Television

"We will not deviate from the original script of 'Betty La Fea', come what may" : Deeya Singh

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Tony and Deeya Singh have been pulled in from the wilderness (their last well known work was Just Mohabbat and Banegi Apni Baat) by Sony Entertainment TV to make Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin, but it seems like a good decision. Four days old, Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin on Sony TV had people talking about the plain Jane (who plays the protagonist in the Indianised version of Ya Soy Betty La Fea) and the theme which is novel in a country whose satellite television is obsessed with glamour, beauty, eyelid-batting heroines and kitchen politics.

By their own admission, the rights require them to proceed more or less on the same lines as the original, and the show should end in a year and a half as the original did. With the directors (and the channel of course) sticking to the same speed and story as the original that was a massive hit in several countries, a repeat story here cannot be ruled out. At last count, Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin has broken through into the top 30 shows.

Indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani met a beaming Deeya Singh in her office.

Excerpts:

It's been a long time after your last serial until 'Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin'...

Yeah. It's been a long time since Just Mohabbat and Banegi Apni Baat. But it hurts to see that nothing succeeds like success.



Actually, Tony and I directed a daily serial Maan on Channel 9, but unfortunately Channel 9 did not happen. Nobody talks about Maan. We also did a show Dil Se Dosti (Sony) showcasing six friends. And we did Love Mein Kabhi Kabhi (Sab TV) which I strongly feel was one of our better shows. But the saas bahu rage was very, very strong at that time. The times were not conducive to the type of work we wanted to do or were doing. The show was not accepted. We were quite a disappointed duo for some time, at least.

But still you kept going. What was the motivation?

Our faith in ourselves. We spoke to each other at length and concluded that different kind of work will be noticed, sooner or later. We knew it was just a matter of time. We bided our time patiently, of course, with a little prayer in heart. And... the tide did turn.

So far, so good. But tell me, do you think that 'Jassi...' would have done well if it had come as a one-hour weekly?

I don't think so. The concept of Jassi... would not fit the structure of one-hour formatting. The hourly shows formatting require the script and screenplay to demand a visually appealing backdrop. If you'll see some of these hourly weeklies on Star Plus, you'll know what I mean. Go to see, Jassi... does not need a beautiful, breathtaking backdrop. It does not require an extremely large canvas. The concept in itself is fabulous. Besides, Jassi... has to be a part of your every day life. She needs to get into your bloodstream.

Why?

Because, she is out to deliver a message. She teaches you how to take the failures and rejections in life. Every day, we go through some downs. Jassi... is a balm on those depressing emotions. Consequently, she makes you positive and optimistic, which is the key to live life well.

It is a sad state of affairs that we watch so much of negativity every day in most serials. What do you end up in bed with? Nightmares of vampires! Evil designs of vamps!

"Jassi teaches you how to take failures and rejections in life"

How did 'Jassi...' happen?

Sony TV called Tony and me. We have worked with them before. They had this idea of buying Ya Soy Betty La Fea, we showed great interest... and things fit into place.

You seem to be quite pumped with enthusiasm...

Obviously. It's great to succeed without having any love-triangles, family squabbles, sudden deaths, et al. People are talking about this serial in buses, trains, taxis, rickshaws, restaurants, kitty parties… everywhere. We have managed to have viewers from the lowest common denominator too. Think of it, it's rare for a Sony show to be talked about so much.

Simply put, why has 'Jassi…' clicked?

Simply put, Jassi's character has connected with the Indian-ness in us. It has made us feel that there is a Jassi in us, a Jassi around us - one who is honest and confused, ethical and less-than-ordinary looking. As a protagonist, Jassi is an improvement on 'Tulsi' and even 'Rajni'. She is far more real, relatively.

And yes, the fashion house consisting of the glamorous Rakshanda Khan and Manini De has contributed too. And of course, the models who walk in and out of the show cannot be discounted. We are going to have quite a few beauties on the show.

"It is great to succeed without having any love triangles, family squabbles and sudden deaths"

You say Jassi is very real. But she is out to erode every girl's dreams. Today, every teenage girl wants to become an Aishwarya Rai or Sushmita Sen?

(Raising her voice) That's why she is so real. She is cleansing the myth that every teenage girl is nursing. Tell me, how many of them succeed in becoming an Ash or Sush?

The best part is that she is not screaming over the rooftops while eroding that myth. It's just coming through. Believe it or not, parents have started telling their daughters to see this show simply because they feel it is just what the doctor prescribed for those girls.

How did you choose the protagonist?

If you are indirectly asking me who Jassi is, I am not going to answer that. But yes, I can definitely tell you how I selected her. She walked into my cabin and tripped. Jassi is a slightly clumsy character, very innocent and not a savvy marketable commodity. Two and two became four. That's it.

How did you think of Parmeet Sethi and Apurva Agnihotri? Parmeet Sethi was literally sitting at home. 'Jassi...' gave him a new life. Now we see him in 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and 'Saara Akaash' too...

I don't know whether Parmeet was sitting at home (laughs). But I have always rated him as a very capable actor who should have been given more to do than just show brawns.

As for Apurva's selection is concerned, we needed a fresh face, but at the same time he should look mature enough to head the fashion house and hold his own. So we thought that someone from the film industry would fit the bill.

"If you are indirectly asking me who Jassi is, I am not going to answer"

Are you having some cross-branding with the fashion designers?

Ya. We are going to get such people who want to utilise Jassi… to use it as a platform for not doing the typical.

If the currently good TRPs do not remain good tomorrow, will you still stick to the original 'Ya Soy Betty La Fea'?

We will not deviate, come what may. No reinvention theory will be applied. We are not going to develop cold feet by stray comments. The show has been bought with a lot of belief, or rather, confidence. An intensive research was carried out to determine the prospects of the show. Thereafter, 10-15 intelligent minds whacked their grey on the research to look for loopholes if any.

Of course we have modified it a bit to fit the Indian standards. Like, the grandmother was not a part of the Spanish show. And, the family has been made a little more alive. By making the family more alive does not mean increasing the emotions. We are not resorting to any tricks. Jassi… is one of the most natural shows ever made.

Didn't you feel nervous taking up this project for Sony, because this channel has the reputation of scrapping whatever doesn't work?

The success rate of Ya Soy Betty La Fea has been phenomenal wherever it has been aired. Why would we feel nervous? We had a readymade runway to take off.

"Whatever Jassi will end up doing will be in complete sync with what her character dictates at that moment"

Why so much of hype and hoopla about the show if you guys were so confident?

Please change the word 'hype and hoopla' to 'great marketing' (laughs).

Is the marketing strategy going to be aggressive persistently?

That's for Sony to decide when to press on the gas and when to let the show take over. They are constantly 'at' it; this baby is equally theirs. As a director, I have to bother only about working very hard.

Are you saying that the aggressive marketing has not helped?

I am not saying that the aggressive marketing has not helped. But at the end of the day, why would one watch Jassi… everyday? The show has to be consistently good isn't it?

Are you going to unveil Jassi or not?

Whatever Jassi (read Mona Singh) will end up doing will be in complete sync with what her character dictates at that moment (smiles).
Is there a fixed length to the serial, or is it a never ending serial considering the good response it has garnered?

We will be committed to the original show. Nonetheless, this will be a good question for Sony.

We've heard that you plan to venture into film direction too. Is it true?

Absolutely. Television is our profession, films is our passion. But after Jassi…, the expectations have risen. The spotlight is on us. We have to be careful. We are working on our script. Mostly, the actors will be new. Maybe after six months…

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