“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.

Latest Reads

#Forecast2021: Rural consumption to rule the roost, says Parle’s Krishnarao Buddha

In 2020, marketers learnt to grapple with unforeseen challenges elicited by the lockdown, and they are prepared to handle such circumstances, incase of another such instance in the future (hopefully not).

Specials Forecast
#Forecast2021: Positivity returns slowly for cable, DTH operators

Waking up to a new pricing regime, followed by an unprecedented pandemic, natural disasters, and tensions with China, 2020 turned out to be a gloomy year for the cable TV distribution industry.

Specials Forecast
#Forecast2021: TV advertising may see biggest growth in five years

Indian television made a round trip to hell over the course of 2020, but the new year seems like the beginning of a positive era for the industry, as far as its stature as the primary advertising medium is concerned.

Specials Forecast
#Throwback2020: The year of reinvention in production

MUMBAI: The Covid2019 crisis has engendered a paradigm shift across all walks of life and it is believed that there’s no going back to “normalcy” even after the deadly virus is dealt with. This also holds true for the media and entertainment industry.

Specials Year Enders
India Khush Hua: Top 5 trends that will define M&E industry in 2021

2020 was when peoples’ worst fears came true. But 2021 is a brand new year full of promise of good things to come, where the media and entertainment industry can reboot, recalibrate and recoup what it lost, voiced the panel comprising leading names from the brand and agency world at...

Specials Forecast
Forecast 2021: Digital to lead marketing industry’s growth story

2020 started off with industry hopes pinned on a robust double-digit growth. Instead, it left the Indian marketing and advertising industry in shambles. Educated estimates peg the sector to have clocked only a one-two per cent growth over 2019 numbers, with traditional advertising taking the...

Specials Forecast
#Forecast2021: How technology, infrastructure upgrade will shape OTT ecosystem

The over-the-top (OTT) platforms have seen accelerated customer acquisition, especially post-Covid2019. To increase the stickiness of fleeting users, the platforms are adding more and more content to their libraries.

Specials Forecast
#Forecast2021: OTT magic will continue to hold sway

Most industries had little cause for cheer last year, but the OTT business wasn’t one of them. Engulfed by an outpouring of love and support, OTTs truly came into their own in 2020. These streaming platforms not only gained paid subscribers in big numbers, but became a staple of the Indian culture...

Specials Forecast
#Throwback2020: For M&E industry, there’s no such thing as closing shop

MUMBAI: It has not been the easiest of years and none of us ever dreamt that the last couple of months would be the way they have been. But I always believe that there is always a silver lining and that there is a lot to learn from what has transpired in the last ten months. Having said that, I...

Specials Year Enders

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required