Television

"It's too early to press panic buttons"

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Till a few weeks back, Leena Yadav was riding a high with expectations for her latest directorial venture - Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai - touching the sky. Today, with the show attracting as many brickbats as bouquets, Yadav continues to be in the news, but not for very flattering reasons.

The lady who started her career in television as an editor and graduated to direction with the Star Movies' show This Week That Year has come a long way. After the Nikhil Kapoor anchored show, Yadav floated her own production house with Kapoor and produced one-off stories for Star Bestellers, which she also directed. Soon, she got to direct Say Na Something to Anupam Uncle. Her finesse at bringing out natural and uninhibited emotions from kids that really made the show stand apart won her many admirers. One of them, a UTV executive producer, offered her Shubh Vivaah (that metamorphosed into K3H). There's been no looking back since.

While she continues to be in the public eye with Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai, the hype around the show has already catapulted Yadav to the league of sought after directors on Indian television. She is also busy directing her first soap, Goonj that premieres on Sony in September.

In an interview with indiantelevision.com correspondent, Amar, Yadav talks about K3H and her journey into direction -

How do you feel about initial reports about K3H which says that the approach is more convoluted than real ?

See, it takes time for people to get used to a new concept and it's really too early to press the panic buttons. I would just say that people are a little too harsh nowadays in judging programmes. I still believe in the potency of the concept. Yes, we are doing a few things to make the show more interesting.

Are you considering a change in format?

I don't know what a change of format means because the show will still continue to be about unmarried couples seeking to find the right life partners. Also, since it is not possible to get the same people again and make them re-live the same emotions, the episodes that have been shot can't be re-shot either. But yes, changes in the way the show has been edited can bring forth more exciting footage for the viewers. We are considering a few things but any significant change in the way it has been shot will come up only in the next schedule.

But are you convinced on the ethical aspect of the show? I mean, is it right for grooms to face public rejection?

I don't look at it that way. It's not that somebody is rejected. It's just that two people are not on the same wavelength and realize that they won't make a great pair. There have been times when the prospective groom has felt that the girl was not his type. There have also been times when the girl has not found her match in any of the three boys. I'm personally happy that we have played a very fair role in the entire process without in any way influencing any decision.

"Changes in the way the show has been edited can bring forth more exciting footage for the viewers. But any significant change in the way it has been shot will come up only in the next schedule"

What was your first reaction when 'KNKKH' was offered to you?

I was mighty scared. I knew that a show like this carried huge responsibility because it would decide the fate of people's lives. I mean, it's very difficult not to get carried away by the infectious ambience prevalent on the sets and yet retain all of your objectivity. There are occasions when you just feel like going and telling the bride- you're making a wrong choice or that the other guy suits you better. But then, we need to realize all the time that we are merely catalysts and influencers. I had these apprehensions much before I started shooting.

Why do you think UTV chose you to direct the show?

I guess they were looking for a director with the right mix of fiction and non-fiction programmes behind him/her. Besides, those days I was doing Say Na Something To Anupam Uncle. I guess they were impressed by the show as even that required effective handling of a celebrity and children, both of which were not easy.

A show like this must require a lot of improvisation on the script while shooting?

Absolutely. In fact, we don't and we can't have a bound script for a show like this. Apart from Madhuri's dialogues and the basic flow of events, nothing else is conclusive or hard and fast as far as the script is concerned. At every stage, I have to be on my toes because what will happen next is by and large influenced by how the prospective bride and grooms behave at every stage. Even the writer, Sutapa Sikdar, has to be present during the shoots to make alterations in Madhuri's part according to different situations.

You've directed celebrities - Madhuri and Anupam. Is it easier or more difficult to direct a celebrity driven show?

Well, it depends on who the celebrity is. Madhuri is one of the most professional actors I have ever come across. Even if she is late by 15 minutes, she makes it a point to call up and inform about the delay. Even at this stage, she is always willing to give re-takes till the scene is impeccable. Anupam too is quite professional.

From my experience, I can tell you that it also helps if the director is not in awe of the celebrity, as otherwise his/her objectivity goes for a toss.

What additional efforts are required in directing a reality show like 'KNKKH' vis--vis a normal soap?

Well, directing a show like KNKKH requires humungous efforts at the pre-production level. First and foremost, we invite applications from prospective brides and grooms. The profiles are then matched and for every prospective bride we narrow down her choice to three prospective grooms based on compatibility of profiles. These chosen contenders and the girl are then medically examined. Of course, we take care to choose people whose personalities are presentable and who we feel the audience will relate well with.

Thereafter, a research team goes and shoots footages showing their respective families. We have planned out four episodes for every match that is made. As far as my efforts are concerned, I'm involved right from the stage the applications are received and scanned. Besides, it requires immense psychological understanding of different characters of different age groups to put them completely at ease when the shoot takes place. I keep telling the parents of these boys and girls that they must behave as they would in real life when they go to meet their prospective in-laws. That we have had to re-shoot very few scenes just goes to show how efficiently we have done our homework.

What, according to you, is the future of reality shows in India?

See, whether reality or not, the programme has to be of interest to the common viewer. Marriage is something that concerns everybody and holds a major significance in life. So, a show revolving around marriage is bound to arouse common interest. At the same time, there is some debate over what a reality show should exactly be like. Some believe, a reality show is all about hidden cameras and catching people unawares which is not the way KNKKH is. If a reality show brings to people's homes stuff that is alienating to one's culture, it will obviously not be well received. I guess that is why Temptation Island failed.

How has your own journey from editor to director been like?

I graduated from the Lady Shriram College, Delhi and did my Mass Communications from Sophia College, Mumbai. I assisted Siddharth Kak and Nirja Guleri in direction for a while, but soon realised that to make my mark as director in a competitive scenario, I would have to imbibe thorough knowledge of at least one technical field. That is when I took to editing.Once I gained recognition as a competent editor, I also started getting offers to direct. So, being an editor kind of smoothened my transition into direction. The biggest advantage my editing background has given me is that I have a sound idea of how I want my final product to look like and I kind of shoot the scenes that way itself.

"If a reality show brings to people's homes stuff that is alienating to one's culture, it will obviously not be well received. I guess that is why Temptation Island failed"

Do you edit what you direct yourself ?

No, I would edit the one-offs I have done, but not Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai or the other soap that I'm doing.

But you must be very hard on the editor?

(Laughs) No, no. See, every creative person wants space and I like the editor to edit the way he wants to. Of course, in the end if I want changes to make the scene look better, those changes are incorporated.

I always think of how I used to be like as editor. I would detest the director interfering with my work. I would tell him to first allow me to carry out the editing my way, but of course if he wanted it differently, I would make the changes. I guess all editors like it this way.

Which subjects do you like to tackle as director ?

I like the simplest of stories presented so differently that they compel viewers to sit up and watch it with bated breath. I like thrillers. I hate melodrama and don't see myself directing any of the mundane family soaps.

"I like the simplest of stories presented so differently that they compel viewers to sit up and watch it with bated breath"

What are the factors you never compromise on as director?

I never shoot till everybody involved with the shoot is at ease and comfortable. I hate shooting against unreasonable deadlines where the actors are just going through the motions and are bereft of passion.

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