Television

"Production values nowadays mean yellow bathrooms and blue curtains" : Girish Mallik

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Understandably, he is quite excited these days. With his mega-scale war epic Mission Fateh launching on Sahara Manoranjan a few weeks ago, the man is on a natural high and raring to go. The serial has earned a few rave reviews but for the conceptualiser cum director Girish Mallik, it is just the beginning of a long journey.

Mallik the director may take a while to register, but the actor is a well known face. After almost a decade in front of the camera, he decided to call the shots, literally. He took up direction six years ago, and now has quite a few shows to his credit.

He met up with indiantelevision.com's Trupti Ghag at Clapstem Productions where he arranged for a sneak preview of the forthcoming episodes of his serial and spoke about his pet passion ... direction.

Excerpts:

If I am not mistaken, you are commerce graduate, then how did the transition to the small screen happen?

Marketing and sales graduate with a postgraduate degree in tourism and travel, to be precise. But I have always been inclined towards the performing arts. I am a trained 'Chau' dancer. As a matter-of-fact, before joining the media, I used to perform internationally. I still remember my performance in Japan with a crowd of 20,000 cheering me.

The anticlimax was when, after coming to India I performed in an indoor hall, in front of a crowd barely consisting of 200-300 uninterested people. I retired from the scene. It was then that I started working with theatre as a hobby and later moved to television.

If it was all smooth sailing as an actor, why did you decide to shift to directing?

Honestly, after a few years in the industry, life was getting monotonous. The system that I was used to wasn't there any more. Now you have pretty faces mouthing a few words and shedding a few tears. Rehearsal is such a passé term and as for homework… you might as well forget about it. The production values mean yellow bathrooms and blue curtains. I had to get up and do something.



"There are certain actors that can surprise, I do not disturb them"

When was it that you first decide to go behind the camera?

By that I time, I had already done my share of work in front of the camera. I was a known face thanks to Banegi Apni Baat, Tara and Shanti. Although I really had no expertise, Zee allotted me episodes of Rishtey. I set up Clapstem Production and before you know it, I had directed the maximum number of the Rishtey episodes (grins).

Being an actor, has it helped in any way now that you are on the other side of the camera?

Undoubtedly! I understand an actor's psyche. I know that every actor has his own way of emoting. I explain the basic premise of the character and hand over the screenplay to him, how he chooses to enact a certain scene is his lookout. I just make sure that the actor is comfortable.

There are certain actors that can surprise, I do not disturb them.

Tell me something about your latest project 'Mission Fateh'. I am told that you conceptualised the show. How did that come about?

The idea had been germinating in my head for ages. I decided to go ahead with it two years ago. Initially, I had planned to approach all the leading channels, but it seemed so much like Sahara's project that I pursued them. It did not take me long to convince them.

But that wasn't the main hurdle. I had to compile the matter, which wasn't an easy task.

Why was that so, did you face any problems from the army?

Not any specific problem as such, but the army harbours a distrust for the media. Their major grouse is that the screens reduce military officers to caricatures. The officers depicted so far on the screen seem almost robotic… speaking in a certain way, walking in a certain manner.

It was difficult initially to get through the shell but our scriptwriter Brig. (Retd) M M Bhanot and the entire research team managed to break the shell. Now we have the army helping us out voluntarily.

You earlier mentioned that the project was designed to be a Sahara project, why is it so?

It is! No other channel would have been able to do justice to the show. The channel understood the show's demands. Be it financial or creative support, Sahara has never denied us anything.

There was a time when I took a 60-member crew to a remote location to shoot but for 10 days but we were stuck in the hotel because of the hostile climate. While I was getting upset about it, everybody at the channel was so understanding that they asked me not get to perturbed and just concentrate on what to do next.

So now you are a Sahara loyalist, eh!

(Laughs) Everybody seems to be saying so, but honestly speaking I am on very good terms with other channels as well. I had a special chair reserved for me at the Zee office,all the executive producers, producers and channel authorities know me very well. Similar is the case with other channels.

"I am a very accommodating person but I cannot compromise on my vision"

What are the things that you cannot compromise on as a director?

Well, I am a very accommodating person but I cannot compromise on my vision. If I have decided that a show has to look a certain way, then there are no two ways about it. I absolutely cannot tolerate the word 'impossible'. If there is a problem somewhere, I make sure it is solved.

I am a very greedy director. Sahara managing worker's son Sushanto Roy, who played Vijayant Thapar on the screen, after shooting for a month refused to be conned into act henceforth. He said that if I continued to be as demanding, there will be a time when somebody calls in the human rights commission (laughs).

What are the other projects you have in pipeline?

For starters, there is a music video that I am directing exclusively for Sahara, in which Subrata Roy's wife will showcase her singing. Binod Pradhan of Devdas fame has done the camera work; the video is larger than life. Then there are two comedies Life mein thoda sa freedom mangta hai and Aao behen chugli karein. While these two are in the scripting stages, there is a serious drama Agneepath that explores the father and son relationship. There are a few movies in the pipeline as well that I am keen on doing. And yes, they are all for Sahara (grins).

Seems like you have your hands full. Does that mean we won't be seeing you on the screen anymore?

An actor never dies. Maybe some time later.

Of late, there have been cases where serials have been taken off air abruptly either because of the TRPs or political pressure. How do you ensure that your works don't come under the axe?

As for Mission Fateh, all the episodes are scrutinised by the army and the censor board. Sahara does not like to stir up unnecessary controversies and neither do I. In my show, I have put across both Jehadis' as well as ULFA militants' point of view but in no way have I tried to glorify their misdeeds. As for TRPs, I do not have a meter at my home, do you!

Seriously, I try watching the so called popular serials. Tried to be interested and objective, but beyond a point I saw the line blurring and creativity going from being minimal to nonexistent. And it is not the case that there is no creativity. We have the most brilliant writers, directors in the present scenario.

What has been your most memorable project so far?

It is rather difficult. I can't pinpoint any particular episode.

Well Vijayant Thapar was great. Puneet Datta's episode that was shot entirely through the father's eye, I took loads of creative liberties with it though, it was excellent.

If you take somebody under your wing, what is the quality that you look for in him/her?

A wannabe director has to be forever on his toes. No ego hassles whatsoever.

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