Television

"The absence of a powerful script can undo all efforts that go into direction." : Nupur Asthana

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Nupur Asthana has just two soaps in her portfolio- Hip Hip Hurray and Hubahu, apart from a few one-offs for Zee's Aap Jo Bole?. But the young director's meticulous planning and effort shows in her work. While Hip Hip Hurray was a runaway success - running well for all of 80 episodes, Hubahu that has completed just a month on Sony has also been getting positive reviews. Asthana has carefully managed to steer clear of the rat race. She takes up only one project at a time and gives it her very best. Interestingly, she also scripts her own shows. Hip Hip Hurray was written by her. Hubahu was conceived by her, after which she worked with writer friend- Ajitabh Menon to ensure that it came out the way she wanted. Asthana is also busy writing a film that she plans to direct. She comes across as a person full of life and one who is proud and possessive of her work.

Excerpts of an interview with indiantelevision.com correspondent, Amar.

What brings you into direction?

I have always been involved with theatre activities since my student life. After graduating from the Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi where I was actively involved with theatre both as actor and director, I came to Mumbai and did a course in filmmaking from the Sophia College here. I later assisted Ketan Mehta on the thriller movie, Aar Ya Paar. After being with Ketan for a couple of years, I wrote and directed the successful youth series- Hip Hip Hurray. This was the original version that ran successfully for 80 episodes. I say this because people tend to confuse it with the rehashed version of the same serial churned out last year by Zee.

What are the qualities required of an effective director?

A director needs to have a strong and vivid imagination. He / she needs to be an effective communicator and a good man manager because after all from the pre to the post production stage, the director has to deal with no less than 75 odd people in different stages. Besides, a director needs to have a very strong script sense.

There have been so many occasions when I wanted to something but had to curtail myself simply because the budgets on TV did not permit it.

Which subjects appeal most to you?

Any subject that has scope for strong drama and explores the

psychology of people.

How do you react to the oft- made statement that TV is a writer's medium with little scope for the director?

Well, a writer no doubt has a pivotal role to play on TV but again, how two directors treat the same written scene, does make a difference in the final output. Also, the importance of a writer varies with the nature of programme. For instance, in the case of Friends, its entirely the way it's been written that makes it stand apart. Even if the script was played without visuals, it would draw a very positive response. However, in the case of a serial like The Practice it's the way the director handles the crucial scenes that makes all the difference. A writer does have a very important role to play on TV, but I wouldn't subscribe to the view that the director's part is insignificant.

How deeply are you involved with the scripting of your serials?

I am involved from the stage the show is conceived. I am involved with it even when it is being written. I believe that the absence of a powerful script can undo all efforts that go into direction. In fact, as far as possible, I like to write my projects. The story and screenplay of Hip Hip Hurray were mine. I am also writing a movie I plan to direct.

What is your method of instructing actors? Do you enact the scenes yourself?

It depends. The actors in Hip Hip Hurray were all very new and needed to be groomed very carefully. In such a case, I didn't mind enacting scenes out so that they can comprehend the characters better. But I don't do it in Hubahu because most of the actors are pretty seasoned ones and they don't need to be spoon-fed.

Which factors do you never compromise on as director?

I cannot tolerate indiscipline from my actors. It puts me off even if they are late for the shoot by ten minutes. Besides, I like to give my actors their scripts well in advance. For instance, even before the shoot started, I gave all my actors the bound script of the first thirteen episodes of Hubahu. I don't accept any excuses if they come unprepared for the shoot. It's actually a little tough on the actors because they are not used to working this way but that's how I function.

Do budgets prove to be a constraint in television?

Yes. There have been so many occasions when I wanted to something but had to curtail myself simply because the budgets on TV did not permit it.

Who are your favourite directors?

Ketan Mehta and Italian film-maker Federico Fellini.

What are the stylistic elements you've picked from them?

Ketan Mehta uses a very fast style of cutting pictures while editing. This makes the scenes appear real fast. I have incorporated this style in my editing. Fellini had this unique ability of bringing out some humour even in the most intense and grim scenes. I've tried doing something similar.

A writer no doubt has a pivotal role to play on TV but again, how two directors treat the same written scene, does make a difference in the final output.

___________

Do you feel that channels' executive producers are overbearing in their attitudes?

I don't know. As far as Hubahu is concerned, my experiences have been very pleasant. In fact the EPs have been involved with the script right from the time it was being written. Once the script was ready, they would not interfere. But I can't say the same of Aap Jo Bolein Haan To Haan? I feel the programme is very badly structured and I really couldn't do much on it. In fact, that's one programme I would not even like to include in my CV.

Is there any genre you would be averse to directing?

Yes, all these saas-bahu sagas. I don't relate with them and there is no way I can see myself doing them.

Does a long running soap tend to get monotonous after a point?

Yes, it does. Actually, the story doesn't hold beyond a point and one has to merely go through the chores in the latter episodes. That is why I have planned out Hubahu only for 52 episodes. When I was doing Hip Hip Hurray, I had reached a near burnout stage around the 70th episode. I was totally exhausted of ideas and just couldn't think of how the story would move in the last few episodes. That is when, even though I had been writing the serial, I had to get other writers into the act.

Who are your favourite actors?

Rajat Kapoor is one of my favourites, with whom I always like to work. Besides I like Sandhya Mridul who plays the lead in Hubahu.

Which has been the happiest moment of your career?

The telecast of the first episode of Hip Hip Hurray. It was a dream come true and I had invited the entire cast of the serial to my house to see this episode. It was the happiest moment of my career.

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