"Producers should get telecast rights of their serials after some years" : Sheel Kumar

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The two fields are as diverse as chalk and cheese. But Sheel Kumar, director of Shreya Corp is as determined to make a mark in television software as he has in the world of pharmaceuticals.

Since its foray in software creation in 2000, Shreya Corp has produced a few episodes of Aap Jo Bolein Haan To Haan…. and Rishtey on Zee. Now, with two serials coming on air simultaneously on DD Metro - a sitcom Musibat Bolke Aayee and a family drama Swayam…Ek Ehsaas, Shreya Creations has taken a major step towards consolidating its software business. On the anvil are more serials and telefilms that are being negotiated with different channels.

Indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar spoke to Sheel Kumar to find out more about the company's business plans.

How did you start off as producer?

I completed my medical degree from Ukraine in 1998 and joined the Shreya group of industries, which happened to be a major player in the pharmaceutical sector. In February 2000, we expanded into the entertainment sector and by December the same year, I was made director of this division. We always had a vision to be a major player in the entertainment business, because we felt that it was one of the most happening sectors. We started off with some episodes of Aap Jo Bolein Haan To Haan…, co-producing with Fish Eye Networks and a couple of episodes of Rishtey. Now we are out with our own soaps.

As producer, which subjects appeal more to you?

Basically, I'm excited by subjects that are different from normal run-of-the-mill stuff. I don't restrict myself to specific genres, but would like to venture into as many disparate genres as possible.

What makes you go for DD at a time when some of DD's oldest patrons are deserting it?

If you look at the TRPs that Channel 9 enjoyed while it lasted, there can be no doubt about the fact that DD still commands the highest viewership. Yes, making profits on DD is not easy, what with a telecast fee of Rs. 150,000. But that does not deter us much. One, because profit is not the guiding factor for us right now. Right now, we just want to make our presence felt as a software producer and add it to our business profile. Two, we have an inhouse marketing team which is doing a pretty decent job. I am fairly confident that in the next few months, we will start making money out of these two serials.

"Look at the TRPs Channel 9 enjoyed...there can be no doubt that DD still commands the highest viewership"

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What is your production set-up like?

We have a team of 15 people that includes two executive producers, an in-house writer and people in marketing and post-production. We have our own post-production facilities even at this early stage.

As producer, which areas are you personally involved with?

I am involved with each and every aspect of the shooting of these serials. Right from the stage of concept development to the writing of individual episodes to personally supervising the shooting, I like to be involved in every possible way. I take a special interest in casting the right characters.

Do you have any prior training in the medium?

None. I didn't know anything about the medium when I started off, but there was a tremendous inquisitiveness to learn about the medium. Whatever I know today ought to be credited to hands-on training I imbibed while observing the shoots. If I don't understand something, I don't hesitate to ask my director or editor. In fact, for this very purpose I have appointed veteran director Chander Behl as the creative director of all our projects.

How do you rate the present quality of programming?

Do you feel there is a surfeit of saas-bahu conflicts?

The quality of programming was much better two years ago before these saas- bahu sagas became a rage with the audience. But even though you and I may not like these serials, they have got a huge market and are liked by vast sections of people.

What volumes are you looking at in terms of the number of on-air serials you can have simultaneously?

Right now, we have two. This will be followed by a daily which we shall announce shortly. By the end of this year, we're looking at having six serials on air and by the end of 2003, we should have twelve on air.

Have you ever found EPs involvement in your projects becoming an impediment?

No. I have mainly interacted with Zee and have found their executive producers to be very cooperative and helpful.

India is probably the only country where producers don't get a share of the channel revenue even after forfeiting their rights over the serial. How do you feel about this state of affairs?

That's right. But at least there are financial incentives for attaining certain TRPs and this acts as an inducement. I do feel though that after a certain period of time, say five years or so, the producer should be returned the telecast rights of his serials so that he can go in for a re-run elsewhere.

"You and I may not like these serials, but 'saas bahu' sagas have a huge market and are liked by vast sections of people"

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Who are your favourite directors?

Chander Behl, Ajai Sinha and Paresh Kamdar are among my favourite directors.

On what basis do you choose a channel?

Well, right now the industry situation is such that we don't have much choice. We approach all channels and it's the channel that chooses or rejects us.

How easy or difficult is it to get a pilot approved today?

Well, given the competition that prevails today , it is not easy to get a pilot approved on any channel. Even to get a pilot approved on DD requires a fair amount of persuasion. The pilots of the two serials- Musibat Bolke Aayee and Swayam-Ek Ehsaas were shot about two years back. But I have taken a policy decision that should a pilot not be taken up by a satellite channel, I would push it on DD, unlike other producers who shun these projects altogether.

Where do you see Shreya Creations five years down the line?

Well, that's a difficult question. Ideally, I would like to see Shreya Creations grow into a media conglomerate well diversified into every sphere of entertainment- TV, films and music. But I also realize that one has to cope with huge uncertainties in this industry. I think I would need some more time to form a realistic picture of where we would be five years later.

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