"I believe in inspiration but not in adaptation" : Kaushik Ghatak

Just 29, Kaushik Ghatak is already a veteran director on Indian television. A hundred episodes of Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, a few of Sanskriti and Sshhh.Koi Hai under his belt, Ghatak has now taken on Sanjivani, the new hospital series on Star Plus.

Hailing from a small town in West Bengal, Ghatak honed his directorial skills under several veterans in the field after migrating to Mumbai in the 1990s. For the last four years, he has tried his hand at ad films as well, a fact that probably helps him add the element of gloss and sophistication to his assignments as a director of TV serials. Ghatak spoke to Gurpreet Tathgur and Hetal Adesera about his initial days and talks about Sanjivani, his latest and most prized assignment till date. Excerpts from the interview.

What drew you towards direction?

I used to write, do photography and visualize a lot of things - but was yet hunting for a means of expression. Filmmaking, I believe, is the art of all arts. With a background in photography, I started out as a cameraman. At the Noida institute where I enrolled for a course in photography, the dean himself recommended that I should take the one on direction instead. He nearly brainwashed me into taking up the direction course.

How did you come to Mumbai?

I came to Mumbai after finishing my course. Mumbai was as foreign to me as New York, but I have had very pleasant experiences here although I did struggle a lot initially. Anurag Basu, whom I assisted initially, is almost like a godfather to me. I assisted him on Raahat for Zee. Later, I assisted Partho Mitra for Coffee House, Gautam Mukherjee on ads like Dettol, Casper, Complan, Oscar, and Khaitan. I assisted Gaurav Pande for Star Bestsellers and even made small ads for Raj Travel and Tours.

Ghatak with the cast and crew of Sanjivani

What was your directorial debut?

It was a Bengali serial for Alpha Bengali called Amra Povashi. For Hindi television, it was Kyunki, which I took over from the 35th episode and went on till the 155th episode.

Do you believe in sticking to certain genres or do you believe in experimenting?

Kyunki was a family drama and so was Sanskruti. After that, I got an offer to do Sshh...Koi Hai. I took up the offer not because of money or excitement but because of the experience and experimenting it asked for. After doing two family dramas, I didn't want to be stuck with that label, so I took up Shhh Koi Hai as a challenge. Directing a thriller was not a new thing to me as I had assisted Anurag in X-Zone. Yes, I do believe in experimenting.

What kind of themes generally interest you?

Presently Sanjivani is my main project. I believe direction is not only about story telling, but is full of moments. Thrillers and horrors are ok but they are not my kind. I shouldn't be saying this because I have done those genres before, but my inclination is more towards human relations and the moments they are made of.

Thrillers and horrors are ok but they are not my kind


Has Sanjivani been inspired by any soaps or movies?

Many series have inspired me, like ER, Chicago Hope and Dhoop Kinare. Also, movies like Anand have motivated me. But I have not copied or adapted from these. There are similarities but nothing has been lifted. I believe in inspiration but not in adaptation.

What kind of research do you do before commencing any venture? Research is very important. A common man knows very little about the subject of your serial so you can't mislead him with wrong information. My aim is firstly to entertain, then inform and lastly to educate. I agree that while making serials, there is a slight lack of authenticity as it is very difficult to be accurate but I try to be as genuine as possible. For Sanjivani, we read 800 case studies, visited several hospitals to see how the doctors work, how patients react on various occasions, and interviewed a few doctors before making a rough outline for the serial.

Are you satisfied with your work?

No, I'm never satisfied with my work. At the end of the day, I always feel that there is something lacking and that I probably am in the wrong profession. I feel like running away and doing something else, but when I sit down to think about it, I realise that if I leave this field there is nothing else I can do or rather, nothing else that I want to do.

Direction is not only about story telling, but full of the moments in between.

Who are your favourite actors?

There are many. I have learnt a lot from many actors, so I don't want to name all of them.

What work schedule do you follow?

We are currently shooting daily till 6 pm and sometimes have a night shift too if we have to complete the episodes and there's nothing to bank on. But after we can a couple of episodes, we will shoot 16 days a month as each episode takes around four days to complete. I need my time; the maximum I do is one shift. I believe in the quality of the work and I don't mind doing just two scenes in a day. I want perfection in whatever I do.

What do you think makes for a good director?

A director literally breathes his work. There has to be involvement, hard work and an ability to convey something to an audience. You have to work with a premise that your audience does not know anything about the subject you are dealing with, and that you are solely responsible to inform them. Once you have this in mind the rest just flows.

Who is your favourite director?

It is very difficult to answer this. But a few names that come to my mind are Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Sooraj Barjatya, Yash Chopra and Shyam Benegal.

Do you want to direct movies?

I plan to get into mainstream films but not into art films.

You have to work with a premise that your audience does not know anything about the subject you are dealing with, and you are solely responsible to inform them.

A still from Sanjivani

What has been your happiest moment?

My happiest moment was on 14 February 1998, the day Anurag Basu allowed me to stand on the sets and assist him. Then of course the day I got the offer to direct Kyunkiwas also a very important day and I could not believe that I was being offered to direct the current number one serial in the country.

Where do you see yourself ten years down the line?

When I was a kid, I used to spend Rs 3.75 to watch a film and then dream of myself directing that kind of film. And now, here I am, directing television serials! Ten years hence I see myself at the same place, directing television serials or maybe even films.

Which are your favourite Indian serials?

There are lots but to name a few there's Malgudi days, Hum Log, Neem Ka Ped and Ajeeb Dastan.

How would you define Kaushik Ghatak - the person?

Ohh. a very fun loving person, who loves music, computers and prefers sitting with his wife after a long day of work rather than watching TV.

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