"It is very difficult to identify creativity that sells" : CMD, Anurradha Prasad

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Anurradha Prasad started her career as a journalist. After her marriage to fellow journalist and now Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Shukla, the duo decided to focus on news programming.

In 1993, they floated their own production house with a news show called Aaj Ki Baat on DD. Now nearly a decade old, B.A.G Films not only continues with news programming, it has also diversified into all genres of news as well as entertainment programming. Haqeeqat and Chalti Ka Naam Antakshri are some of the more popular shows that B.A.G has on air currently, while Kumkum, a new daily soap on Star's afternoon band is the latest addition to its fast expanding portfolio.

Anurradha Prasad, CMD, B.A.G Films took time off from her hectic schedule during a visit to Mumbai for a chat with indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar. Excerpts -

How has your journey from journalist to producer been like?

After my graduation, I started working as a journalist with PTI TV and later with the BBC. I also headed the Observer News Channel for a while. My first show on TV was a business show called Money Matters. As Rajeev also has a journalistic background, we always wanted to get into news programming ourselves. So in 1993, we floated B.A.G. Films with a programme called Aaj Ki Baat and later produced a cookery show called Zaike Ka Safar.

One has always been curious to know - what does B.A.G. stand for?

B.A.G stands for Bhagwaan, Allah and God. It's our way of paying obeisance to the powers-that-be for always having been benevolent.

What is the ratio between B.A.G's fiction programmes and its non-fiction shows?

A couple of years ago, it used to be 1:4. Now, it's almost 1:1. In future, it is more or less going to stabilise at this ratio, because non-fiction and news programmes have always been our strength and will definitely hold importance in our future scheme of things.

What is the production set-up of B.A.G Films?

We have a team of about 100 people in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. We have a CEO, Avinash Mehrotra, a COO, Rajesh Chaddha, based in Mumbai, the all-India head of news programming Ajit Anjum, based in Delhi and a GM who has recently been appointed to look after our Chennai operations. Anjum has a team of 50 people under him covering news across the country, while Chaddha is aided by a creative director, Sharad Raj and six executive producers. We have our own editing and post production facilities both at Delhi and Mumbai.



A still from Kumkum, that airs on Star Plus
"I feel the incentives offered by channels for attaining certain TRPs certainly act as morale boosters for producers"

__________

How important a strategic partner is Doordarshan for B.A.G films?

When we started off, we were mainly only into news and current affairs programming, which meant we had to operate out of Delhi. As DD was also Delhi based, it was much easier to negotiate and put our programmes on it. Later of course, this partnership got consolidated and when DD News came up, we came up with a daily half hour programme called Rozana. Even though I must admit that marketing programmes on DD is not easy, we don't really mind it. One, our programmes have helped build B.A.G as a brand and two, DD lets us retain the rights over the product. The latter has been helpful in the case of some fiction shows we have had on DD.

Which areas of B.A.G. Films are you personally involved with?

I am involved in every possible way. I may not personally look into everything but I am regularly updated by our designated group heads and whenever I am required, I am there for them.

How is Rajeev (Shukla) involved in B.A.G.'s day to day functioning?

Rajeev plays a very important role in strategy formulation, planning and formalising our expansion plans. He is not involved on a daily basis though, because of his political and journalistic commitments.

What are B.A.G.'s sources of funding?

We have a tie-up with some financial institutions that provide us finance on a regular basis. Besides, as we expand, we are planning to come up with a public issue in the next four to six months.

"Non-fiction and news programmes have always been our strength and will definitely hold importance in our future scheme of things"

A still from Haqeeqat, that airs on Sahara TV

Have you ever felt channel executive producers' attitudes overbearing or intrusive?

No, I haven't found them to be overbearing. They might have differed in their attitude but their approach, by and large, has been positive. See, we must understand that in the present situation of channel wars, even the EPs are under enormous pressure, because one faulty programme can mar a channel's reputation. Besides, being a creative person with experience in this field, I can tell you that it is very difficult to identify creativity that sells.

Who are your favourite directors on TV?

Sanjay Upadhyay and Sourabh Narang. I have worked with them and found both of them to be very intelligent and sensitive.

How is 'Kumkum' different from other daily soaps?

Well, the whole attempt was to not make it very different from the current trend of soaps. So, while it's a normal family drama, the difference lies in that we have tried to reduce melodrama and make all characters very real. Besides, to give it a fresh look we have hired the services of professionals hitherto unexposed to TV. Binod Pradhan, who did the lighting forMission Kashmir has done the lighting for Kumkum. We also got Omung Kumar to design our sets.

What is the future programming line-up of B.A.G. Films?

At present, we are looking forward to the revival of Rozana in a new format on DD from 15 August. Besides, we are working on a musical game show that will come on Star from October. We are also working on another daily soap.

Do you feel strongly about producers not retaining the rights over their serial as far as satellite channels go?

Well, at least for Kumkum we have worked out an arrangement with Star, wherein we get the rights over the serial back, one year after its telecast ends on Star TV. I wish this clause is contained in more deals in future. Besides, I feel the incentives offered by channels for attaining certain TRPs certainly act as morale boosters for producers.

Where do you see B.A.G. films five years down the line?

(laughs) Over here, it's difficult to predict what is going to happen in the next 10 seconds. Five years is a long time. But yes, we will aim at consolidation of our existing programming content. The next important thing on our mind is diversification. We would like to venture into film production as I see it as a logical extension of our existing business. Apart from production, our other important projects include setting up a convergence studio at Noida and a training institute offering specialized courses in film-making.

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