"Soaps have been testing viewers' patience" : Rakesh Chaudhary

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Rakesh Chaudhary is the conventional old world TV producer who would rather produce quality content that he strongly believes in, than do something the rest of the world is doing. 

Chaudhary, who started off in the mid 1980s with a series of successful soaps like Chunauti and Mujrim Haazir, suffered with the dominance of satellite channels because, in his own words - "he was never comfortable with their style of working."

After a brief lull, however, he is back with two new serials - a sitcom Aisa Bhi Hota Hai and a travel showRaj Travels' Duniya Ki Sair Kar Lo, both on DD Metro. Also lined up are two other shows that will be on air soon.

In a tete-a-tete with indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar, Rakesh talks about his company Samvaad's future plans.

From a family of real estate dealers, how did you get involved in show business?

My career in theatre started as a backstage worker in 1981-82. Later, I started operating music and eventually writing the scripts. By end 83, I came across reports that DD was looking for private producers providing them entertainment content. As my family was into the real estate business and I had a small import export business of my own, I was in a financially strong position to venture into TV production. My background in theatre only helped me get into TV production fairly smoothly.
 
As a producer, which genre really appeals to you?

I would like to venture into as many genres as I can. I've done everything from social drama to classic to comedy and a hugely successful soap highlighting issues of concern for the youth - Chunauti. I personally have no favourites as far as genres are concerned but yes, as director I prefer directing social and emotional drama.
 
"Actually, content quality has only deteriorated over the years and I hold the satellite channels largely responsible for it "
 
Why have you always gone for DD?

It so happens that once you have worked with a channel for a given number of years, you get accustomed to its style of working and it becomes easier to deal with their officials and get your programmes through. I have been with DD for so long that I know the intricacies of its working and thanks to a good rapport I share with them, I have a very easy work relationship with them.
 
But are you totally closed to satellite channels?

No, no. It's just that when the satellite channels actually started off, I wasn't too keen to put my programmes on them because their thrust was on cost reduction and the quality of their content was really not so good. I have met the channel people occasionally but somehow I have never really been too comfortable with their style of working. Even today, I am not closed to satellite channels but I need a more concerted effort to make a breakthrough with them.
 
What is your production set up like?

I have my own production team, my own editing studio, digital cameras and an in-house marketing team operating in Mumbai and Delhi. Our own marketing team has been in existence since 1999 because, since then we have had at least two soaps at any given point of time.
 
Do you manage to reap profits or even recover all your costs on DD?

More often than not, we do. Yes, there was a brief phase when the transmission rates were increased unreasonably and we did lose some money. But DD again has its own set of advantages. Intezar Aur Sahi, an old soap of mine is being re-run and it still makes money. Besides, we retain the rights of all our serials that can be re-run anywhere.
 
How many programmes are you capable of having on air simultaneously?

I think we are in a position to have five programmes on air simultaneously without stretching our resources too far.
 
Who are your favourite writers?

Mir Muneer and Ashok Patole are some of my favourite writers. While Mir is a very good dialogue writer, Ashok Patole is one of the few writers who can write both drama and comedy with equal élan. But if you ask me, there is a dearth of good writers in the industry and I wish there were many more good writers.
 
As producer, which areas are you personally involved with?

I am mainly involved with the writing. There are many occasions when I am not happy with the way the script has been written and I personally do a lot of re-writing.
 
You are one of the oldest players in the business. Why has Samvaad then not grown into a corporate empire like Balaji or UTV?

Well, that's mainly because between 1991-95, I was caught up in some problems concerning my family business and was out of the production business almost completely. Then post 1995, when I started all over again, the competition was that much stiffer. However, in the last one year or so, I have made concerted efforts to work towards making Samvaad grow into a corporate entity. I plan to go in for multiple programming as far as TV serials are concerned. Besides, in the next six months or so, I plan to launch a small budget film also.
 






Chunauti - the Samvaad show that launched several acting careers
" In the last couple of years one genre that has really looked up is the game show "
 
What are your sources of funding?

Till now, I have relied heavily on the funds drawn from my family business. However as we are expanding, I'm negotiating credit arrangements with some financial institutions. I would like to go in for venture funding in the future. As far as raising a public issue goes, I think every company dreams of it, but that will take at least five years or so, if it happens.
 
How has TV programming grown in the last two decades?

Actually it has only deteriorated over the years and I hold the satellite channels largely responsible for it. See, quality of content started worsening after these channels sprang up around the early and mid-nineties. From there on, it's been a game of low cost programming, wherein the only redeeming feature in these programmes would be their glossy feel. Yes, in the last couple of years one genre that has really looked up is the game shows. But again these shows constitute a very negligible fraction of the entire programming.
 
How do you foresee the future programming trends?

People are getting fatigued of the same monotonous soaps and I'm sure good quality programming will return soon. I feel the eighties was a rich phase as far as programming went. We had quality entertainers like Chunauti, Tamas, Buniyaad, Mujrim Hazir and Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. I believe these kind of programs will make a comeback soon because soaps have tested the viewers' patience.
 
Have you given up direction altogether?

Well, no, but unless I am really charged up about a concept, it becomes difficult for me to go full throttle and take up the responsibility of direction. Otherwise, I'm happy playing a more supervisory role and helping my company grow.
 
Where do you see Samvaad five years hence?

See, we have major plans for expansion. It remains to be seen how far we are able to reach. But definitely we would like to be known as a dependable production house providing multiple programmes of rich quality. God willing, we would also have produced a couple of movies by then.

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