television industry, especially amidst the coronavirus.They told she was an average-looking woman, how will she survive? Post the weekly report, what happened was unimaginable: it received international acclaim to going on to become a trendsetter. Television is no more at its low with a serial like this!”

Mahesh Bhatt was his mentor and he taught him to primarily focus on characterisation, and not a dramatic spectacle. “Everyone is running behind love stories. What I felt was, why can’t a middle-aged woman fall in love again? There is an Anupamaa within every household, we just don’t let her come to the forefront. My writer is also very sensible, he is not into the superficial world and hence he could pen the dialogues with honesty.”

Chatting about casting the lead, he revealed, “The whole cast is hand-picked by me. People find Rupali Ganguly synonymous with a comical side but I have a different avatar of hers in 1999. It was me who gave a break to Rupali! Post her first stint, she moved on, became even more famous, got married, and took a sabbatical then. Because of this, Rupali never struck my mind. On the other hand, she came to know that I was looking for my lead actress, and she sent me a video from Goa.

That’s when I realised this is my Anupamaa! Was meeting her after years, her physicality totally matched my character and she was vulnerable now. Another thing that struck the chord with me was the reality: even Rupali despite being the most successful television actress went on a break just for her family. That’s my Anupamaa, again. The experiences were turning real. I didn’t even speak to the channel, took her look test shoot, and the channel was locked without auditioning. In the history of the television channel, this had never happened before when a look test was taken ahead for the promotions of a new show. Let me disclose something today: it’s my mother who is the official producer of Anupamaa and not me because this serial was an ode to her.”

Coming back to his mother’s southern roots, he discloses, “My maternal grandfather was from Telangana, he arrived in Mumbai and went ahead with his first film in 1929. He started acting in innumerable silent films, and won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1981. My mother is a “Naidu”, she has Telangana roots completely. She saw her dad winning a lifetime achievement award, and then his name appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records too. The whole screening of his life was presented in a Hyderabadi auditorium, none of us can forget that moment.”

Addressing the controversies, he exclaimed, “I don’t bother about what Paras Kalnavat went ahead spoke in the media glare, majority of it is untrue. On the other hand, when one of the team members brought an article to me stating that Rupali Ganguly is the highest-paid television actress presently, I burst into laughter. I never revealed it!

It’s all done to create hype, and it’s the actor’s manager. Our leads do not like to make it known about such intricate details. Reading such articles, even my actors laugh it out back on the sets. Media knows I don’t talk about “actors creating issues”, it was very sad of Paras to create untrue headlines. Sometimes, where a producer derives a drawback is when media is only interested in “what happened with the actor.” Who will count the maker’s perspective? The worst hea dlines are when the journalists take resort of the tag “quit” — the majority of my actors never quit, I ask them to leave.”

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