"I like to prove wrong the notion that TV is a female dominated medium" : Siddhant Cinevision


Manish Goswami turned television producer in 1993 with the successful Zee serial Parampara. In a span of nearly a decade, he went on to produce several top quality soaps, making him one of the most consistent TV producers on the scene. Daraar, Adhikar, Aashirwad, Kartavya and Milan constitute some of the successful serials produced under his banner, Siddhant Cinevision. 

Currently, Manish is riding high on the success of his new daily on Zee, Kittie Party, which is among the more talked about serials in town. Kittie Party in a way also launches Siddhant's second innings in the industry. In 1993, Parampara was one of Zee's channel drivers helping the new channel get a foothold among DD viewers. Today, when Zee is trying hard to regain its lost glory, it's again one of Siddhant's offerings that it is using as one of its trump cards.

In a tete- a-tete with indiantelevision.com, Manish Goswami holds forth on a wide range of issues concerning his company and the industry at large.

How did you start as a TV producer?

I had a company called Simran Videotech and we were in the business of hiring out hardware equipments for shoots. In 1992, when Zee started operations I sensed a major opportunity in providing software content to the channel. I shot my first pilot, Parampara and the serial soon got approved by Zee. Parampara ran successfully for five years and that was how we got launched into the business.
As producer, which subjects appeal to you?

I like soaps. But even among my soaps, each has had a riveting story, very different from the other. Moreover, I prefer soaps that have male dominated stories because I like to prove the notion that TV is a female dominated medium wrong.
How was 'Kittie Party' conceived?

Shobhaa De came up with the concept some two years back when we were doing Sukanya with her. I was instantly drawn to it as I found it very different yet very interesting. I felt that if packaged well, this could turn out to be a great serial.
Are you satisfied with the way 'Kittie Party' has shaped up so far?

I am more than satisfied. In fact, in the last one and half years, no new serial apart from the routine family dramas has generated such positive responses as Kittie Party.

Personally, which are your favourite characters in the serial?

See, when we were working on the story, for a major chunk of the initial episodes, we had decided to focus on four characters only - those of Poonam Dhillon, Kavita Kapoor, Achint Kaur and Shveta Salve. Of these, personally I like the characters of Achint Kaur and Shveta Salve as their dilemmas are pretty identifiable for the common TV viewers.

At the same time, Poonam Dhillon and Kavita Kapoor are identifiable for a lesser chunk of the high society viewers. Overall, Kittie Party has something in it for every female viewer.

On what basis do you choose a channel? Zee TV seems to be your favourite.

The fact that most of my programmes have been on Zee is more a matter of chance. It's just that Zee came first and we struck up a great working rapport with them.
What is your production set up like?

We have a well developed all pervasive team. My brother, Sanjeev heads the overall administration and operations. Our creative team is headed by Vinod Ranganath who has an ideation cell supporting him. We have five to six executive producers carrying out the task of execution. There are four production controllers, each having a production manager aiding him. Then, we have our own post- production facilities and the best of camera equipments.
What are your sources of funding?

Primarily, it's the rotation of profits. Whenever required, I avail of bank loans.
"Channels have become very particular on two counts - the look of the show and the choice of actors"

You have been dealing with satellite channels since 1993. Do you find their interference in creative matters on the rise?

I would say they have become very particular on two counts- the look of the show and the choice of actors. But I wouldn't blame them because one must understand that today the level of competition that exists is really unnerving.

Moreover, with the dominance of dailies in the last few years, the total number of available time slots has reduced drastically. TV watching has become more like reading a newspaper, where unless the viewer develops a habit to be cued on to a channel daily, even the very good programmes don't work. In this situation, it is only natural for the channel to be more involved on all fronts.

India is probably the only country where producers don't get a share of the channel revenues even after forfeiting their rights over the product. Is this fair?

(laughs)Well, every producer feels he is underpaid. But then things have been this way always. It's not that the channels have introduced some new rules lately. Personally, I'm okay with this because I feel that the channels also incur a major risk in developing new programmes and if it's a success, they should be rewarded for it. In any case, we do get incentives on attaining higher TRPs. Moreover, at times the basic appreciation for good work can be very satisfying.
Do you feel we have reached a dead end as far as programming initiatives are concerned?

No, I don't think so. See, while all of us crave to create good shows, I guess eventually a good show is one that is successful. But again, beyond a point, if the viewers continue to be enamoured by the same old family dramas, it is because they do not have a choice. If they are given a good alternative they will go for it and Kittie Party's success has proved this.
Several of your programmes were on Doordarshan. Do you still see DD as a viable option?

Not any more. And there are several reasons why I say so. The kind of bank guarantees DD demands is just exorbitant. Besides, their attitude is too bureaucratic and inflexible and it becomes an impediment in creating a good product. Today putting a programme on DD would mean blocking a huge capital - something to the tune of eight to nine million for a weekly. In this situation, I certainly don't consider it to be a viable option. At the same time, I am not closed to it altogether. I won't mind putting one of my programmes on it and just being present on the channel.
Which areas are you personally involved with as producer?

I'm involved with most areas even though my thrust is more on the basic concept. At any point, I am aware of how a story moves over the next 20 episodes. Besides, I'm very much involved with the casting. I am also particular about the look of the show, which in turn, requires a good understanding of the technical details.
Some two years back you had a huge assortment of serials on air. What went wrong suddenly?

I think it was just a case of bad timing. I had three programmes on DD, three on B4U, one on Channel 9 and one on Zee. While B4U and Channel 9 died all of a sudden, around the time this happened, my serials on DD were almost completing their quota of episodes. So, for no fault of mine, most of these programmes were off air within a span of three to four months.
Who are your favourite writers?

One of my favourite writers in Shobhaa De because her ideas are very different and fresh from the way a hardcore TV writer thinks and they have always appealed to me. Among my other favourites are Sachin Bhoumick, Reoti Saran Sharma, Mir Muneer and Vinod Ranganath.

Who are your favourite directors?

Lekh Tandon, Sanjay Upadhyay, Suhail Tatari and Tamara Nedungadi.

In hindsight, do you regret any of your programmes?

No. That's because whenever I have seen a pilot episode and found it sub standard, I have scrapped it right away without even taking it up with the channel.

Which are the projects that you have in the pipeline?

We have a serial called Chinar which is set in the backdrop of terrorism. This is being directed by Sanjay Upadhyay. Apart from this, there are two dailies that will be taking off soon. Some other concepts are also being negotiated with the channels.

Which would you consider to be the highpoints of your career?

The telecast of the first episode of Parampara and the success of Daraar, Ashirwaad, Adhikaar and now Kittie Party.

What is your vision for Siddhant Cinevision in the next few years?

See, very few producers manage to strike the right balance between making money and creating credibility for themselves as far as quality of programming content goes. We have consistently achieved this in the last ten years, wherein we have produced more than 1500 hours of programming content. But now onwards, my thrust will almost entirely be in creating some real top quality stuff and that is the reason the quantity of serials we are doing has decreased somewhat.

While TV will always continue to be our bread and butter, we are also venturing into movies and hopefully by early next year our first film will go on the floors.

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