Sinha saw his first movie when he was all of two days old.
Films have since been an obsession for him. Born into a "filmi
family",- they owned a cinema hall in Patna - Sinha always
wanted to be a director. So after graduation in English Literature
from the prestigious Hindu College, the first thing he did
was take a train to Mumbai and start assisting his uncle,
filmmaker Shivendra Sinha. He however soon came to the conclusion
that training under someone could be no substitute to a specialised
course. Hence, after "wasting a year" as he puts
it, he joined the Film and Television Institute of India in
Pune. He passed out with a first in 1977 and returned to Mumbai
to pursue his career.
the next few years, there was not much heard from Sinha until
Hai Zindagi happened.
The dawn of colour TV in India is synonymous with this serial.
Such was its popularity that cinema halls would run empty
on Friday nights. Seventeen years after
Sinha is back with another comedy - Yeh
Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan
- on Zee TV, which is in its first weeks on air. In between
Sinha has to his credit several ad-films and a series of one-hour
stories on Zee - Rishtey.
drew you to direction?
Well, I was born into a film family. We were into exhibition
of films and later ventured into distribution and even production
of some Bhojpuri films. So, the interest in the medium was
there right from the start. Then, in my formative years at
Sainik School, Tilayia, we used to have regular screenings
of movies and thankfully the principal there was a person
who had a fair knowledge of the medium. He would brief us
about the film before each screening and this facilitated
an easy understanding and led to greater interest in movies.
I think all these factors contributed towards my decision
later to become a director.
But did you always want to be a director? After all, children
are normally fascinated by the idea of being actors.
Always. This is because I realised that whenever I had to
perform on stage, I was uncomfortable. But I was a good visualiser
and would manage things quite well without actually coming
into the picture. In fact I've recently found an old diary
of mine from when I was in Std. 8 where I've written I wanted
to be a director.
What are the natural instincts that a director needs to
Basically, a director needs to be a good observer, a thinker.
He needs to be a leader of men without making it obvious to
people working with him. He needs to be a people's man because
filmmaking is all about teamwork.
How do you look back to Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi?
When YJHZ happened, TV was just about taking off in
India and most people were apprehensive about entering the
medium. In fact we ourselves weren't sure about how different
the technicalities would be in shooting a serial as opposed
to a film. I remember a lot of jokes about Kundan Shah and
me were doing the rounds in those days. But yes, there was
a freshness involved in the task. The entire crew - actors,
writers and cameramen - were extremely committed and determined.
They all worked with a lot of passion and the end result is
there for everyone to see. In fact later - my assistants,
the writer - all have tried to create something similar but
the success of YJHZ remains unmatched.
different is it making a serial now compared to back then
with respect to work schedules, the actors, their availability
days can never come back. Then, we used to shoot one episode
in approximately three and a half days. I still take two days
to shoot one episode though there are directors who even try
and complete two episodes a day. Sincerity and dedication
is lacking now. Then actors would work on a single project,
now they do half a dozen of them simultaneously. They fit
in two to three shifts a day and are always in a hurry. When
this happens, performances are bound to decline.
always been very selective about your work. Don't you feel
you got left behind in the rat race?
No, I don't.
Money has never been my top priority. In any case, do you
think those directors who are supposedly directing three to
four serials simultaneously are actually present during the
shoot? I don't want to be a 'series' director. I am proud
of all my work and am involved with it in every possible way.
In fact the only reason I became a producer was because I
realised that the product which was the result of my hard
labour was not being handled well at the last stage. It was
not being marketed the right way or given to the right channel.
As a producer I have complete control over my product.
Any specific reason why you've specialised in comedy?
No. I would love to direct a soap. But not everybody
can handle comedy well. The channels know it very well
and hence after YJHZ everybody wanted me do a
comedy. It wasn't a conscious choice.
difficult or easy is it do direct a comedy compared to a soap?
is the toughest. The control required is immense and it has
to be handled intelligently. A slight slip in control can
make comedy appear inane.
is also tough simply because our culture is not steeped in
humour except maybe to an extent Marathi culture. The psyche
of Indian viewers is such that they enjoy watching emotional
upheavels more than watching comedy. As a result, over here
a comedy possibly cannot be a TRP chartbuster. Even the effort
required in sustaining the interest of the audience is far
more compared to a soap where the makers can get away with
occasional low phases.
you need minute scripting for a comedy or do you normally
improvise on the sets?
do improvise but no improvisation will work unless there has
been minute detailing with regard to the script. Minute scripting
is quintessential and without it the director is not able
to take the viewers into the zone of "willing suspension
What do you feel of the present trend of the dominance of
slapstick is the easier form vis-a vis situational comedy
in the same way as overacting is easier compared to method
acting. But over the years their success shows that there
is definitely an audience for it and so long as there is an
audience the channels are more than happy to provide it.
a choice between slapstick, situational and satire, which
appeals to you the most?
always opt for satire. But in India, political satire always
runs the risk of running into problems, especially on the
national channels. A satire on human conditions is an interesting
proposition but again needs to be handled in a very sensitive
do you draw your inspiration from? Do the comedians of yesteryears
play a part?
comedians of yesteryears - Charlie Chaplin, Marx brothers
- are the biggest heroes cinema has ever seen. Even though
I don't necessarily keep them in mind all the time, the fact
is that in the subconscious mind their images and actions
do exist and play a part when I conceive a scene. Otherwise
the inspiration can come from so many sources. I used to keep
a diary to note down the funny things that happened during
the course of my daily schedule and still refer to it at times.
What distinguishes your genre of comedy from that of others?
comedy is woven around our lives. It is an extension of life's
pathos, an attempt to laugh at ourselves. Even my slapstick
has smart punchlines that are laced with pathos and the aim
is to make a telling statement in a subtle manner. See, even
when Chaplin chewed his shoes in one of his movies, it reflected
a grim reality of the times. I seek to create a similar effect
through my comedy.
are the things you would never compromise on as a director?
The script and performances. They are the backbone of any
is seen that many actors who are good in intense scenes falter
doing comedy. How do you extract performances from them?
Well, I believe I am a good teacher. I use a lot of metaphors
and similes to get the actor into the right emotions and to
feel situations better. My background in English Literature
helps me in doing this. Besides, I 'm very patient and always
believe that the first shot or the first expression can never
be the best or the conclusive one. I don't act out a scene
actors actually prefer not to have a script for comedy. How
do you cope with this?
I would never allow this. An actor who insists on this
is not serious about his job.
you write all your projects?
to. Now I don't get into the technicalities of writing, though
I still monitor the writing very closely. I think that is
imperative for a project to evolve the way it is conceived.
project which you would be averse to directing?
A quiz show. I would rather participate in it.
are your favourite actors on Television?
I haven't seen a better actor than Shefali Chayya on
TV. I would love to have her on all my Rishtey stories.
Shekhar Suman is versatile and I believe much of his
potential remains untapped. I would love to work with
of your works are closest to you?
YJHZ, my ad-films and my stories on Rishtey.
In fact I can safely say that my stories on Rishtey
is the real me.
Anything you would like to take up in future?
I have a rough idea. I would love to work on a series that
will loosely be a sitcom with a soapish theme. I will have
satire and at times it will also be very grim and emotional.
It is still at the conception stage and I'm yet to work out
the minute details.
is you favourite director?
Satyajit Ray. All his work was from the heart and
he never compromised on his creativity and what he
actually wanted to say.
a filmmaker what does Manjul Sinha stand for? For instance,
if Yash Chopra's work can be characterised as passionate depiction
of utopian love, what is your style of film-making all about?
be difficult for me to classify my work into a particular
genre because I've directed diverse plots. But yes, my work
is an attempt at reality. Let me put it this way. That even
in creating fantasy, I present it as close to reality as I
can. So that it may evoke the same emotional response from