"Aamrapali will have tremendous resale value" : TV serial director Ravi Kemmu

Ravi Kemmu took the plunge in TV direction in 1995, when satellite Indian television had just started to come of age. He debuted with a romantic series called Suhana Safar and went on to direct Mausam, a series on NRIs. Dollar Bahu and Dulhan were natural successors.

With Aamrapali, this former protégé of Shyam Benegal has hit big league. The ease and finesse with which he executed this historical of epic proportions has won him admirers already. His strong cultural moorings, belief in the educational value of entertainment and tireless efforts in shooting speak for the enthusiasm and commitment of the man.

Ravi took time off from his frenzied schedule to speak to correspondent, Amar.


How did you get started as a director?

My father worked in the Jammu & Kashmir's state department of culture and retired as secretary of the same department. So, the family was involved with cultural activities throughout. Right from a very young age, I have been fascinated by drama and as I grew, this fascination only grew stronger. In 1977, I took an integrated course at the National School of Drama, encompassing acting, direction and stagecraft. I came to Mumbai in 1987 and started as an assistant to Shyam Benegal. My first independent project was a TV serial, Suhana Safar in 1995.

Have any directors influenced your style?

Shyam Benegal has influenced me the most. I have imbibed a lot from the way he would treat a scene, his co-ordination of choreography, his screenplay.

How is Benegal's treatment different from other directors?

Basically, the difference lies in the use of trolleys. He uses the light trolleys in such a way that it exploits the geography of the scene to the maximum and creates depth in visuals. For a historical, the lighting pattern is of key importance because it has to be used to provide maximum details of the pillars, windows and the architecture of the time. Shyam Benegal had his own way and that explains how he created so many successful historicals.

How important is formal training for a director?

It is indispensable. In the absence of trained directors, the aesthetic value of the film gets lost. When assistants turn directors, they invariably tend to emulate the directors they have assisted. While there is nothing wrong with it, a formal course helps in forming a more balanced and rounded view of things. It does not confine you to the learning you can imbibe from one person.

Which factors do you take into consideration before taking up a new project?

My basic concern is that whatever I undertake be fresh as a concept and different from what I have been doing.

"For a historical, the lighting pattern is of key importance because it has to be used to provide maximum details of the pillars, windows and the architecture of the time"


What made up take up a difficult project like Aamrapali?

There are two reasons. One, I felt honoured by the faith the producers showed in me for directing this grand-scale historical. It made me feel vindicated and wanted. Two, I have always believed that the purpose of entertainment programmes should also be to educate. Aamrapali fitted the bill this way. Besides, I have assisted Shyam Benegal on Bharat Ek Khoj which covered this period in one of its episodes and have also always been culturally inclined.

How different is Aamrapali from other projects you have handled?

The grandeur involved makes me slog that much more in every department. Right from the personal appearance of the artistes - dressing them up authentically, right from their hairstyle down to their footwear - to the lighting, camerawork, and choreography - all these require a very careful supervision and control at every stage. This requires me to be on my feet all the time.

How long did it take to shoot one episode of Amrapali?

On an average, it took me four days of 12 hour shifts each to can one episode. The maximum number of re-takes required would be 12 or 13, whereas some scenes would be okayed even in a couple of shots. Most of the scenes have been shot with one camera for colour consistency. For the outdoor scenes, specially where there was movement of horses and animals, we used three or four cameras.

Another important aspect involved in directing a historical is handling the performances. What problems did you encounter?

Well, most actors we have taken have a rich background of theatre, hence it was not difficult for them to adapt to these roles. But, yes there are some new faces - like Shilpa Shinde (who plays Aamrapali) and Seema Kar. The main problem we faced had to do with their diction. Being Mumbai bred, they were not able to pronounce words correctly. My assistants took up the added responsibility of tutoring them in the language. Also, as some important dance sequences featured these two actresses, they had to be trained in specialized dances which took a lot of time and effort. Besides, the actors also had some difficulty in carrying off the ethnic costumes.

But does it make good business sense to put an expensive serial like this on DD?

DD has its own advantages. One, its viewership remains unmatched by any satellite channel. Two, with the Sanskritized form of Hindi used in the serial, it is likely to appeal more to the people in the interiors - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar - than in the metros. DD certainly has a far better penetration in the interiors as against the satellite channels. Three, with DD, we are able to retain our rights over the serial. This serial will have a tremendous re-sale value and we plan to dub it in several languages, including some foreign languages for retelecast elsewhere later

"One also derives tremendous satisfaction by creating such exceptional stuff at a time when everybody is just interested in saving costs and churning out the same routine stuff"


Don't you feel drained out doing such taxing stuff? How do you motivate yourself?

(laughs) Washed out rather. Of course, directing an epic like this sucks all my energy and I do feel dead at the end of the day. Shooting in the terrible summer heat in a non-stop schedule of 75 days was also some experience! But one also derives tremendous satisfaction by creating such exceptional stuff at a time when everybody is just interested in saving costs and churning out the same routine stuff. Seeing the curtain raiser of my serial gave me a rare high and I am proud to be associated with the serial.

What are the factors you never compromise on as a director?

I never compromise on the way I want a shot to be taken. I never compromise on the kind of lighting I feel will work best for a scene. If I feel certain scenes will come out better with mis-en' shots, I go for them irrespective of the time and effort required.

Which subjects appeal to you otherwise?

I like to take up path breaking subjects that give people food for thought and those that really move them. In the next few months, I will be starting a movie where the story revolves around a 16 year old girl who is forced to become a nun.

What factors do you take into consideration before taking someone under your wing?

Well, the person should be sincere and hardworking. Besides, he or she should have a reasonable level of technical knowledge. I also look at the person's knowledge and understanding of literature and his inclination towards art and culture. These factors indirectly play an important role in the person's approach to work.

On hindsight, do you regret any shot and feel you could have done better, given another chance?

(laughs) I feel that way for every scene I have shot. But the fact is that given the constraints and pressures one has to cope with at least on TV, the best seldom comes out. I don't regret any shot as such.

Which has been the happiest moment of your career?

There have been several very happy moments. Whenever the telecast of my serials have begun - whether it has been Dollar Bahu or Amrapali, I have felt very happy and proud because most of my serials have been widely acclaimed.

Latest Reads
Zee TV’s ‘Ishq Subhan Allah’ year’s second highest weekday fiction launch across GECs

Zee TV recently put the spotlight on Triple Talaaq with its new fiction show Ishq Subhan Allah introducing viewers to the turbulent love story of Zara (Eisha Singh) and Kabeer (Adnan Khan) – an Islamic couple dealing with the issue first-hand. Raising pertinent questions about women having a say...

Television TV Channels GECs
&Privé HD’s Unforgettables at 9 property celebrates movies that have left an indelible mark

There are some movies that become a part of your life and you can’t help but watch them over and over again. There are some characters that reveal a hidden element of yourself that results in an instant connection. &Privé HD’s property ‘Unforgettables at 9’ brings such classics every Monday to...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
Living Foodz raises a Toast to India’s finest restaurants, night

India’s premium lifestyle channel, Living Foodz organized the second edition of Epicurean Guild Awards at an evening which saluted the game changers in India’s fine-dining, nightlife and lifestyle entertainment space. Held on March 22 at Sahara Star, Mumbai, the event was curated by Chef Manu...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
Zee Anmol regains top Hindi GEC spot across genres

BENGALURU: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s (Zeel) free-to-air (FTA) Hindi GEC Zee Anmol has returned to second place in Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) list of top 10 channels across genre in week 11 of 2018 (Saturday, 10 March 2018 to Friday, 16 March 2018). The numero uno position...

Television TV Channels Viewership
Emerald Media buys minority stake in Global Sports Commerce

MUMBAI: Emerald Media, the Pan-Asia company backed by global investment firm KKR, has acquired a significant minority stake in sports technology and management company Global Sports Commerce (GSC) through a combination of primary and secondary investments.

Television TV Channels Sports
BARC files FIR for meter tampering in Telangana

MUMBAI: BARC India is taking the fight against panel home infiltrators very seriously. After lodging cases against people tampering with home metres in Karnataka, it has now filed a first information report (FIR) against culprits in Telangana. Five people have also been detained by the police. The...

Television TV Channels Viewership
Zee Telugu announces the comeback of its iconic singing reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa

MUMBAI: With a firm commitment to present fresh and novel content to Telugu viewers, Zee Telugu, leading Telugu General Entertainment Channel in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, announces the comeback of its most popular music reality show – Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. In search of the best singing talent there...

Television TV Channels Regional
Rishtey enters urban GECs list, dethrones &TV in BARC week 11

Zee Anmol emerged as the leader pushing down Star Bharat to the second position in the Hindi GEC (U+R) region according to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) all India data for week 11 of 2018.

Television TV Channels Viewership
BCCI extends India media rights submission till 3 April

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has extended its last date for submission of bids for the media rights for international and domestic matches at home for the next five years from 27 March to 3 April.

Television TV Channels Sports

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories