Television

"I am not cut out for melodrama or make-believe stuff" : Rohit Khanna

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Rohit Khanna is a specialist in real life dramas and docu-dramas. He has an impressive line-up of shows like Bhanwar and Haadsa behind him, apart from the hugely popular road show, Public Demand which was also his baby. His current claim to fame though comes as director of Sony's hospital series -Dhadkan. In a candid interview, Khanna spells out his dislike for melodrama and make-believe, and the importance of cinematography in his scheme of things. Excerpts of an interview he gave to indiantelevision.com correspondent, Amar.

How did you turn to direction?

I was actively involved with college theatre at St. Stephens College, Delhi. I directed my first play there. From there, it was a natural progression to a Mass Communications course at Jamia Milia Islamia after which I joined TV18. I was with TV18 for nine years and directed shows like Bhanwar, Haadsa and Public Demand.

Which subjects appeal to you?

I would believe I am largely a research driven person. I like to take up issues that are close to reality. I like doing docu-dramas.

What are the qualities required of an effective director?

An effective director should be instinctive, able to relate with disparate characters and be technically very sound. He should be discerning in terms of stories, well read and have a balanced worldview.

Do you improvise on the script while shooting?

Oh, yes, we do. We are actually very flexible - sometimes we alter the dialogues if we feel that they are not going down well with the mood of the scene. With Dhadkan specially, there have been times when we have suddenly even altered the location of a shot. For instance, instead of shooting in a doctor's cabin, we have gone ahead and shot the scene in the hospital corridor for a better impact. Actually being instinctive and adventurous sometimes really helps bring out a scene better.

It is often said that TV is a writer's medium. Do you agree with this?

By and large, that's right. There are two reasons for this - one, the volume at which the viewer consumes TV is just phenomenal compared with other media. The emergence of quality writers has not kept pace with this increasing demand. Secondly, TV in the Indian context tends to be very verbose.

"Right camera work is very important in my scheme of things and the key to right photography is right lighting"

__________

How much of a writer does a director have to be?

A director needs to have a good idea and control over the script. I have done some re-writing personally on the shoot when I have not been fully convinced with the script. I have always been actively involved even with the scripting of Bhanwar and Hadsaa.

Who are your favourite directors?

Bazz Luhrmann, Sanjay Ray Chaudhry, who was my senior at TV 18 and Ram Gopal Varma.

Which are the stylistic elements you have imbibed from Ram Gopal Varma?

That the camera should not interfere with life as it goes on, yet it must bring the story to life. In Ramuji, what I admire most is a combination of deft camera work and effective storytelling. Cinema, being a visual medium, photography is a very key component in making a scene stand out.

Which factors do you never compromise on as director?

Like I said before, right camera work is very important in my scheme of things and the key to right photography is right lighting. Unlike other directors, I arrive on the sets much before the shoot starts and many a times have supervised lighting to my satisfaction.

Who are your favourite actors?

Ram Kapoor, Vijay Raaj, Reema Lagoo and Kabir Sadanand are some of my favourite actors.

"The volume at which the viewer consumes TV is just phenomenal compared with other media. But the emergence of quality writers has not kept pace with this increasing demand"

________

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

No, most of my work has been serious real life drama and so I have gone for quality theatre actors who I can really depend on. My actors generally know what is expected of them. When a scene has not come out as per expectations I have just been patient and given them more time to perfect it.

What are the factors you consider before taking someone under your wing?

Basically, I look at the person having a similar worldview, which would come from sound education. Besides he/she should be technically sound. The willingness to slog and learn ought to be there.

What marks you in style?

My characters that are very real and believable and my story pace which again is fairly fast. Basically, I am not cut out for melodrama or make-believe stuff.

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