is to television what Dev Anand is to the Indian film industry.
A half century of films and TV serials later, the septuagenarian
director is indefatigable, still bubbling with energy. After
a distinguished career as a film director (his last project
was the unforgettable Rajesh Khanna-Rekha-Raj Babbar starrer
Tum Na Hote),
Lekhji took to television nearly 17 years ago. .
He started with Phir
on DD1, and his last TV offering has been the recently concluded
on B4U. But Tandon is not one to rest on his laurels. For
someone his age, he is still unbelievably charged up to meet
the challenges posed to directors by TV, though movies remain
his first love..
Lekhji is passionate about his stories and subscribes to that
school of thought among directors that believes in story telling
holding center stage. An amazing powerhouse of energy, he
is equally blunt while spelling out his dissatisfaction with
his career. As if to finally be able to do things his way,
Lekhji has turned producer and will shortly be rolling out
serials under his own banner.
Indiantelevision.com's correspondent Amar met Lekh Tandon
in his office at Andheri to find out what makes the man tick.
did you first realise that you had an inclination towards
I first came to Mumbai in 1944 on a holiday and happened to
stay with Prithviraj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor, who had entered films
by then, took me around some of the studios. I was instantly
fascinated by the medium. That was when I decided that I wanted
to be a director.
What are the natural instincts required of a successful
The ability to discern and make the right selection.
This applies to everything - from the choice of the subject
to the creation of the characters, the locations, settings…everything.
The director has to be driven by his convictions, not be someone
guided by his compulsions.
What kind of a storyline appeals to you?
Stories that revolve around human relationships, where
the elements of sacrifice and care hold center stage.
Many directors complain that TV offers them very limited
freedom to improvise. Your comments?
I agree that TV has its limitations. There are tremendous
pressures of budget and time, and of course, channel guidelines
under which one has to operate. But this is what makes directing
TV serials all the more challenging. It sharpens your skills
a lot more than films do. Frankly, I feel there is no point
in complaining. One should instead take it up as a challenge
and enjoy it.
How different is directing serials vis-à-vis movies?
Cinema is a no-compromise medium - no shortage of time,
money etc. The attitude is - go all out and create a quality
product. The atmosphere and pace are more relaxed and the
energy levels are much higher. Cinema is like writing a book-
it has the shelf life of a lifetime. Good cinema can raise
you to the level of immortalit Correspondingly, the commitment
and motivation levels are much higher when one is directing
Given a choice today, would you prefer to direct a movie
or a serial?
Personally, I would prefer to direct movies.
'The director has to be driven by his convictions, not
be someone guided by his compulsions.'
You directed your first serial - Phir Wahi Talaash
over 15 years ago. How different is directing a serial today
vis-à-vis the mid-eighties?
Very different. In those days, the pace at which we worked
was much smoother. Today, there's a frenzy to save costs and
meet deadlines. As regards the time required for shooting
one episode, I took three shifts then and I take three shifts
now, but back then, there was some reassurance that if, perchance,
the episode did not complete in three shifts, it could be
extended to a fourth. Today, such a thing is unthinkable.
As far as costs go, I would not be in the best position to
comment because I have turned a producer only now.
Technology, of course, has changed remarkably. The quality
of cameras, editing facilities have all changed.
There is also a major shift in the storylines. The same passion
in story telling is just not there. The thrust seems to be
more on technique instead. The marketing requirements of channels
tend to play a role in the shaping of storylines. In terms
of performances, actors then worked in one or maybe two projects
at a time. Today, with actors doing so many projects, it is
obvious that performances will suffer.
Do you write the serials you direct?
I write the stories of most serials that I direct. The screenplay
and dialogues are handled by other people though. But I am
open to stories from others because at my age, I realize that
my ideas might be a little out of sync with the times.
Is being the writer-director of the same project beneficial
It certainly is beneficial. The story being your brainchild,
it gives you the maximum scope to improvise on at the stage
How do you plan out your work schedules?
Till the last few months, I was directing two serials
simultaneously, which required me to shoot for almost 20 days
in a month. Now that I have turned producer, I still plan
to take up two projects. (Laughs) I still have a lot to do.
I am not as old (at heart) as I look.
How do you instruct the actors? Do you personally enact
scenes for them?
No, never. I feel that amounts to questioning the capabilities
of the actor. I just talk to the actors on a one-to -one basis,
make them understand the situations and feel the emotions.
Who are your model directors?
Raj Kapoor, Kidar Sharma, Frank Caprah and Binny Wilder.
As a director, what marks your style and makes you stand
apart from others?
I believe it is my sensitivity in story telling. Let
me put it this way. There are some directors who are actor-directors,
some are story-directors, and some are camera- directors.
I know for sure I am not a technical buff, my strength lies
in my stories. But I have also managed to extract superlative
performances from my actors.
Which subject is closest to you at the moment?
It's the disintegration of values, especially among women.
I feel a section of women have crossed limits and become repulsive,
all in the name of modernity. Under the pretext of having
been suppressed in the past, they are now prejudiced against
society. I would like to work on this subject.
Are directors/ scriptwriters recognized for their work
or is the respect confined to stars?
Stars are definitely recognized more than directors or
technicians and that is understandable. Stars belong to the
audience. Their work is directly seen by the audience. But
if a director or writer is respected in his professional community,
he should not complain.
am open to stories from others because at my age, I
realize that my ideas might be a little out of sync
with the times.'
are your favorite actors?
A lot of them- Kanwaljeet, Pawan Malhotra, Arundhati, Divya
Seth, Arun Bali, Naveen Nischol, Vinita Malik, Seema Bhargava,
Which is your favorite piece of work?
I am not happy with any of my projects. I feel my best is
yet to come. I am a very dissatisfied man because I believe
satisfaction is living death.
How do you unwind?
By playing on the computer and spending time with my
How would you like to be remembered?
As a man who came here with a lot of conviction but was
not able to do a single damn thing he could be proud of. (Laughs)
My innings is not through. I have just turned producer and
there is a lot to come.