Report on Hindi News Viewership

"Soaps are not my domain and I don't think I will be able to direct them well" B P Singh - Fireworks Productions

C.I.D hasn't been hogging the limelight with double-digit TVR figures, but its consistent presence week-after-week is an indicator that it has a loyal following even after five years of being on-air. What is heartening is that at a time when elaborate family dramas continue to occupy viewer mindspace, this is one show among very few others that has bucked the trend with its consistent viewership.

C.I.D has been produced by B P Singh and Pradeep Uppoor of Fireworks Productions. Singh has also directed the serial.'s Vickey Lalwani caught up with B P Singh for an interview. Excerpts:

How did 'C.I.D' begin its journey?

It just happened. There was no survey, no homework. There was only passion. In those days, there was no trend unlike today, when we have a certain trend of family dramas. Almost any and every family drama seem to have some viewership, even though it may not achieve scaling heights. I don't think there's any family drama which has fallen flat on its face in recent times. To say it in one line, C.I.D was not a time-tested formula. Actually, I had made six episodes of the show even before Sony Entertainment Television saw the light of day.

Could you elaborate on that?

I had made six episodes in 1986. Sony began in 1994. Going back, I started my career in 1973 in Doordarshan. I was a news camera-man and handled the camera for about 10 years. Thereafter, I started getting an urge to break free. I thought I could see the scenes from a different and maybe better perspective. I asked Doordarshan if they were interested in serialising some detective stories. I started doing some groundwork by meeting some detectives, etc.

I made a film called Sirf Char Din - a murder mystery - which was relayed on Doordarshan. Then I produced Ek Shunya Shunya for Doordarshan again. That time, it was the third best thing happening. Ramayana had a TRP of 84, followed by Udaan having 83, followed by Ek Shunya Shunya registering 75. Then I made a few Marathi serials for Doordarshan. Then, Sony happened. Those days, the satellite channel invasion was being talked about a lot. I thought, let me do something on satellite channels. During my days at Doordarshan, I had started with C.I.D.

No homework, no survey earlier alright. But surely there must be some planning at least today on how to avoid the show from slipping down? I mean, are there any dos and donts that you follow?

The storyline is always to be kept simple with the case solved over two episodes. That gives it that edginess, plus the twists and turns built into the plot add a great degree of value. Think of it, this is one reason from day one why C.I.D. is so successful. Actually, this whole milieu of the unfolding of a case is something that the audience relates to. Indian audiences have a certain attachment to suspense-led shows. The way in which a story progresses or a case is resolved has always intrigued them.

Coming to the donts, which also have added a great degree of value. A decision has been made that we will not show any blood, or violence against women and children. This is another reason why C.I.D. is so successful. Despite the fact that the show depicts the police and criminals, a large section of children view this programme. A parent does not mind his kid watching C.I.D, but may raise his voice when it comes to seeing some other thrillers. This makes the show family oriented, thereby increasing the target audience.

"I had made six episodes of 'C.I.D.' even before Sony Entertainment Television saw the light of day"

A still from 'C.I.D.'

But why only thrillers from you? Say, even your other show 'Achanak 37 Saal Baad' or 'Aahat'...

(Interrupts) I have had a great fascination for thrillers, ever since I tried my hand at Sirf Char Din. While preparing for that film, I used to visit the Crime Branch. I had a friend, Inspector Jayant Wagle. During those visits, I interacted with many officials there. Plus, I was intrigued by the goings-on on the cases coming for detection, the style of the detectives, their modus operandi. I also started reading some detective novels written by Shrikant Sinkar. His writing was very live, I would feel that the case was happening before me. All these things got into me, and I started toying with the idea that I wanted to make a detective TV serial one day.

Is it easy or difficult to get new whodunit plots on regular basis?

It is very difficult. Actually if you read any of my plots before they are shot, you would term those as madness. Sometimes, it's just a line- Somebody is found dead, who is the killer? The secret lies in how it is shot. The interrogation process has to be very intriguing, the chases have to be very realistic, above all there have to be three or four distinct and strong suspects so that the audience keeps debating, guessing or laying bets on.

Why don't you take ideas from real life incidents?

C.I.D is not a reality show. If I was to put a real incident into a visual, I would not be able to put drama into it. The entertainment factor, which I think is very vital to keep anything going, would be lost. I would be bounded by limitations. Plus, I might get into social and legal problems. Do I want that? Certainly not.

Didn't you ever get tempted by any chilling real-life incident?

(Smiles) Even if I did, I managed to ward off the temptation. Doosre ki chita pe, chappati nahin banani chahiye (One should not make rotis over someone's ashes).

You focus a lot on forensic techniques. How true are these?

Well, quite a few of the tests we show are real. At the same time, we do show some imaginative instruments and tests. Cinematic liberties, you may call it. But you will be surprised to know there are some tests we show which ideally speaking should have been there with the Crime Branch since long. Like, the one where the computer can make use of fingerprints and detect a killer whose fingerprints are present in its database. Incidentally, this is going to be brought into effect in the near future. So if you see, we have been innovative and ahead of times in showing certain detective techniques.

Would the serial have clicked if the main protagonist was not Shivaji Satam?

I think it would have. But still, this is a difficult question to answer. Satam's contribution to the success of the show is huge. The character of ACP Shrikant Patkar has hit off well with the audience. There is a lot of credibility attached to that character. The moment he comes on screen, the audience knows that the case will be resolved. His eyes speak, there is honesty and sincerity in his eyes.

Why are you not doing any serial other than 'C.I.D'?

C.I.D has reached a point where I want to maintain the interest alive at any cost. And this is not easy after the show has completed five years. At the moment, I have my hands full with almost every aspect of the show - be it the script, screenplay, direction, designing of the shot or even the shooting of the episode.

Moreover, nowadays we shoot a lot of scenes outdoors which involves chase shots. Now the shots have to be canned amidst 100-150 people on the road, with extra care is taken that no actor looks into the camera while doing it- else it would look unreal.

Plus I read quite a lot, these days. I am reading books which have been written especially 'for' detectives- to teach them how to question different kinds of men differently, how they should sit, how they should stand. It is quite exhausting, sometimes.

Shivaji Satam as ACP Shrikant Patkar in 'C.I.D'
"'C.I.D' has reached a point where I want to maintain the interest alive at any cost"

How long you expect 'C.I.D' to sustain?

Can't say for sure, but I hope to do it for about another two years. C.I.D has entered its sixth year now, people still like it, people still respect it, there's no point in taking it off. I think there's lot more to show.

You brought in ex-Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev in one of your stories, spread over two episodes. Was that a part of the sustained campaign?

Kapil Dev is Max's brand ambassador. So, it was the channel's idea to put him in. It was just for a change. But yes, I was tremendously excited to have a legend in my show. The only initial hiccup was the kind of story that we would weave around him. You can't waste a person like him in a side role. Neither could I show him as a negative character. And may I add that Kapil is a very good actor. In the two days of shooting, he gave us 24 minutes of footage - which is very unlike of most other artistes in the TV industry. C.I.D gained a lot by bringing him in. Many people started seeing the show again after the two episodes on Kapil were telecast.

What about roping in Shweta Kawaatra for a few episodes? Besides, her ouster from the serial was very strange...

(Interrupts) Okay, I accept that there is a certain need of adding popular actors into a show when it has been on air for a very long time. There may be some more celebrities coming in, but I can't divulge their names. Exciting stories and good production values are the cake, but we do need a bit of icing sometimes.

As for the way she left, which you say is strange was actually a deliberate ploy. She left in the serial feeling let down by the C.I.D officials, saying she would come back and avenge her humiliation. So I have left a door open for her re-entry. You see, she didn't have too many dates to give us so that we could have her on the show continuously. But... there is a strong possibility that she would return.

'Aahat' too was doing fairly well. Why was it suddenly withdrawn?

That was Sony's decision. When Aahat hit the target, a lot of other horror serials cropped up too. You know how our TV industry is? It is the herd mentality that I am talking about. Plus, the other similar shows were being put head-on at the same times as Aahat. Nowadays a lot of strategic positioning is done before a show goes on air, those days it was a different story. Seeing similar shows on different channels at the same time, the people got confused and tired as well.

Going further on 'Aahat'. You said you have some donts in 'C.I.D' which make the programme fit for family viewing. Don't you think you propagated quite a bit of superstition in the former which did not make it fit for family viewing?

I did not propagate any superstition through Aahat. I am confident about it.

But I distinctly remember episodes like that. Like, there was one where you showed that if someone steps on 'nimbu and hari mirchi', he gets possessed by a spirit. Plus the victim there was a child. It was so strong that I myself follow that superstition now. Fit for family viewing?

(Smiles) Can we skip on this one? Next question, please.

"Our industry goes by the herd mentality"

If you insist. Going back to 'C.I.D.'... Did this show ever give you a cause of worry?

Twice. When Kaun Banega Crorepati came towering tall against it. But which TV show didn't suffer because of the KBC mania? Anyways, we shifted it to Friday. Originally, it used to be telecast on Thursday. And the second time was when Shivaji Satam lost his eyesight in the serial for a while, but yet continued to solve the cases. Well, that was not appreciated and we did get a lot of thumbs-down.

Ever thought of making soaps?

Not really. Soaps are not my domain. I may produce one, but I don't think that I would be able to direct it well.

Are you open to working with other channels? Or do you want to remain a one channel man?

I have a wonderful equation with Sony. At this point of time, I am not thinking about other channels. Whatever germ originates in mind, I will first put it on the table of Sony.

What are your future plans?

I am planning to make a film in near future. It will be too soon to reveal the name of the producer. Let him make a formal announcement. I haven't thought about the cast as yet, but it will soon be finalised. No prizes for guessing that it's going to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller (smiles). In the long run, I might have a fling with comedy.