"Tarun and I should have been at loggerheads" : Deepak Segal Star India VP-content and communications

Deepak Segal had films in his blood but hated watching them as a kid.

Aeroplanes is what excited him. Segal is a walking encylopeadia on aircraft. Be it World War II planes or the recently retired Concorde, he has all you want to know about planes down pat.

Son of well known Hindi filmmaker Mohan Segal, it was however the wildlife film Hataari that got him hooked and started on his celluloid trip. From then on, it was a journey that comprised stints at the Pune Film Institute, courses in photography, film editing, camerawork, the works. It was also at the FTII that the young Segal learnt that it was editing which really elevated the language of film to a fine art.

Tamas with Govind Nihalani gave him his first break and Bharat Ek Khoj honed his editing skills. An extensive stint with Govind Nihalani's Telefilms and Anant Balani's Works later, Segal was roped in by a friend into the fledgling Star as a supervising producer in 1995-96. Those were the days when the only Indian content going on air on Star Plus was the Road Show, the Amul India Show and India Business Week.

A year later, when Rathikant Basu joined the organisation, Segal quit, preferring to go back into the field and express his creative freedom with documentaries. By 1999, Basu had left and Sameer Nair (now the COO), convinced Segal to return to Star TV.

"Funnily, every time I quit to try something on my own, Star has managed to pull me back at that very time," he laughs.

Back at Star, Segal spent time hands on with the conceptualisation and the making of Star Bestsellers, Rajdhani, Saans and Kora Kagaaz, all of which did well, but none which really turned the tide.

Then Kaun Banega Crorepati happened. Segal was the one Nair threw the concept at first, and Segal roped in Nitin Desai who had earlier worked on Discovery of India, knowing Desai would execute a perfect job of replicating the original Who Wants to Be A Millionaire set, a pre-requisite set down by Amitabh Bachchan.

"It had to be the Big B or no other," reminisces Segal three years later, recalling how Bachchan spun out the famous KBC dialogues extempore in the make up room of the set.

Tarun Katial (whose shoes Segal has stepped into) joined three months after Segal did. While Segal has been around in the organisation for far longer, he still credits Tarun with bringing in the 'audience tastes' factor into the programming equation. Katial was the one who realised the potential of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and then Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. "We should have been at loggerheads, but rather we grew up together in this place," laughs Segal.

As a matter of fact, Segal can detect humour in most situations, and if colleagues at Star are to be believed, affability is his middle name. At first impression though, Segal seems a complete misfit in the corporate Star outfit. A creative person to his marrow, Segal says he initially found Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii too hard to digest. "Tarun and Sameer had to convince me to go ahead with it."

Three years down the line, Segal is a much changed man. The same Segal who once swore by Auteur's theory, which says that film as a work of art is independent of the audience, has remoulded himself. "The challenge for me today is to make the viewer cry and laugh with the kind of shows available." This, from a man whose documentary has been sent for the Wisdom Tree Festival!

He agrees. "Experimentation takes a backseat on television," he sighs.

But Segal's enthusiasm apparently never does. He is as enthused about the new soap concept he is toying with as with the next trek he is planning for the weekend. "TV is never out of your system," he points out. This creative powerhouse who once created films for his own satisfaction, today considers every viewer before he takes a programming decision.

"When you are making a film, you make it and it's over. Not so with television, you have got to go on innovating and re-inventing," he explains.

But there are no regrets. He believes the best results come when creativity is focused, as his is now on television.

"Jassi was a good concept with good timing... it's essentially an 'Ugly Duckling' story. If I worked a Cinderalla concept and weaved it into a series, it would do just as well"

But the irreverent streak is bound to show through. With Tarun out of the frame, will we see perceptible changes in Star Plus' programming?

"Obviously, although we complemented each other perfectly, our individual ways of thinking are bound to show in the programming. Tarun was young, single and in a hurry. As for me, I am married, with a family...," he trails off with a laugh.

But behind the light exterior, is a mind that ferments forever with new concepts and toys with genres. His is the brain that has been with Star since the initial The Bold and The Beautiful days, seen it through the Saans phase, exulted with the KBC - Kyunki wave and is still there, stirring up ideas for the next blockbuster on TV. All through, Segal however, has stayed behind the curtain, while the rest of the cast came forward to take the bows. Why?

"I hate playing to the gallery. I don't have it in me to party, to go forth and socialise...," he explains. Which is why, after a 12-hour a day week, he unwinds with his two young daughters and film editor wife Bela, preferring to go on treks and picnics.

So, is there ever a danger of Segal the filmmaker sometime simply shaking off the shackles of a regular job and reverting to his first love - filmmaking?

"No, not till I retire at least," is the pat reply, and you know that 'papa' Segal is the solid creative pillar the Star family can bank on for many years to come.

"There's just too much misery around. So, what does work is pure escapism. If I made a story of a superhuman who can just fight the ills of society by crushing all evil, it would be a superhit in today's times"

The Segal agenda for Star Plus in the months ahead -

High on Segal's agenda is a revamp of the weekend programming on Star Plus and an injection of some children's shows, a genre which he thinks will rule the short term television future.

After the newly launched Aman Verma starrer Jaaduu, the re-run of the Khullja Sim Sim celebrity episodes and the fresh edition of Gharwali Uparwali (complete with a child), Segal now intends to beef up Saturdays with a late night soap with a difference. To be launched shortly, the new show will have a 'story with a twist'.

"I used to be a dreamer, probably still am. The minute I get an idea for a story, I narrate it to someone and if that person appreciates it... there I go and celebrate the silver jubilee of the film in my mind!""

Next on the list is a kids' show with the immortal childrens' classic Hatim Tai as its theme. To be produced by the Sagars' production house, Hatim Tai too has been in the pipeline for a while. Segal says he was initially turned off by the pilot that the Sagars put forth, but the show has been re-invented to his liking and should take off soon.

Kaalki, now re-christened Koi Aa Raha Hai Waqt Badalne, from the Balaji stable, too has been delayed, but that's because Segal is loathe to putting on air a product that falls short of his exacting standards.

"We will put it up when we are sure the timing and the product is right." Both new shows should be on air by the next quarter.

Coming back to Segal's love for aeroplanes. Managing a smooth take-off is what he should do with Star Plus as he pilots it down the runway for its next flight.

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