"A daily can easily go on for over two years" : Bharavi Shah

Very few writers begin their foray into TV writing with a soap as popular as Kkusum. Bharavi Shah, who does the screenplay of Sony's flagship soap happens to be among those lucky few. She is also the creative head of Kahi To Milenge, a new Balaji daily that has recently premiered on Sahara TV. For someone who never consciously planned to be a writer, Bharavi's achievements in a span of less than two years are quite a handful.
Excerpts of a tete-a-tete she had with indiantelevision.com -
When and how did you get bitten by the writing bug?

Well, I was always interested in the medium. I have written plays in Mithibhai college and was involved in directing them too. From there, I went on become an associate director in some Gujarati serials. Later, Rajesh Joshi who was writing serials for Balaji introduced me to Ekta Kapoor. Ekta showed immense faith in me and that was how I started writing for Balaji. Kkusum was my first break as a screenplay writer. I have also written several episodes of Kohi Apna Sa.
How did you learn the nuances of TV writing?

Well, all my training has been hands on. One has to have a natural aptitude for writing which I guess I had. Besides, Ekta was very supportive and trusted my abilities even when I was a raw newcomer. I have learnt things by the trial and error method.
What are the qualities required of an effective writer?

One should have a good command over the language. Even though I write only the screenplay of Kkusum, my screenplay is full of suggested dialogues in Hindi. Besides, one should be a good observer and have a good sense of drama.

"A few months ago when Nausheen met with a serious accident and remained indisposed for sometime, we had a terrible time re-working the episodes"
Which subjects appeal to you as a writer?

Personally, I like subjects inspired by and adapted from real life incidents, yet presented in a manner that is commercially viable.
Is writing a daily tough?

Oh, yes, it is very tough, mainly on two counts. One, the script has to be constantly re-worked depending on the availability of artistes. For instance, a few months ago when Nausheen met with a serious accident and remained indisposed for sometime, we had a terrible time re-working the episodes. She had to be suddenly removed from the scene and major changes had to be made in several episodes. And all this had to be done in an acute time crunch, given the pressure of readying the episodes on time. Then, the other major problem stems out of the kind of competition that exists today. Even in the case of dailies, viewers expect the pace, taking and grandeur of a weekly.
How many dailies do you feel you can manage simultaneously, without in any way compromising on the quality?

Two, given that I have a good team working with me.
Are you bound by some contract with Balaji not to work for outside producers?

No, no. It's just that right now I have enough work happening for me at Balaji and hence don't really see any reason to venture out.
Does TV writing pay well?

Personally, I'm quite satisfied on this front. A professional screenplay writer can earn anywhere between Rs.2,500 and Rs.8,000 per episode.
Do you find channel EPs interfering a lot nowadays?

Not so much with the Balaji serials because of the production house's proven credibility, but yes I've heard of some writers having to make major changes on EPs' demands. As far as I can remember, I've had had to re-write an entire episode only once because the channel wanted it differently.
What is your writing schedule like?

Actually, given the interactive nature of our work, there is no definite schedule. There are days when I write for six hours from home and other days when we just have brainstorming sessions in office and sort out the future course of the story.

"I've had had to re-write an entire episode only once because the channel wanted it differently"
Why has Kkusum lost its sheen? What is the cause of its depleting TRPs?

Actually, the channel itself has lost a lot of its viewership. I agree that there have been problems in patches, for instance, when Kkusum met with the accident and a whole lot of episodes went haywire. But right now, the problem is more with the channel's depleting viewership. Anyway, Kkusum still continues to be the no.1 show on Sony.
'Kkusum' is close to completing two years. Have you ever run out of ideas creating newer plots and sub-plots?

Well, not really. I feel if there is sufficient content in the story in terms of plot movements, a daily can easily be scripted for two years without any major problem. In any case, nowadays, most dailies are done by a team- two people handling the screenplay and another two the dialogues. So, by way of interactions and brainstorming, we sort out any potential dead ends that might be there.
Where do you draw your inspiration from - books, movies, real life experiences?

Unfortunately, due to an extremely chaotic schedule, I am not able to follow up on reading much or watching movies. I rely heavily on my own experiences in real life and my observation of what I see happening in the lives of people around me. Of course, it sounds so easy but I also feel that writing is a natural talent and unless one has it, it becomes very difficult to just start writing to earn a living.
What does the future hold for you? Have you given up plans of direction altogether?

No, no. I would love to direct some day, but don't know when. Right now, I'm just flowing with the tide and enjoying my writing.

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