Television

"We need to build up strong emotional sagas on Sony" : Venita Coelho - SET's VP: new product development

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/smartcrop_800x800/public/images/tv-images/2016/01/15/Venita%20Coelho.jpg?itok=Q_VJHFwC

'You see tourists stroll off hand in hand with children - and you wonder - am I being paranoid or is there more going on here than meets the eye? Unfortunately, there is. Paedophilia has taken root in Goa. It just made me angry and I realised I had to do something about it," that's Venita Coelho for you. A fervent womanist, who joined Sophia Polytechnic to get an idea of media as a young girl.

She started her career with television software house UTV and has a long career history in the Hindi film and television industry as a writer and director. She has written over 12 film scripts - for directors like Santosh Sivan, has lectured on writing for several years at the Social Communications Department of Sophia College in Mumbai.



In television, she has over 800 hours of programming to her credit as a writer - work that was done for Indian, Malaysian and Singapore television.

After being a Mumbai person for several years, she moved to Goa three years ago, in search of an alternative lifestyle, and lived in an old Portuguese house along with four dogs. Interestingly, what got her back to the daily rigour of programming is Sony's latest turn around soap Jassi.

In this interview with indiantelevision.com's Trupti Ghag, she spoke about her career, her decisions and her new role as Sony Entertainment Television's vice president- new product development.

Excerpts:

The media industry is known to take its toll on professionals , so the question isn't really why you left television some years ago but what got you back?

Jassi got me back, literally! Although I have been off television for a while now, I haven't been out of the loop completely. I have been doing films; a couple of Pantaloon films as well as a big one in the pipeline- Musafir. When Sony contacted me, I was least interested in television. After moving out from UTV, I hadn't even watched television for three years. But they sent me the tapes of Jassi and here I am.

 

And why is it that you decided to take a hiatus from television?

Although it seems like ages that I have stopped working for television, it has just been around three-four years that I decided to bid adieu to television. It was the time when television started becoming a watered down version of its former self and I couldn't help any in changing it.

Now that I am back and I am in a position where I can influence, I am here for some time.

 

What is going to be your action plan?

The programming is going to be more research driven. We are getting in new energies, ideas, basically getting the fizz back. What I plan to do immediately is build up storytelling. I have been called in to offer fresh perspective. I haven't been watching television at all for some time now, so I should be able to do that. The company has assigned me to develop as many new ideas as I can before the industry gets the better of me. (laughs)

 

Have you actually managed to catch some television? What is your opinion about the current fare on the tube?

I am aghast. It's gone to being regressive and that's a sad trend. But with Jassi being successful, there is is a pointer to the future that trends formed are likely to change.

 

Since you are back from a stint with films, what is the essential difference you find between films and television?

By and large, films have a structure in place; you have a story worked out, while the same cannot be said about television. Television today doesn't really have a script to go by. I think in about five years' time, the structure should be in place.



Plus, television is so deadline driven! That's not a bad thing necessarily, but it wears people out very fast. So the fatigue factor is high.

 

What is your core team like? Are there any new additions to the team?

I think the team that we currently have is more than enough. Since I am in charge of the new development, I will be working a core team of two-three executive producers. There is an addition to the team, a freelance filmmaker Salil Sand, who will be working with me closely.

 
"It is a static talent pool in the industry, until and unless there are new and innovative ideas discussed and interaction encouraged we are just getting same ideas thrown over an over again"
 

What is it that you will be working on?

Daily soaps to begin with. It is a daily habit; you cannot do away with it. Unending sagas are really the order of the day (laughs).

 

You don't seem to be too convinced doing the soaps.

No, that is not the case. Soaps are a tried and tested formula and they haven't just been a three year old formula. It's Balaji's art of storytelling that has become popular but I see it spawning bad clones. What I aspire to bring in is a new era of storytelling. Something that is not riddled with clichés. Use cinema as a metaphor probably and get something within the parameters of the staple soap diet.

 

What about experimenting with new genres?

I think Sony has experimented with quite a few genres and we have many long running successful shows like CID and Heena. We have a strong weekend franchise. We are planning to revamp Heena soon.

What we need to build up is strong emotional sagas. We are definitely looking at that in the near future.

I would personally want to build up the telefilm genre, but unfortunately the market isn't as conducive. We need to look at the business aspect as well.

 

Do television shows work according to a rule book? Is there an evident need for a Censor Board?

By and large, the television industry follows a three-part code. The first is the government code, the second is the channel code and third is the personal code.

I don't particularly think that there is a need for a separate censor board for television, but what I think should be eradicated is display of superstition. But again, I think it is a personal choice, as directors like B P Singh won't indulge in propagating superstitions.

 

If you were to describe Sony as a channel, how would you?

It is a young and dynamic channel.The channel is not traditionalist. It is full of people who will want to bend the rules, carve a niche in different genres and yet offer staple fare as well. We at Sony aim to engage the viewers and keep them thrilled.

 

What are you doing to ensure creativity?

We have started organising workshops in tandem with writing. Just recently, we held a workshop on the thriller genre.

It is a static talent pool in the industry, until and unless there are new and innovative ideas discussed and interaction encouraged. Right now, we are just getting the same ideas over and over again. You need to have a strong theoretical base to work upon, otherwise you get stuck in the routine fare.

 

Do you feel there is a bias towards women professionals in the entertainment medium?

In television, no. Since television is a relatively new field, and satellite television barely over a decade old in India, it was established on a seemingly corporate structure. People with drive can excel in television. It is difficult to manage both home and work and there are no concessions for women, but that's fair enough.



The same cannot be said about films, though. It is a little difficult for a woman to break though the patriarchal hierarchy. Plus, the workers too are male and not used to taking orders from 'womenfolk', so that can be a major problem.

 
"Zee has a lot of sleeping loyalty"
 

What has been your personal experience?

Mumbai is a different story altogether. Here, a women can juggle a career and family. With me, I have been able to single mindedly focus on my career. I could work when I wanted and take off when I wished.

I have a great support system right now. I have left my parents in charge of my place and my dogs. I go to Goa every weekend.

 

Television is considered a woman's medium. As a woman, how would you rate the portrayal of women on the small screen?

I am aghast by the portrayal of women in the media. It's regressive, totally absurd. That's the reason why a simple story like Jassi is a breath of fresh air. We need to make a conscientious effort to change the way television is portraying women. Not only is the portrayal unreal, the stark black and white portrayal is quite unbecoming.

 

What really helped 'Jassi' was the marketing spin, don't you agree?

Agreed that the marketing spin really helped a lot, especially so many innovative ideas like building up the curiosity, flash mobs and SMS. But I insist that it was an extremely well planned product and has a good story. It went on to dispel the myth that you need a big star to make it big, Sony got a complete nobody and look how well the show has done. That's all because of its storyline.

 

What is your opinion about the competition, both Star Plus and Zee?

Star Plus has built up loyalty over the past three years with its soaps. They have really caught on with the people, have become a sort of habit. As far as countering that goes, I think we are the alternative to Star Plus programming. We have already built up the weekend franchise and will work on the weekdays.

Zee has a lot of sleeping loyalty, which I think it has to take count of.

 

What happens to your production company FireHorse now?

It was established as a dream of two women, me and Deepti Datt. We produced two movies Bombay Stories and Monsters Under Bed, under the banner. We got a great response for both. I have received bouquets as well as brickbats. We have received monetary support, people just poured in money to help us tell our stories. Even now, we have a Canadian women filmmakers' organisation, who have offered to help us out with the equipment.

We have a couple of films in the pipeline, and are awaiting funds. We should start working on them in some months' time.

 

Latest Reads

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/22/mahes.jpg?itok=8GUV33om
Leadership secrets & wisdom from Viacom18

Earlier this year during the thick of the lockdown due to the pandemic, Viacom18 CEO Sudhanshu Vats announced that he was moving on from the organisation he headed for around eight years. Earlier, in 2019, his deputy COO Raj Nayak too departed from a company he was associated with for seven years.

Television TV Channels Viewership
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/kbc.jpg?itok=B0hEp6Qg
Ten brands partner with season 12 of Kaun Banega Crorepati

MUMBAI: Celebrating two decades of unparalleled success and popularity, Kaun Banega Crorepati not only emerged as a game-changer for the Indian television industry but also instilled a larger focus on the power of knowledge being a great leveler. In its twelfth season, the show makes a comeback...

Television TV Channels GECs
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/and.jpg?itok=qXrA49E_
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/chrome.jpg?itok=KRUQzWyk
Chrome DM week 37: English Movie emerges as top gainer

MUMBAI: After seeing a marginal growth in week 36, various genres in the broadcasting segment have witnessed noticeable growth in week 37. English movie genre has become the top gainer in week 37, 2020 of Chrome Data Analytics and Media data. The genre has grown by 2.57 per cent. Among English...

Television TV Channels Viewership
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/flix.jpg?itok=0BDI_ifP
Pad Up For An Innings Of Unrivalled Thrills As &flix Presents Flix Movie League

The much-awaited moment has arrived as one of the biggest sporting leagues finally takes centre stage. But that’s not all! As you welcome back your beloved cricketers on field, it’s also time to root for your favourite heroes on screen with Flix Movie League on &flix. The stage is set for the...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/enter10.jpg?itok=9Fh2HwLF
Enterr10 Television strengthens its Bhojpuri play with Enterr10 Rangeela

MUMBAI: In a bid to expand its presence across India and strengthen its foothold in existing markets, leading broadcaster Enterr10 Television announces the launch Enterr10 Rangeela, its second offering in the Bhojpuri region. Enterr10 Rangeela is a Bhojpuri language General Entertainment Channel....

Television TV Channels Movie Channels
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/neeraj.jpg?itok=JDedoLCo
Now you see him…now you don’t - the Invisible Hero,

MUMBAI: Sony SAB is all set to enthral the audience with the launch of its brand new offering 'Hero - Gayab Mode On'. The show slated for release in November is one of its kind and the first-ever show on Indian television that brings the best of science fiction and mythology together, where the...

Television TV Channels GECs
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/carvaan.jpg?itok=PBc7SS5g
Saregama launches Carvaan Malayalam

MUMBAI: After weaving in a nostalgic music experience for its Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi music lovers, Saregama launches Carvaan Malayalam with pre-loaded 5000 evergreen songs classified into artistes, devotional and carnatic.

Television Production House Post Production
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2020/09/21/emmys.jpg?itok=B0U8_0hd
RuPaul wins best reality host for fifth year in a row

RuPaul won for outstanding host for a reality or competition program at Creative Arts Emmys, breaking Jeff Probst's previous record for wins in the category with a fifth straight Emmy.

Television TV Shows Awards

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required