"I like subjects based on emotions and relationships" : Dinesh Bansal

He came to Mumbai in 1980 to promote the family steel business and stayed on to become one of the most consistent and successful producers on Indian television.

Over the years, Dinesh Bansal's Meteor Films has produced quality programs in different genres. His successful serials include Kurukshetra, Basera,Ghar Jamai,Alvida Darling and Gharana. His latest offering Santaan has just premiered on Sahara TV. In the pipeline are two serials- very different from what he has done till now- one inspired by the biography of a prince (whose name is being kept under wraps) and a fantasy serial titled Aladdin 36th.

Bansal strikes one as a person driven by passion and love for the television medium. Unlike those who criticize the limited scope for creativity on TV, Bansal feels it is the medium where most innovations take place. A rare virtue Bansal nurtures is that of speaking outright, even on contentious issues.

He holds forth in a no-holds barred interview with indiantelevision.com's correspondent, Amar.

What brought you into TV production?

Well, even though we were into the business of manufacturing steel tubes, my father was active in theatre and directed plays like Jatan and Chitralekha, which became popular even at the national level. I guess my interest in the medium emanated from there. I came to Mumbai in 1980 to promote the family business here. Gradually, I started getting involved with the medium. I produced a film- Gunaah, directed by Mahesh Bhatt in 1993. My foray into TV production started with the launch of Zee. My first serial was Kurukshetra. As far as my creative abilities are concerned, I feel there are two qualities that really propelled me into the medium- my interest and my aptitude for the right script sense and the right music.

"Two qualities have really propelled me into the medium- my interest and my aptitude for the right script sense and the right music"
Alok Nath and Sukanya Kulkarni in Basera

What kind of a subject appeals to you?

Basically, I like subjects based on emotions and relationships. I am a very sentimental person, and I tend to absorb things I see and hear very easily. So in all my serials, the drama tends to be very real. It has traces of real life characters and real life situations that we come across in our lives. Raj Kapoor, who I consider my idol had told me that a good product is that which can evoke the same emotions among the audience as is shown on screen, and that is what I strive to achieve. In fact, I have been told that some of the scenes of Basera did make people cry, so real were the emotions shown.

On what basis do you choose a channel?

I have been associated with Zee from its beginning and it's like family to me. That explains why most of my programs have been on Zee. But at this stage I'm open to new options-I opted for Sahara for Santaan. One of my forthcoming serials-Afsana will be aired on Mak TV.

What made you opt for Mak TV, which is not yet on air, given the uncertainties in the industry?

I had some apprehensions initially but later decided to go ahead with it after I got specific assurances that payments will be made on time. Besides, some element of risk-taking is the essence of any successful business.

On what basis do you choose a director for your projects?

II go purely by my instinct. At this stage, I don't keep too many options open. I have a close group of directors I am very comfortable with and based on my gut feel I decide which of them is going to do justice to a given story. For instance, I know that if it's a comedy, my first choice has to be Anant Mahadevan and if its drama it has to be Chander Behl.

Do you prefer to produce weeklies or dailies?

Weeklies, certainly, because it becomes difficult to consistently maintain a high quality in the case of dailies.

"The producer has to take the onus for everything and personally supervise each and every aspect of the shoot instead of just being the financier."

Which are the areas you are personally involved with in the making of your serials?

I am involved with each and every aspect of my products. All my stories are conceived by me even though I may not personally write them. All details of the scripts have to be approved by me before the shoot. I take a personal interest in casting also. I even sit with my directors and discuss how important scenes have to be shot. I have invested heavily in having our own cameras, sets and editing studios in order to maintain high production values. I personally believe TV is a producer's medium and it is the producer who has to take the onus for everything and personally supervise each and every aspect of the shoot instead of just being the financier.

Who are your favourite writers on TV?

S.J. Talukdar, Dr. Achla Nagar and Subhash Kabra. They do most of the writing for my serials.

Do you feel corporate giants like Balaji or UTV have a monopoly over the best time slots?

I am not sure about this. But even if that is the case one should not complain. Balaji and UTV have built up a reputation and credibility based on consistent performances and if the channels feel more secure about getting higher TRPs from their serials as compared to other producers' serials, they are justified in feeling that way.

Do you feel hassled by executive producers in channels?

Yes. In fact, of late I find executive producers interfering in everything not because they have a valid point but because they have to. In fact, when we opted for Sahara, we had put a condition-we did not want an executive producer on our show and they agreed to this. This is probably the first such instance in the history of satellite TV.

See, we are mature people and we don't need policing. In fact, I am willing to propose a contract to the channels that I shall ensure my serial gets a given TRP level at the end of say the 10th, 20th or the 30th episode. If I fail, they have a right to withdraw my serial forthwith.

"Of late I find executive producers interfering in everything not because they have a valid point but because they have to"
Gharana aired on Zee TV

Have you had to re-shoot a episode? Who has borne the cost of this?

Well, not the entire episode but we've had to re-shoot portions of it in the case of Gharana. The cost of course was borne by us.

How often has a pilot shot by you been rejected?

Never. Never in the last 8 years.

Why has Meteor Films not grown into a business empire like Balaji or UTV?

Because I am not interested in a false business. I don't understand how you can raise money through a public issue showing x number of programming hours as your asset. We don't have a right over this software as this goes to the channel and becomes their property. I personally don't feel it is right to get money from the public in this way.

What are your sources of funding?

It's my own capital. I don't borrow from outside sources.

How many serials do you feel comfortable producing simultaneously?

I don't exceed three serials at a time. Beyond that it is not possible to maintain the same quality. Besides, producing more than three serials will also require me to raise money from sources I don't like.

With so much passion for the medium, did the thought of being an actor or director never come into your mind?

No, acting somehow never fascinated me. I was interested in direction but somehow always shied away from making a full-fledged effort. One reason for this could be the fear that I am not as good as I think I am. Because, I have seen that scenes which I have suggested and personally discussed with Chander Behl have come out much better under his direction compared to what I could have ever visualized or created. So I guess somewhere there is a fear that I am not so good.

Which has been the happiest moment of your career?

The telecast of the 1st episode of Kurukshetra, which launched us into the medium of TV.

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