Kumar needs no introduction. He is one of the most successful
personalities on the tube today. Indeed personality would
be the right way to describe him because it would be difficult
to label him as a producer, a director or a writer. He has
done it all.
Kumar's interest in the medium can be traced to his college
days - at Khalsa College in Mumbai where he was actively into
theatre - both as actor and director. However, direction was
what really fascinated him. In those days, Ramesh Talwar was
a source of inspiration. In fact, it was on Talwar's suggestion
that Kumar went to the Film and Television Institute of India
Kumar started his innings on TV as a co-director of Yeh
Jo Hai Zindagi (Raman had also directed a movie called
Saath Saath in 1983). He went on to produce and direct
serials encompassing every possible genre. A quiz show on
Doordarshan in the mid-eighties, Tara in 1994, Agnichakra
in 2000 and now his forthcoming serial Sansaar - the
story of four brothers and a sister spread across five continents,
proves the point.
Indiantelevision.com's correspondent Amar met Raman to try
and understand what makes the man tick. Excerpts:
In your long tenure in the film and TV industry, you've been
a director, producer and writer? Which of these roles have
you been most comfortable with?
is basically my strength. Even as a director, I am more of
a storyteller. But I also follow a policy - I like to write
for TV and direct movies. This is because TV is a writer's
medium and the storytelling has to be very strong for any
serial to succeed.
But on the other hand in the case of movies, direction is
what matters most. As a producer, my strength is my partner,
Vinita Nanda, who is also a competent writer and director.
you ever been the producer / director / writer of the same
project? And if so how have you gone about managing all these
No. In fact I don't write the projects I direct. This is because
I believe that even if the director is a competent writer
himself, he needs to have a second point of view. Why do you
think a successful writer-director makes a bad film? It's
because there is nobody to tell him where the story is faltering.
Yaadein (a movie recently released) is a case in point.
ready storyboard is very important. In fact, we never
proceed on anything unless we have a basic skeleton
are the creative factors you keep in mind before producing
I go by my gut feel. I take up anything that interests
me at a given time. In fact, anything which is new and unexplored
appeals to me very fast. I also like to do as many different
things as possible. In fact as a director, I am a great fan
of (Stanley) Kubrick who never repeated a project.
are the practical considerations you take into account before
producing a project?
Basically, the economics and the plausibility of the script.
See, sometime back one of the channels had offered us a major
assignment but we could not take it up because after a careful
survey, we realised that with our existing infrastructure
and expertise, it would be very difficult for us to meet the
a writer, from where do you draw your inspiration?
I see and read a lot of plays. I am fond of short stories.
All playwrights inspire me. Among writers, one of my favourites
is Sharad Joshi, all of whose books I have read. In my writing
I have been inspired by Sagar Sarhadi who inspired me to be
do you proceed writing a project? Do you go with a ready storyboard?
What of changes in script based on viewer response and do
you write in Hindi or English?
To begin with I just need an idea - a one line idea. From
the idea emerges the characters, from characters the location,
from location the drama and from the drama the whole serial
a ready storyboard is very important. In fact, we never proceed
on anything unless we have a basic skeleton ready for two
I write in Hindi and dialogues are my forte.
in script do take place as the story progresses but mostly
the basic framework remains the same, its just that certain
bylanes are re-worked.
much of a constraint do the marketing requirements of channels
impose on you?
In the first place, I will not call it a constraint. It
is a requirement. Managing TV programming is a commercial
art. So the commercial needs have to be taken into consideration.
I feel these requirements are totally justified.
you continually hassled by the demands and expectations of
executive producers in channels?
No, no. In fact I find them to be with me.
TV programming is a commercial art. So the commercial
needs have to be taken into consideration."
you ever had to re-shoot an episode? Who has borne
the additional cost?
On a lot of occasions the channel has borne the cost, specially
if the cost had been incurred on something they specifically
wanted. Moreover, I have worked mainly with Zee
and such is the level of mutual faith between us that if I
have informed them of an additional cost, they have believed
is it that most of your projects have been on Zee?
It just happened. It was not planned.
factors do you normally take into account in selecting a channel?
See, I've gone with Zee as a matter of habit. As far as
other channels are concerned, I've done programmes for Star
and B4U only when they have approached me with a proposal.
Do you have to run around to get your projects approved
or does your name find easy takers?
Nothing in life comes on a platter. Some amount of persuasion
is definitely required.
of your ex-assistants - Ashok Pandit, Anuraag Basu, Anil Vishwakarma
are doing very well today. What are the factors you consider
before taking someone under your wing?
I'm not interested in people who come to me saying they
want to be my assistant. I take as my assistants those people
who come to me saying they want to be directors (laughs).
only two factors I see in a person who comes under my wing
are zeal and commitment.
years ago, we were talking about the woman of today,
now we are talking about the woman of yesterday but
very soon, we are going to start talking about the woman
according to you has been your contribution in the growth
of these directors?
My faith has been the biggest contribution. I encourage
them to work very hard. I handed over the direction of Tara
to Anuraag Basu very early in his career. The vast responsibility
bestowed on him encouraged him to give his very best but I
always knew that he was capable of shouldering the responsibility.
Do you maintain the same production unit for all projects?
What is your production set-up like?
Generally, we do. We are a team of 80 people in total
but they are involved with us on a project basis. The maximum
that we have produced is four and a half hours of software
a week but at any given point of time we produce two hours
of software. At any given time, we have 6-7 production heads
and their assistants manning different projects.
What are the sources of funding of your projects?
The channel. We incur the cost initially and then get the
money back from the channel. At this point, private financiers
and institutional finance is also available, but we have so
far not explored these options.
Your teaming up with Vinita Nanda produced some of the
most successful soaps on satellite TV in the mid- nineties.
How well do you complement each other?
We are the best complement to one another. Vinita joined
me as my assistant way back in 1985 when I was co-directing
Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. Her hard work, enthusiasm and vision
have always impressed
me. We formed our production company (Tracinema) in 1989 and
the first project was a documentary for LIC (Life Insurance
Corporation), directed by Vinita. We have since worked together.
Anuraag Basu has said that you dissuaded him from joining
FTII. How relevant or irrelevant has FTII been in shaping
See, in my career, FTII has been very relevant and I owe
everything to it. But today things have changed. Though FTII
has a great archive of films, it is a little outdated in technique.
They are teaching the very basics and today everybody knows
If you were to start afresh today, would you select a specialised
course or would you train yourself under somebody?
No. I wouldn't go for a specialised course because I don't
think a perfect course exists. What is taught is theory. For
practical knowledge, one has to train under somebody.
If I were to start afresh today, I would still like to be
trained by Ramesh Talwar.
How has programming on TV evolved in the last 15 years?
It would be difficult to make a sweeping statement on how
programming has evolved in the last 15 years. TV changes every
year. In fact, everyday is a new day in the world of TV, with
a new concept, a new set of issues, etc.
Do you really believe enough issues are being tackled today
or is there a surfeit of saas-bahu sagas? Where does programming
go from here?
The "saas-bahu" (mother-in-law vs. daughter-in-law)
sagas are the in thing today but very soon they will have
to go. But yes, programming on TV will remain women-centric,
because the primary audience for TV constitutes women. Five
years ago, we were talking about the woman of today, now we
are talking about the woman of yesterday but very soon, we
are going to start talking about the woman of tomorrow. That
will be the change in programming in the coming years.
Why has Tracinema not grown into an empire like Balaji
or UTV? Why is it still synonymous with one man?
Because we have always been more concerned about the creative
aspects of TV and have never really cared for the marketing
part of it. If you see Balaji, UTV and Cinevista - all went
to Doordarshan for their marketing and Doordarshan was their
cash cow. But Vinita and I were not cut out for that. Our
aim was to evolve Tracinema as a creative production house.
In our approach to work, we were never really bothered about
making Tracinema into a business empire.
Actor Bharat Kapoor on a Shoot in London for his new
programming follows a cycle and the same kind of programmes
re-surface after a point in time."
have the TV watching audience and viewer preferences changed
over the years?
The audience watches TV, the content changes just like
changes in fashion - for instance bell bottoms may get replaced
by jeans and jeans by baggies over time. Similar is the change
in the nature of TV programmes. But TV programming follows
a cycle and the same kind of programmes re-surface after a
point in time.
What is the satellite TV industry going to be like in the
next few years? Fewer players enjoying greater domination?
There'll be a boom, no doubt but yes the scene will be
dominated by fewer and more resourceful players. In fact TV
is not a medium for the smaller units to survive. It's a medium
for collective responsibility. Its like running a newspaper.
Greater the scale of operations, more the economies on production.
What makes dailies click?
Continuity and habit. You may be habituated to having food
at a given time. Similarly, you would want to watch a given
TV programme at a given time. The trick lies in forcing this
habit upon viewers.
As producer, what are the advantages of producing dailies?
As a producer, one does not have to hire out everything. Instead
everything is there with you 24 hours of the day. This results
in a smoother and more enjoyable production experience. Revenue
wise, dailies are not as paying as weeklies because budgets
are low, but yes, at the end of the day, it does tend to be
more economically viable compared to weeklies.