“A few new writers haven’t even read literature”: Purnendu Shekhar

MUMBAI: Many have been vocal about women and their rights, but only a few have been able to bring in the change.

One man through his writing is doing just the same. He can even be categorised as someone who has been instrumental in shaping how daily soaps show a woman’s role in and outside her house. Telling the stories of women in shows like Astitva- Ek Prem Kahani and Saath Phere on Zee TV and Balika Vadhu on Colors is none other than Purnendu Shekhar.

For ‘The Content Hub’, indiantelevision.com spoke to Shekhar, who comes with a belief that to be a good storyteller, one needs to first understand his/her family especially the women who run the house and their lives.

When he joined the TV industry, it was dominated by highly dramatised melodramatic series like Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki. He tried to cut out of that tradition by bringing in realism through Astitva - Ek Prem Kahani.

According to him, if cinema is predominantly male dominated, it is the TV, which represents the female. “In most cases, television serials are known for the women characters in it,” says Shekhar. As he always makes the central character emotionally strong and vibrant, he has chosen only female protagonists, so far. He puts them in difficult situations, and sees how they cope up.

Six and half years and still running strong, Balika Vadhu today is considered as one of the longest running show on television. Was it a tough nut to crack? Agreeing to it, Shekhar says that in today’s scenario where new channels are mushrooming every now and then; there are tons of stories being told on television. “With every channel narrating stories on a daily basis, sometimes the idea doesn’t remain new anymore,” says Shekhar.

A writer’s biggest task is how he moulds different storylines and characters together without losing the essence of the plot. “That’s the challenging job. It’s not easy to narrate or churn out new/ fresh ideas on a daily basis. More than the idea, how you approach a story is the biggest challenge.”

He cites the example Astitva where he had used certain elements that viewers had already seen in Balaji’s shows, but what was different, was the approach. He goes on to say that writers don’t create anything new, but repeat what has already been told on television by good old writers and present it to the viewers with twists and modifications. “In today’s time, if any writer says I create original, then I am sorry I disagree with them.  Writer’s job is to observe what the good old television writers have done and follow their footsteps, but with twists and turns keeping in mind today’s culture, values and traditions. We all borrow thoughts.”

He adds, “We have the same plot but it changes with time and characters bring in the freshness. For my shows, nobody felt that I had used the same storyline because the presentation and the way it was approached was quiet different.”

With daily soaps, a writer has to work under tremendous pressure to keep the story and characters interesting. Shekhar highlights that dialogues are very important in any TV series as they take the maximum share of a character’s social existence.  

When asked how he keeps the freshness alive and comes up with ideas for a story, he credits his observation power and memory. It was his own childhood experiences that motivated him to write a script on child marriage; giving birth to Balika Vadhu. According to him, for a writer, anything can trigger an idea; sometimes what he observes in the surroundings makes a story and sometimes memories can germ it.

He sits with his team of writers, guides them, and even solves problems if a series stops working. He further states that the toughest job at times is to change or modify a certain plot or a track and still makes sense of it. “There can be many reasons to it, at times a track fails to click with the audiences or the similar track starts running on some other show, so here comes a writer’s skills and expertise to deal with the situation and go strong with the storyline without losing its essence.”

He agrees that it is a difficult task to get good story tellers on-board. “I get to see very less talent or pool of writers who have read literature and have done some great work in the past. They lack knowledge skills and are not well-equipped with what the audience requires.”

Shekhar further highlights that because of this shift, the life of a television show is also going down. “If we see today, the new shows don’t run for long like the older ones. Today, shows like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai on Star Plus, Uttaran and Balika Vadhu on Colors have seen the life span of more than six years. What about the rest?” Shekhar asks.

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