Television

"Josh is going to change the way TV serials are shot": Anil Naidu

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 This summer, leading Hindi general entertainment channel Star Plus is hedging its bets on Josh. The show premieres on 16 May at 9:30 pm and promises to deliver unlimited doses of ak.. tion. The show stars Salil Ankola, Vinod Sharawat joining hands to fight crime for entirely different reasons. Helming the show is director Anil Naidu for whom this represents a major leap.

Previously Naidu has worked on such shows as The Bhaskar Ghose Show, StarBiz for Star Movies. He has also a wide array of experience in the ad film world. Indiantelevision.com's correspondent Ashwin Pinto caught with Naidu on the sidelines of a press meet to announce the launch ofJosh.

When and how did you get involved with 'Josh'? Who is the target audience?

I knew that Star was planning an action series. They called me and said this is what the script is and this is what we plan to do. This was around a year and a half back. There was debate about what could be done on television. There was concern about the cost factor and so I had to make a pilot.

At that time, the only way I could have pushed this argument forward was by showing them something. So I made the two stars jump from 30th storey of a building. We are targeting anyone between six and 60.

In terms of the storyline, how is the show different from its western counterparts like 'Miami Vice', 'Robocop'?

It is completely different. The only resemblance is that there are two good looking men in it. One character is an ex-cop while the other is an ex-con. This already gives us two different platforms. Salil is a straight, simple guy who does things by the book. Vinod's character is unique in that he can do anything. He is into disguises, flirtation. At the same time, he is very good at heart. Saurabh Shukla is intelligent, collected and a schemer.



"Using stuntmen would have been easier, but not as effective"

What are your expectations from the show? Are you looking to fill a vacuum?

Frankly, I was called into it by Star saying this is what we intend to do. The strategical thinking behind it was Star's. I had never imagined that a high-end action series on television could become a reality. In fact if it wasn't for those two actors who performed like daredevils we would not be sitting here.

I think that the show is going to change a lot of things. Firstly is the manner in which television serials are shot and also the production values used. This is my hope.

Tell me about the production design and elaborate sets that were used?

We don't have too many sets; just a couple. But we shot on location. We shot at the Bangalore racecourse, the airport, on mountain ranges, Alibag on speedboats and tugboats. We also used helicopters. So the scale comes from location. All the shooting has been done in India.

What innovative film techniques were used and what were the logistical challenges encountered?

When we started Josh a year and a half back, cable technology was new. This is what you see inThe Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon involving giving the audience the semblance that the characters are flying. We didn't want to get into that kind of action. Therefore we used cable in an extremely different way. When they fall from several floors, they are on cables. Ordinarily you would have a stuntman doing it. Cable technology allowed us to use real actors.

In terms of logistics, the most important thing was using actors to do the stunts. We had to see to it that they did not get injured. Even if they suffer a small fracture, then they are out of action for a month. That we couldn't afford. Therefore everything was tried, tested, rehearsed before we put these guys in. It just takes that much more time. Using stuntmen would have been easier but not as effective. Now when you see them actually falling, you wonder if it is a gimmick or special effects. The seeming reality of the action scenes gives the show that extra bite. The only difference is that they are on cables.

Did you put the actors through an intensive physical drill?

Salil is in terrific shape as he anyway trains. However while you do action, your whole body language has to be different. For instance, when you are on a harness ,the centre of gravity changes. How do you balance yourself? .

We had about 15 days of training for that. We didn't have any high-end martial arts training for them though. The question was basically how they would hold their body in mid-air. Even the helicopter jump was done at the spur of the moment, as that was what the script required. The shooting from morning to night was strenuous. It is tough to balance your personal with your professional life but when you are trying to accomplish something major you have to pay the price. Of course you cannot do action once tiredness sets in but we still tried to squeeze in scenes when they got tired.

Is 'Josh' entirely action oriented or has attention also been paid to character development?

See it is a mix of everything. It is not only about the action sequences. It has a sense of humour, romance. Shukla has a habit of making people laugh unintentionally with his mannerisms and dry sense of humour.

Salil has a girlfriend who was an activist. During a morcha when he an officer on duty there was a lathi charge and she got killed. So there is this angst in him. Vinod came to Mumbai to be a star but he couldn't fulfil his ambitions. There is a sense of disappointment in him. These different emotions being experienced and carried gave me ideas and a variety of situations I could put the characters in.

Do you see the 13-episode commission series coming back into vogue?

We have shot nine episodes already. As we started doing the series we realised that it would be extremely time consuming. I am not just referring to the shooting but also post-production. About 80 per cent of it is shot on film. So you have got to get into tele cine and processing. Then you have to digitise it and edit. .

Since this was on film, there was no sound sync and therefore you have to lay the tracks. This is time consuming. This was the main reason. Otherwise I would have continued. I would have had to wait for a year before I got another bank of episodes.

"You can do action using a mediocre action director but we have used the best in the country"

As a director who are your role models and what have you learnt?

Spielberg, Martin Scorcese. In addition Ramesh Sippy's Sholay is one of my favourites. I have learnt a lot in terms of narration. It is the most important part to film besides the impact. Action as a genre is not about how you got there but what you do after reaching there.

When I was in advertising I also used to tell stories but this is a totally different ball game.

Senior media planner Andre Nair recently said that production houses are overpaid. In fact production costs have come down according to him. Any comments.

I do not agree with that at all. I think that production costs are getting more and more expensive. Talent is expensive. Good technicians command a high price. You can do action using a mediocre action director but we have used the best in the country. Allan Amin has done Satya,Company, Mission Kashmir, Hero. The best charge a certain price. I really don't think that it is getting any cheaper.

What are the differences between making an ad film vis a vis a television serial?

30 seconds as opposed to one hour. We tell a story with both mediums. Both are equally difficult. Advertising is extremely difficult as the shots have to precise. Your shot has to say lots more than just the 18 frames that are there. At the same time for a successful one- hour serial you have to have the ability to hold the audiences attention for that period. It cannot drag or be loose. At the same time it cannot be so fast that the audience looses the thread of what is happening. .

With ad films, I have noticed that humour of a different class has come in. I think that the Fevicol ad in particular is brilliant.

What other projects are you currently working on?

Nothing at the moment. I am completely focussed on this project.

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