Television

'Costume drama is not everybody's cup of tea:' Nikhil Sinha

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With the increase in the number of television channels in India, the demand for content producers has gone up, which in turn has seen many a new players making their entry into the industry that was once monopolised by a handful few. One such new production house is Triangle Film Company helmed by Nikhil Sinha, which has made its mark in a short-period with its social, historical and mythological shows.

After producing shows like Baba Aisa Var Dundho, Akbar Birbal, Adventure of Hatim and Devo Ke Dev Mahadev, Sinha’s Triangle Film Company is now busy with its new show Siya Ke Ram on Star Plus.

In conversation with Indiantelevision.com’s Sonam Saini, Sinha shares his views on the television content space in India, his experience of producing costume dramas and more. 

Excerpts:

From director of photography to producer of 'Baba Aisa Var Dundho,' how has been the journey so far?

The journey has been superb and amazing so far from director of photography to director to producer. It has been like an accreditation from one to another.

What according to you is the most challenging genre for television production?

The entire production game itself is a very challenging task. From direction to production everything is a task. When it comes to genres, then obviously costume dramas are the most challenging ones because they are more elaborate and scaled.

While in social dramas, you can make a show with 70 - 80 people in a unit, in costume dramas no less than 200 - 300 people are involved. Moreover, a lot of aspects are involved from pre-production to set-designing to shooting and graphics. So there are more layers here and hence it’s more challenging.

Apart from television, has Triangle Film Company started creating content for other platforms?

We are working on a few concepts for the digital platform but there’s nothing concrete as yet. We believe that when we do something for the digital platform, it needs to have a unique proposition and we’re waiting to find that.

From the company’s launch to now, how would you rate yourself in terms of creating unique concept shows?

From the time I started my company, we have worked on five shows including Baba Aisa Var Dundho, Devo Ke Dev Mahadev, Adventure of Hatim, Akbar Birbal and Siya Ke Ram. Moreover, we produced four shows in five years and they all are quite unique. They have been the most talked about shows for their concept and production. Therefore, we have been able to fulfil the vision that the company was launched with. I am happy with the way we are producing shows, which will be remembered over the years.  

What sets Triangle Film Company apart from the other content production houses in the industry?

The desire to deliver quality content, which oozes positivity. In all our shows, we have tried to cover different strata of society. We are not only making shows for the masses but also for the elite and niche classes.

Our show Mahadev was watched by everyone across the country. The idea is to create the content for the entire family and the society as a whole and that’s what makes us different from the others.

We have set the bar high and that I believe is the most important thing. So every time we create a show, we set a higher benchmark in the industry so that we can compete with the western world. That is the basic philosophy that we follow.

Mythology has become a popular genre on Indian television and you’ve also dabbled in the genre. What’s the lure there given that they are more expensive in terms of production?

The more expensive the show, the more hard work it requires. You have to have more scale, bigger sets and a host of people are required. It is basically the nature of accepting challenges that is what drives us towards the mythological genre. Moreover, costume drama is not everybody’s cup of tea. It takes a lot of courage and hard work to produce such shows. 

Are mythological shows a profitable proposition?

Whether you do a social, fantasy or mythological show, the profit is always calculated in terms of ratio or percentage. If you have Rs 1 lakh and the profit margin is five per cent, then you end up making a profit of Rs 5 lakh. It is a percentage, which is important and that percentage remain the same, no matter what the production is. So the kind of return one gets depends on the kind of money spent.

To produce a costume drama, you have to invest lot of money. People talk about the revenue generated from costume dramas but nobody sees the amount of investment that a producer puts in. 

But like I said, whether it is social drama or a costume drama, the percentage remains the same.

Siya Ke Ram is a story from Sita’s perspective. What was the idea behind coming up with a show like this and how is it different from other traditional mythological shows?

Conceptually, Ram and Sita’s story has always been seen in a very typical format, which has been like a bakhti-rass. So to touch the story at a micro level from a human point of view was very important. So far the show has been doing that and it has been accepted by the audience. 

In terms of approach and visuals, not a lot of money was invested in the show. However, what is more important is how the show is conceived and not much was spent on making it. You can have all the money in the world and no product, and at the same time limited money can give you good output. Siya Ke Ram is that kind of show, which doesn’t have too much money in it but looks rich. The idea was to create a very different show, which was the biggest challenge because we created a benchmark with Mahadev.

Siya Ke Ram has created a new trend in terms of visuals, and how a production can look grand on Indian television.

This is the second time you are working with Devdutt Pattanaik. How was the experience working with him? 

Enlightening! With the kind of answers, philosophy and insights that he has, it has been a great experience working with him.

Can you elaborate on the association? Is he helping you out with his insights on screenplay given that he has penned a book called 'Sita'?

On shows like Mahadev and Siya Ke Ram, it is philosophy that matters and these characters are made out of that philosophy of life. In order to decode, understand and make it in a story format, you need someone who can explain it to you and that’s the role he played in the show. He provides the philosophy on the subject.  

In just a few weeks, the show gained immense popularity. Did you expect that response? What according to you has worked in the show’s favour?

Yes, we put a lot of hard work into it and we went many extra miles. We are expecting more popularity from this. I think we’ve only just started and in coming days, this show has the potential to become the biggest show in India. The visuals and unique story line is getting a lot of traction and people are now getting connected with the characters.

Is the company also looking at producing non-fiction shows?

I have never restricted myself to any one kind of genre. I am open to all the genres as a director also and as a producer too. If something interesting comes up, then I will definitely do that it.

How has 2015 been for Triangle Film Company?

It was good but it was mostly a year of preparing for Siya Ke Ram.

What is your opinion on Intellectual Property staying with the channel? Don't you think it should be remain with the production house?  

Certainly, it should. The IP should remain with the person who conceived the idea.

Nowadays they have a different definition and our previous generation has given away this right to the channel because 25 years back, the IP of a show vested with the production house. However, somehow it went to channels and now we are the victims.

The IP should remain with the producer or at least should be shared with the producer because the person who is creating and putting in all the hard work doesn’t get anything out of it. Whereas the person who is providing the platform for telecast gets everything. It’s not very fair but I hope it will change soon. 

With the number of channels increasing every year, how is Triangle poised to cater to the increasing content demand?

We have to expand ourselves and create many more programmes now. The need of the hour is immense and we will certainly rise up to the occasion and churn out more content for multiple platforms.

According to you, what is lacking in the television content production space in India? And how does Triangle aim to fill that void?

Television is one place where we can the herd mentality being followed. If one channel creates a trend, others immediately start chasing the same and it becomes the routine. What’s more, the audience also laps up these trends. I believe that the audience hasn’t created us but we have created the audience. Twenty years back people loved shows likeBuniyad or Bharat Ek Khoj, which were intelligent shows even when the literacy rate was much lower. Now, even though the literacy rate is much higher and people have advanced and are modern, they still tend to like clichéd shows. I would say the fault is ours because the audience sees what we throw at them.

I have realised that since a couple of years, television viewership has also declining because of poor content. We should take the responsibility of delivering quality content. While it might not reap us benefits immediately, it will definitely help us to build the platform in the future.

What according to you were the key production highlights and landmarks on Indian television in 2015?

According to me, nothing happened good. There were no remarkable or promising launches on Indian television in 2015.

With so many production companies in the fray, making and selling content to broadcasters is a fragmented business. How difficult is it to sustain growth in such a scenario?

Earlier, it was a monopolised business but competition was inevitable. Television production is a space for everybody and anybody. Competition is good as it only makes you work hard in order to sustain.

Content production is an expensive proposition. Has the company broken even since launch?

Yes, certainly… long back. We are not a channel where the investment is huge and the reward is good. Production houses work on a project basis and not on a yearly basis.

What can we expect from Triangle in the coming year?

Good, nice and bigger shows in the future, which are a class apart and will raise the level of our industry.

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