"The viability of a concept plays a significant role in getting a time slot" : Rakhi Tandon

Rakhi Tandon shot into prominence as the chirpy, imbecilic teenager in the TRP buster Hum Paanch five years ago. While she continues to be as vivacious, the former Ms Vijan has metamorphosed into a successful TV producer, after her marriage to producer Rajeev Tandon. Rakhi though has taken to her new role like a fish to water.

Apart from the hugely successful Heena, the other shows produced by her R.T. Entertainment include Professor Pyarelal,Cincinnati Bublaboo and Dulhan. The company is now poised to start a new innings with the launch of two new serials in the first week of March 2002. These comprise Har Mod Par, a daily inspired by a real life sati incident in rural India and a weekly sitcom Hum Hain Dilwale launching 7 march on Sony Entertainment in the Thursday 8 pm slot.

Indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar met the producer to discover that the real Rakhi is quite different from the audience's general perception of her. Excerpts from a freewheeling interview:

Is Rakhi Tandon the producer different from Rakhi Tandon the actor?

As a person, I am extremely fun loving and vivacious. But I would also like to believe that I have always been a responsible person and that as producer, I know my responsibilities are increased manifold. My performance as producer would probably indicate that I've done a pretty decent job.

A new channel never defaults on your payment, because it starts off with a lot of money.


Did you always want to be a producer?

No, most things in life have happened to me by coincidences, most of them pleasant. I was accompanying a friend of mine for a screen test when the director spotted me and felt that I suited the character they were casting for. Similarly, I was enjoying my acting career when marriage just happened and I got interested in production.

As a producer, which subjects appeal the most to you?

Sitcoms are always my first preference. Apart from that, I look for subjects that have the scope of getting a social message across, subjects that give people food for thought. Har Mod Par is an effort in this direction. It's the story of a 16-year-old girl who becomes a widow within hours of her marriage and is forced to commit sati by the village head because he wants publicity to bolster his claim for a railway track passing through the village. This is a real life incident.

On what basis do you choose a channel?

Sony and Star are old favorites by virtue of the relationship we have built with them. But the decision to take Har Mod Par to Sahara was taken on the basis of the subject. We felt the subject would meet greater acceptability in the interiors and since Sahara has a wider reach in the interiors than other satellite channels, we opted for it.

One of your programmes is also planned for MAK TV. In the current scenario, aren't you skeptical of experimenting with a new channel?

(laughs)A new channel never defaults on your payment, because it starts off with a lot of money. It's only when the initial programmes don't get the expected returns, that the defaults begin.

Has any channel defaulted with you on payments or commitment of time slots?

No, never.

Do you feel big corporate houses like Balaji or UTV have a monopoly over the best time slots?

Yes, to an extent that's right. But, this so called monopoly also moves in cycles. Plus Channel had the best of time slots earlier, then there was a time when Cinevista became very powerful, and today it's Balaji. Tomorrow, even we could be influential and get the best slots on all channels. However, I believe that the viability of a concept also plays a significant role in getting a time slot.

Plus Channel had the best of time slots earlier, then there was a time when Cinevista became very powerful, and today it's Balaji.

Have you ever felt that despite having a fabulous concept you've missed out on pitching it to a channel?

Yes, that has happened. But, in such cases instead of pre-selling the concept, I go ahead and shoot a pilot. Once, a top quality pilot is ready, channels tend to be more receptive to our concerns.

Would you not want R.T. Entertainment to evolve into a corporate entity?

We haven't planned anything. I believe in crossing the bridge when I come to it. Right now, our only concern is to bring out as many top quality programmes as we can.

How do you divide your professional responsibilities with your husband?

I mainly look after the marketing of our programmes, building relationships with channels, as well as the creative aspects of our shows. Rajeev takes care of the production, the shoots, the finances, the actual scripting and the post-production. Apart from that, we take joint decisions on taking up any new concepts.

Do you have a fixed team of writers or do you experiment with new writers?

I have a few favourites - Raghuveer Shekhawat, Sanjay Solomon, Nawab Arzoo and Naeem Ijaz, whom I like to repeat for various projects. At any point of time, I like to work on one project with them. But I am certainly open to new writers if they have fresh concepts.

As a producer, are you more inclined towards stories that can have you in a central role?

Yes, I guess that is a tendency with all actor-turned producers. That's why R.T. is planning to come out with more comedies.

Channels tend to be more receptive, once a top quality pilot is ready

What is your production set-up like?

We have a very well structured set-up comprising executive producers, directors and production people. There is one head director on each programme who works more as a series director and under him there are episode directors. Our production team comprises a team of five people with one production head.

Have you ever felt hassled by the EPs in channels over cast or storyline?

No. I know it's a common complaint most producers have, but I have personally not faced this problem. On the contrary, I've found some of their inputs to be quite productive.

Do you prefer producing weeklies or dailies?

I prefer weeklies, because we are able to maintain a better quality in the case of weeklies. However, if a channel is willing to buy a concept only if it is made into a daily, I'm open to it.

How do you balance your roles as actor and producer?

Well, of late, I haven't been acting much, mainly to concentrate on production but I have also decided to act only in comedies henceforth. This is because it suits me and people have loved me in the comic roles that I've done. I'm totally open to working for outside banners.

Which has been the happiest moment of your career?

It's yet to happen.

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