"It's just a question of being honest to each medium" : Vipul A Shah

Vipul A Shah started off directing Gujarati serials in the late 1980s. In the nineties, came Jeevan Mrityu, Alpviram and Ek Mahal Ho Sapano Ka - all of which met with huge success and catapulted him to the top bracket among TV directors.

But all through, Vipul avoided working with outside banners- remaining loyal to Shobhana Desai Productions, with whom his foray into Hindi serials had begun. As creative and series director of Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka, Vipul is proud of the fact that the serial has become the longest running soap on Indian television.

Shah's first movie as director, Aankhen starring Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal and Sushmita Sen is set for release today. In between recording the film's background score, Shah took time off to speak to .com's correspondent, Amar.


How did you get into direction?

I began as an actor. I would act in college plays at the Narsee Monjee College, Mumbai. But I soon realised that I wanted to be more involved with all aspects of a play's creation and this could only be possible as a director. That's how I ended up as a director.

How did you get initiated on the job? Did you train under somebody?

No, I didn't. I have always gone by my instincts. Besides, I must say I have been lucky to have got the right breaks. The first time I took up direction on TV, I independently directed a Gujarati serial (in the late 1980s). I guess the only experience that came in handy then was my experience of college theatre.

'Even if an actor requires forty retakes to get a scene right, I will bear with it.'


A still from Ek Mahal Ho Sapano Ka

Which subjects do you like to tackle as a director?

I'm open to any subject. What matters is my gut feel of what I can contribute to a given subject and the potential I perceive in that subject.

What, according to you, are the natural instincts required of a successful director?

A director should have a very clear understanding of the focal point of the story, he should have effective communication skills, he should be a good manager of human talent, he should be rational and objective in his attitude. Above all, he should have untiring energy levels and patience.

So what was the focal point of 'Alpviram'?

The focus of Alpviram was the trauma of a girl who is penalized for no fault of hers. This girl has been raped while in coma and becomes pregnant. The trauma inflicted by this unimaginable situation is what the story centred on.

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

The kind of lighting required to create a desired effect, and performances. Even if an actor requires forty retakes to get a scene right, I will bear with it.

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

Direction is narration of the story from the director's perspective. Any competent director will be seriously involved with the writing of his projects. As far as I am concerned, the concepts of most serials I have done have been mine. Once the concept has been in place, I have involved writers to develop the whole story.

Who are your favourite writers?

Aatish Kapadia is one of my favourite writers and most of the work I have done in recent years has been with him. I have great admiration for Gulzaarsaab and would love to work with him.

A still from Aankhen

'Starting off raw has had a major advantage for me.'


All your work as director on TV has been for Shobhana Desai Productions. Any particular reason for that?

No, it's just that I have always had enough work happening for Shobhana Desai. Besides, working for Desai has been a thoroughly satisfying experience. So, I didn't really feel the need to venture elsewhere.

How much of an influence does Gujarati theatre have on your style of story telling or conceptualisation of an idea?

I don't know. That is for people to decide. Because my roots go down to Gujarati theatre, some influence is natural. My first film Aankhen is also an adaptation of a play written and directed by me.

How different is directing a serial from directing a film?

The basic difference is that in a movie, everything has to be larger than life as against a serial where everything has to be very real and down to earth. (At least this would hold true for the kind of serials I have made). Then of course, there are several other differences which stem from the budgets being on a different scale. Technically though, I don't see a major difference. Once you've got the right camera team and the right technicians, many of your concerns are taken care of.

Which medium have you enjoyed the most - TV, films or theatre?

I have enjoyed doing all. It's a question of just being honest to each medium and thoroughly enjoying it.

At this point of time, do you still intend to continue doing all three?

I go by the subjects. Every subject has a given suitability to a medium. Ek Mahal Ho Sapano Ka cannot be made into a film and a bank robbery theme cannot be worked into a long running soap. If a subject appeals to me strongly, I am open to taking it up and selecting the medium accordingly.

On hindsight, do you regret not going in for a specialised course in direction?

No, I don't. See, starting off raw has had a major advantage. Today my style is not technique oriented or influenced by someone else. I have a style that is entirely my own - a style which has evolved out of trusting my instincts and going through the trial and error method, by and large.

What are the factors you keep in mind before taking someone under your wing?

I go by my instincts. I should be able to feel that a certain understudy has it in him/her and that we will be able to gel well together. I am not very particular about his/her technical expertise because I myself did not have any significant technical knowhow when I started.

'The basic difference between directing a movie and a serial is that in a movie everything has to be larger than life as against a serial where everything has to be very real and down to earth'

Shah with Amitabh Bachchan on the sets of Aankhen

Who are your favourite actors on TV?

A lot of them. Shefali Shetty- my wife, Pallavi Joshi, Vikram Gokhale, Ajit Vachchani, Raghuveer Yadav, Deven Bhojani, Rajeev Mehta and Virender Saxena.

What about directing your wife in a film or serial?

I would love to direct her. But I want the character to suit her in totality. Moreover, I want my producer to tell me that she suits the role ideally. More than me, she would want it this way.

Are your satisfied with your innings as director?

I would like to think I am. From starting off with Gujarati serials to being the creative director of India's largest running soap and now directing my first film with Mr. Bachchan, it's been a very satisfying journey

What does the future hold for you - are you quitting TV?

Not at all. There are two TV projects for Shobhana Desai that are expected to roll out in the next month or so on which I am the creative director. Besides I will be starting a couple of movies too but the same shall be announced only afterAankhen is released on 5 April.

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