"Television needs a censor board": Asha Parekh Director and producer

It is unlikely that any Indian is unfamiliar with the name Asha Parekh. One of the top heroines of the 60s, she started her career as a glamorous, dancing star. Later, with movies like Chiraag, Kati Patang and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, she proved her mettle as a serious actor.

While she might have retired from the silver screen, she never retired from the scene. During her tenure as chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification of India in 1999, she raised several issues and was always in the public eye. Besides, unlike others, she has silently being doing her part for society, from funding a hospital to donating money for various causes.

Meanwhile, she also donned another hat, that of a producer-director. Under her production banner Akruti Films, she produced her first show Baaje Payal for Doordarshan, but that was a long time ago. She came back in the 1990s to direct Kora Kaagaz for Star Plus. The unusual devar-bhabhi love story went well with the audience. She then produced and directed a second show for Star Plus - Kangan. Though the show got off to a rousing start, it could not repeat Kora Kaagaz's magic.

With her latest serial set to air on Sahara, Kucch Pal Saath Tumhara, she is keeping her fingers crossed for the show where she has deviated from her previous bold, women-oriented serials.

Sitting in her new office in Juhu amidst the pre launch excitement of KPST, she spoke to indiantelevision.com's Trupti Ghag.

Firstly, why did you choose television rather than films?

Simple, it is a smaller headache (laughs). Plus with the current rage of big budget movies, it is not really my cup of tea.

You have always been offering stories about strong women characters; the women in your shows have always had author backed roles. Will 'Kucch Pal Saath Tumhara' adopt the same trend?

For a change, it is not going to be that strong. But it is a powerful role where the ultimate choice is going to be in the hands of the girl. It is essentially a love story, which sounds nice and touches your heart. And yes it has a vamp in it, the usual clichéd one....
Seems like you are not keen on adding the vamp…

People love vamps! Ultimately, you have to cater to an audience, so you have to put in such characters.
"Amitabh Bachchan will be on the screen for as long as he wants, not because he is Amitabh but because he is a dedicated actor"

There is a lot of talk going about women being portrayed as retrogressive in television but despite this, the same stuff is being churned out over and over. Now even you seem to adopt a softer stance. Why?

It is very funny. I spoke to some of the women who watch these serials and they say it's just a pastime for them. But when you give them something meaningful, they just refuse to accept it.

Take the case of Dhadkan on Sony. What a marvelous story! It offered authentic depiction of the medical profession; even the characters were so well etched and aptly chosen. But look at its fate. On the other hand, look at Sanjivani. It started off trying to balance itself between being a story about doctors and their relations with patients, but look at it now. 'The medical boon' is an out and out love story now and people love it.

What is the real issue here?

Those dreaded things that they call TRPs… 3000 people decide what the rest of the country should be watching. We can't really do anything. With the channels on a constant lookout to rope in more advertisers, the TRPs seem to clinch the deal. Look what happened to my own production Kangan.

It started with a TRP of nine but plummeted to two. And it is not as if we were offering the same run-of-the-mill story. We had a very strong male character and an interesting story. I went to the TAM office and the people showed me charts of how it fared. I was quite shocked looking at it.

There was yet another show about a man who gets married to a woman half his age and keeps her as a property, neglected. Later, when he has to get his daughter married he chooses a groom barely a few years younger than her mother. The guy falls in love with the mother instead. I thought it was beautifully scripted as well as enacted but there were no audiences for this show as well. Maybe, people aren't really ready for meaningful shows. All they want is visual relief. I am disgusted with this attitude but I will keep trying to improve it.

Getting back to KPST, the basic story line gives a sense of déj? vu. Isn't it quite similar to one of the story tracks in Aditya Chopra's 'Mohabbatein'?

You are right. And I am not saying that we were 'inspired' by the story. We have taken the story and adapted it to television.

Is there a lot of channel interference in production?

Not really, but the times are bad. Like I said earlier, they have to include these certain elements to ensure that their show is appealing. While flicking through the channels the other day, I saw a magenta bedspread in a room painted magenta. Gory was the word to describe it but later during the day I went to my set. The wall were painted blue, green and yellow… positively all the gaudy colours. Sadly, that is what sells.

Your last two projects, 'Kora Kaagaz' and 'Kangan' have been for Star Plus. Is there a specific reason why you didn't approach Star Plus for KPST?

Star Plus either has dailies or one-hour weekly slots. Initially, I wasn't supposed to direct but later I decided to. Since it would be too taxing for me to direct a weekly, I thought it safest to stick to Sahara. So I never approached Star Plus.

You have been on the other side of the camera for a long time and been quite successful at it too. As a vetran actor, what do you think are the shortcomings of present day actors?

They aren't quite different from the older genereration but I have noticed that youngsters, nowadays, want instant gratification . Acting, not money, should propel the actor. It needn't be charity work but it definitely shouldn't be all about money. Actors lack discipline and dedication. Talent can be cultivated, but if you aim to survive on mediocrity you won't last long. Also, they should have their feet firmly planted on the ground.

Even in our days, there were lots of actors debuting on the screen but only a few lasted. Amitabh Bachchan will be on the screen for as long as he wants to, not because he is Amitabh but because he is a dedicated actor. Actors like him and Shashi Kapoor were hard workers.

A still from Kucch Pal Saath Tumhara


"I would never like to show my actresses half-clad. Even if the 'script demands' let's leave something's to imagination please"

What is your view about the mushrooming acting classes? Do you think they help?

They might offer the actor some confidence and contacts but there are no short cuts. Nothing helps like groundwork. It is only with experience that actors can grow.

What kind of homework do you expect actors to do?

Both my leading ladies of Kora Kaagaz and Kangan took back home a script. When they came to the sets, they already had an idea of what they had to do. I just had to explain a few key points. There were few others whom I had to work hard on, but they were all willing to learn. That is what I am looking at... willingness to learn.

Is there a diffrence between the modus operandi of male and female directors?

It is hardly a surprise, but women directors can handle emotions quite well.

Your stint as the chairperson of the Censor Board had its own share of controversy. What was the real issue there?

Vijay Anand wanted to market X-rated movies. I wasn't against it but I wanted to know who would be policing it and how. That is all what it was about.

Do you think that there should be a censor board for television as well?

Yes, absolutely. Television needs a censor board. I am appalled by the lack of decency. Just take a look at the music videos our kids are watching. Don't get me wrong here, I don't want to see women wrapped in six yards of sari but I want the programming to be a bit more tasteful. Even the so-called serials that showcase Indian tradition and culture are full of extramarital affairs. And since parents aren't doing the screening, there should be somebody to police it.

"People love vamps!"

A still from Kucch Pal Saath Tumhara

What is the essential difference that you find between television and film?

Their shelf- life. People will remember Kora Kaagaz for say 10 years but a movie stays on forever.

What is your comment on the current copyright issue that's Sahara's 'Karishma' is embroiled in?

I don't know the specifics so I cannot comment.

But I find disregard for other people's hard work a very disturbing trend. If you are using somebody's work, the least you can do is give the person his due credit. Music industry has, of late, laid down some rules but the film and television industry need to work on it.

Prior to my tenure with the Censor Board, I had been involved with it. There are quite a few people working on it, so solutions should be around the corner. What I was also looking at is bargaining for actors' share if the show is re-telecast.

As a director, what is the one thing that you would never compromise on?

I would never like to show my actresses half-clad. Even if the 'script demands it', let's leave somethings to imagination please.

Is there a dream project that you want to work on?

There was this story about Ahemdabad's cart-pullers, I had talked to Kajol about it, besides other big names in Bollywood. It was about a young girl and her illusions. But it took a long time and now there are no cart-pullers there, so no point in pursuing it.

In a lighter vein, all your serials start with 'K'. Any numerology connection?

No. They just happen to be that way. But yes, we have consulted a numerologist for the latest, the extra 'c' in 'Kucch..' is the testimony.

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