"'Kyunki...' was a trend set by Balaji Telefilms and then all the other production houses followed the same trend" : Rajesh Joshi


Jack of all trades and a master too... that's what sums up actor, director and scriptwriter Rajesh Joshi. Recognised mostly for his short role as Chirag's secretary Pinku in the popular daily soap Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (which is penned by him), Joshi has been involved with theater since the last 25 years or so.

After spending 10 years working as a chartered accountant with a company called N.J. Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Joshi decided in March 1999 to leave the job and plunge into directing plays.

Serials happened for him after meeting Ekta Kapoor and hence began his stint as a scriptwriter starting with the serial Koshish Ek Aasha (Zee). After that came Koi Apna Sa (Zee), Kkusum (Sony), Smriti (Channel Nine Gold), Kasautii Zindagii Kay (Star Plus) and Shenai (Doordarshan). For now Joshi is giving his undivided attention to Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

Joshi gives indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara a sneak peek into a serial writers' world and his reasons for writing only one soap; that too at a time when most people are writing nineteen to a dozen. Excerpts:

You've been an actor and a director, and now you're totally involved with writing. How and when did you get bitten by the writing bug?

I had never really thought about getting into writing as I didn't want to get into this genre. One day my associate colleague Vipul Mehta who was writing Captain House for Balaji Telefilms came to me and asked me to join his team.

At that time I was directing a play and then I thought over his offer and thought to myself - Why not try something which is totally new? That's when I met Ekta Kapoor for the first time and had a long discussion on daily soaps. My first daily soap was Koshish Ek Aasha.

After that Ekta came with a new idea called Amma which is now one of the most popular serials on air but only with a different name - Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

What are the essential qualities required to be a good writer?

The first and most important thing is that a person writing for television should be creative. By creative I mean that they should have the basic knowledge of dramatics - how to develop a concept and how to develop the characters according to the concept.

I don't know if there are any particular qualities that a person should have to become a writer. Every writer has different qualities in them and they work according to their own perceptions and thinking.

What kind of adjustments does a writer have to make in order to write for TV serials?

A writer has to make a lot of adjustments. The availability of artists is one of the major problems that writers are facing. Our script is ready most of the time and then we are told at the last minute by the production people that a particular artist is not available. So we have to change the script and incorporate the change which makes it very difficult for us to justify our screenplay.

Another adjustment is locations. Sometimes a location is available and sometimes it is not. These small things call for a major rework on our behalf and that is frustrating.

Amarr Upadhyay was brought back in Kyunki after popular demand. Obviously it was not in the script...

(interrupts)... Of course it was in the script. Amarr died in episode number 118 and we had planned to bring him back in episode number 150. But when we saw that the public was missing him and wanted him back we just reworked our plan and brought him back a little earlier than scheduled. That was the only adjustment we made.

"When we saw that the public was missing Mihir we just reworked our plan and brought him back a little earlier than scheduled"

Is there channel interference in a writer's arena? It is known that plots change with TRPs. So, how does it affect you?

There is absolutely no channel interference, we are very lucky in that matter. We interact with Ekta Kapoor, in fact she is the only one we interact with. I think Ekta is the only producer who never allows any interference as far as her serials are concerned. So we have that priviledge compared to writers in other production houses.

How do you go about writing on an everyday basis?

We have one creative meeting every 15 days. My team of writers and I sit with Ekta and churn out the creative portions after discussions about the future tracks. For example, right now, we are working on the December end episodes. We are at least 15 - 16 episodes ahead.

"The people and the team make a serial like Kyunki... huge"

People usually crib about the 'saas-bahu' serials on TV but these are the serials that are still watched by millions of women and these serials and their characters are the ones who bag the top awards. What do you think is the reason behind this?

The people and the team make a serial like Kyunki... huge. When we started writing it in 2000 we had not thought of the kind of success it would get. Secondly, just a few months after the serial started it was already riding high on TRPs and has remained at the top of the charts since then.

Addiction is the other aspect. People are used to watching it by now. Of course we try to give the audience different stuff all the time but sometimes it is not possible.

Also characterisation plays a major role like Tulsi, Ba, Savita. These are strong and powerful actors who are liked by the audience.

What in your opinion is lacking in television today?

Creativity is lacking in television today. If channels find that the market for the 'saas bahu' kind of serials is very strong and is getting good TRPs, then they go after the same kind of serials. So it boils down to following trends rather than making new ones.

Kyunki... was a trend set by Balaji Telefilms and then all the other production houses followed the same trend. Good product is not necessarily yielded by other production houses. As a result, television as a whole is getting affected. New ideas have to come about.

One example of a good trend setting serial is Aatish Kapadia's Khichdi. They have their own set of rules and creativity which is different from the rest.

"One example of a good trend setting serial is Aatish Kapadia's Khichdi"

How significant are TRP ratings for you - do they influence what you write or how you write?

Not at all. The TRP ratings are basically for the producers and not for the writers. If one day our serial gets low ratings it will not affect our creativity. The level of our working will be same whether it is a TRP of four or 14.

Supposing your show is getting low TRPs, you as a writer will have to spruce up things in order to build up viewership. Right?

Even if the TRP is on the same level, we are trying our best. So it is not about the ratings at all from the writer's point of view. If the show gets a TRP of 14 the producer will ask us to buck up and try and get a TRP of 16 or 17 or 18.

Is writing satisfying in terms of remuneration?

It depends upon the production houses, the writers and also upon the terms of contract. Television writers today are definitely getting a good amount.

What are the problems you faced as a writer in this industry? How do you deal with them?

This is my fourth year with Ekta Kapoor and so far I haven't had any major problems. Difference of opinion is always going to be there. I may agree with one particular thing whereas another may not agree with it. It's a part of creativity.

A writer is the original creator of the serial and so he does command respect and it is given to him also. On the whole as a writer I haven't faced any problems till now.

At the end of the day are you happy with what you see on television in terms of what you have written? Do you feel the director is doing justice to what you have written?

After we write the script it goes through a lot of processes before it is shot. When we create certain scenes on paper, we narrate it to Ekta. She chips in her creative input and we rewrite the scenes to incorporate the change. Then the script goes to the production people for scheduling purpose. It may happen that the location that we have suggested in one scene may not be available at that day of the shoot so an alternative location is zeroed on.

Then the screenplay goes to the dialogue writer who pens down the dialogues. Then that copy goes to the director who interprets in his own way. The matter of interpretation differs from person to person. So when we see the final output and compare it to original screenplay, we definitely find it different in terms of the creativity and expression.

When we give an episode, we know that it is not going to come exactly as we had visualised it. But sometimes it does happen our screenplay is portrayed in a much better way by actors like Smriti, Apara and Sudhaji.

Why is there a difference between screenplay writing and dialogue writing? Can't the screenplay writers pen the dialogues too?

Generally 90 per cent of screenplay writers are dialogue writers. I was writing three daily soaps initially and it was not possible for me to churn out dialogues for all of them. Now I have restricted myself to only one serial and that is Kyunki? it takes around four- five hours to complete a script. So to create a script it takes around 10 hours.

Secondly there are certain departments here, the people who writes the dialogues are experts in their field.

"When we see the final output and compare it to original screenplay, we definitely find it different in terms of creativity and expression"

Have you come across a situation where you've felt stagnated in your thought process? How have you come out of it?

By stopping the work. Sometimes stagnation affects our work but sometimes it doesn't. Suppose we start out with making a bank of 20 episodes, it may happen that after writing 10 episodes we get stuck. In such a situation we don't go ahead with writing just for the heck of it.

So it means that if such a mental block comes up you have the luxury of time to think without it affecting the shooting of the serial?

Right now, yes we have that luxury of time because I am handling only one serial. But when I was handling more serials it was difficult.

At that time what did you do? Did you compromise on the quality of writing?

I will not say that I have never compromised. Of course I have compromised sometimes on creativity but to a very less extent. After completing 700 episodes if I am told to come up with something new, then it will be difficult. So we keep trying our best.

"Of course I have compromised on creativity sometimes but to a very less extent"

Are you planning to write for any other serials too?

No. I want to do only one serial at a time. At the most I can do another weekly but not another daily.

How far do you see 'Kyunki...' going? The serial has already taken a 20 year leap? what next?

I think the serial will run for at least another two years. That's my expectation. We are aiming for an entry in the Guniess Book of World records for the longest running serial. Right now the record is in the name of the serial Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka which is the longest running serial with 1000 episodes. Kyunki... is running strong at 700+ and that too at the number one position, so that is a bonus for us.

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