"I don't believe half-baked shows are accepted by viewers": Aditya Singh Contiloe Films

When Aditya Singh and brother Abhimanyu started their production house Contiloe Films Private Ltd in 1996, all they had was a vision in mind. For the first three years, the duo made serials for Doordarshan. Today, Contiloe has carved a niche for itself with serials like Krishna Arjun (earlier called Krishna Sharma CA), Rahen Na Rahen Hum, Sshhh… Koi Hai and Kashmeer on Star Plus.

Together, Aditya and Abhimanyu have a agreement - while Aditya is involved in conceiving and developing concepts and marketing them to the channel, Abhimanyu takes over the production and the actual execution of projects.

However, of late, the duo admit they are broadening their horizons. Abhimanyu is getting more involved with the creatives and Aditya is focusing on evolving the company's future plans for growth, including recruitments.

Indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani spent some quality time with Aditya to understand his views on various aspects of the television industry and his plans for the future. Excerpts from the interview:

How do you view the progress of Contiloe Films?

We are going as per plan. We have consolidated our company and have made a mark. Sometimes, however, one cannot achieve all that one has planned to. There are various fluctuations in the market besides changes in the dimensions of entertainment. All said and done, it's been a satisfying experience.

'Krishna Arjun' was earlier titled 'Krishna Sharma CA'. Were you disappointed that the original comedy show, intended to tackle real life issues, did not work?

When Krishna Sharma CA started off, we planned to take up social causes on the lines of the popular Priya Tendulkar serial Rajni.

But there was no question of disappointment, when it didn't work out - we were confident that we could turn it around. Actually, we were running out of issues. So we modified it into a show which would cater to kids. Fortunately, Star Plus supported the show in its new avatar. And we succeeded in making it more entertaining and gripping.

You seem to have a special equation with Star. Any reasons for that?

We sit with ideas, we build upon them - we do everything to make the programmes better. Because we know we need to sustain the viewers' interest. We need to ensure that the TRPs don't drop.

Today, television is all about the support a subject gets in terms of budget for execution and promotion. It's essential that the production house and channel understand each other's needs, thrash out their differences, meet on common ground and pour in the creative inputs collectively. It's so comfortable and stimulating if the producer and the broadcaster are on the same level.

We don't want innovations and inventions to take a backseat. It's very easy to do five daily soaps without doing justice to any of the projects. I don't believe half-baked shows are accepted by the viewers.

"Comedy requires tremendous skill in terms of writing and language. It is a very special genre, especially in India"

A still from Krishna Arjun

You started working with DD Metro. Currently, why don't you have any show on Doordarshan?

For the last four to five years, DD has been trying to figure out which direction to take. Anyway, we don't want to spread too broadly and lose control of all the good work we have done. When the time is right, we might work with DD. Not immediately.

Why did 'Kashmeer' stop abruptly?

Kashmeer was supposed to have about 18-20 episodes. But around the13th episode, we realised that the show was getting very sensitive. So we veered a bit and kept the track going with the focus on the love angle. But after some editing, the serial was complete in 17 episodes.

Would you take up production of another serial on a sensitive issue like that of 'Kashmeer' again?

Why not? I think we handled it pretty well.

'Krishna Arjun CA' started off as a comedy but later changed tracks. Even generally, soaps are more in number than sitcoms, on any channel. Why this trend?

Soaps are perhaps the easiest to make. Comedy requires a tremendous amount of skill in terms of writing and language. It is a very special genre, especially in India. What might be funny for a Punjabi might not be funny for a Bengali and vice versa.

Do you intend making soaps?

Yes, that's a part of our agenda in our forthcoming round of programming. We'll try our very best to be different. But don't expect a total turnabout. The backdrop would be different from other soaps but the focus and thrust can't go beyond emotion and drama. One thing I can say, we'll definitely make it more interesting and pacy; we won't let the show drag unnecessarily.

Other plans?

We plan to make documentaries for the international market. Also, I see good scope in making short films which could initially be released in theatres, followed by a television telecast after a period of time. I am not ruling that out for Contiloe Films. But yes, short films would need a lot of content. At the end, I see myself producing a movie.

Do you plan to produce telefilms?

Not as yet. Telefilms are not happening. Makers are looking at compelling viewership, which is difficult for telefilms to generate. We have to go by the current market trend. Right now, television is happening.

But as and when the time is right, we would certainly indulge in making telefilms. The phase of telefilms will come back. But nobody can tell when exactly would that be.

A still from 'Kashmeer'
"Producers, who deliver on quality and don't maximise profits by cutting costs, don't suffer. You can't keep a good man down; you can't trample on good work"

What are the disappointments, if any, that you have felt along the way as a TV producer?

None as yet. I know people complain about the formation of lobbies by certain production houses which get all the work from various channels. But then, doesn't the channel have the right to trust people who have delivered well and in time?

Producers, who deliver on quality and don't maximise profits by cutting costs, don't generally suffer. You can't keep a good man down; you can't trample on good work.

Are film based shows (like 'Jubilee Plus') more profitable propositions than soaps?

Difficult to say. Because we haven't ventured into soaps as yet. We haven't sat and worked it out in detail.

Last year, you had told indiantelevision.com in an interview: "I foresee a great scope for news-based programming, which I plan to get into in a big way". Any progress on that front?

As a company, we look at short-term gains, middle-term gains as well as long-term gains. To me, news-based programming figures as a medium and a long-term gain…

As for venturing into news shows, I am ready if I am supported by my broadcaster. If I get a broadcaster like Star who pays me well, never delays my payment and compensates me for something that I have shot but they couldn't telecast, then why not?

Do you believe in TRPs?

Certainly. It's a very scientific method.

Your views on CAS…

If implemented in a slow and sure phase, it would help. The concept is good. But if implemented at gunpoint, it wouldn't make sense.

Distribution in India is a major problem. Nothing happens overnight. But I fear that when CAS is implemented, many lower-middle class viewers will be forced to opt out of the pay channel packages due to money constraints. The effects could be more traumatic than we can imagine. People have become so dependent on television now that I wonder what they would do without most channels!

Post-CAS, do you think production quality will suffer, especially if channels start granting lesser funds than before?

Maybe, but in that case, you can't blame the channel either. Channels are doing their business. Which businessman can ignore a loss? However, in such a case, producers may even start raising the quality of their content in order to get noticed.
You are partnering with Cinevistaas for post-production facilities. But you had said earlier that you would be setting up your own post-production house.

We have a very comfortable working relationship with Cinevistaas. Presently, we are doing Sshhh... Koi Hai as a joint venture with them. Our other shows on air- Krishna Arjun, Jubilee Plus etc are being done independently by us. We have also set up our own post-production unit.
Are women producers more successful on Indian television?

This is a recent trend and has to do with the women-centric soaps on television, of late. But I wouldn't read much into it.

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