Author turned producer Ram Kamal Mukherjee gets grilled in an exclusive interview to IndianWikiMedia editorial team. It seems that he thoroughly enjoys being on the hot seat. Don’t miss you his tongue-and-cheek answers, a trait of a wordsmith.
Why did you decide to make Bin Kuch Kahe as a finite series?
Anything that is prolonged dilutes the plot, and then there is no charm. I think cinema or any form of visual medium is like orgasm, either you get it or you don’t.
So, did you get it?
Good question. But I guess, you need to ask this to the audience. In sex one can even fake likes and dislikes, only a partner can tell you the truth!
Hmm…Are you interested in making web series?
I think everyone is making a web series. It’s like flu. I am sure even I will get bugged by the virus soon.
Are you watching any of the web series?
Frankly speaking NO. The only web series I followed religiously was Qtiyapa and Tripling by TVF. Arunabh Kumar and Tracy D Souza make cool stuff, and they have been the pioneer in the business. Apart from that, my friend IshitaMoitra (she wrote the series) had invited me for ALT Balaji’s screening of Test Run. I totally loved that series. Nimrat Kaur was fabulous. They are yet to air the rest of the episodes. Hope I get to see them soon.
If given a choice who would you like to work with – ALT or TVF?
You know my answer. Don’t you? (smiles)
You think the kind of content people are churning out in the name of web series they are vulgar and semi-porn movies?
I think IndianWikiMedia editor Siddhartha Laik wrote a fabulous column on this subject (read here: Sex, cuss and web: The miasma & masala). I wish I could just copy paste that article for you guys. Look, ALT and TVF are the only ones who are making originals. I don’t think Eros Now, Voot or Hotstar is doing anything noteworthy. There are independent filmmakers and producers who are also making web series on homosexuality, infidelity, murder and erotica. I am sure they have subscribers for that content. Till the time U (You) tube is not become A (adult) Tube, we can have a bit of ‘foreplay’. Otherwise we live in a country where censor decides on “intercourse” and “emergency”!
I am writing a biography on Hema Malini for HarperCollins – Beyond TheDreamgirl. That’s taking up most of the time. Apart from that I have couple of other writing assignments. So I need to finish those before I plunge for another serial
Your answers are too bold for family viewing…
(Laughs) Ask me about Pogo and Nickelodeon, I would love to talk about it. I mean who doesn’t like cartoons? We vote for them in every five years, don’t we?
You are not considering Amazon Prime or Netflix as contenders for ALT, TVF and Hotstar?
Are you serious! Indian digital companies are offering approximately Rs 8 to Rs 20 Lacs per episode for content, whereas US based Amazon is offering a budget of approximately Rs 1.2cr per episode. It’s like comparing Krrish with Spiderman. Netflix is not even commissioning anything, and even if they do, they will work with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. Where does that leave me? I am a debutant producer, I need to work my way up, the journey is yet to begin. If you ask me, I would say that ALT and TVF are the only ones who are catering to the core taste of Indian audience. I think people in Amazon will take time in understanding the pulse of youth. They are playing it safe by outsourcing their content with Excel Entertainment or Yashraj Films. But I don’t think they have done their market research.
How much does a producer make from a show?
They can make a fortune and loose one too. Depends on what the channel wants. I’ll be honest, that in todays’ time channel takes the major decision. I don’t blame them, because at the end of it, they invest their money, channel reputation and stake of the company. So, as a producer one needs to deliver. I have realized that in television a producer is nothing but a felicitator. Channel is the mai-baap of all!
There are too many strugglers in Bollywood, waiting for a break in a serial. What is your personal advice to them?
This is a very serious issue. I have come across many actors mostly on Facebook and LinkedIn who tried connecting with me. Some of them are talented and some are not. Most of them are raw and can’t even speak proper Hindi or grammatically correct English. They get conned by the casting agencies and small time producers. Some end up investing money hoping that they will get a role in a serial. But I would suggest that if they have financial strength, then they should enroll themselves in an acting academy and get properly trained. Television industry is changing, and people with sharp intellect will get preferences. Another issue with this generation is that, they neither read books nor watch good films. They are either pushing irons or posting photos on Instagram.
How was your experience with Zee TV?
Never ask a married man about his married life. He will always be politically correct. (Laughs)
So was it bad?
I never said that. I am not responsible for your assumptions.
Are you married?
To whom? (winks) Jokes apart, I think I had a fabulous experience with Zee TV. Today if people know me in this TV industry that’s because of Zee TV. I will never deny that.
What’s your next project after Bin Kuch Kahe?
As of now, I am totally concentrating on my book. I am writing a biography on Hema Malini for HarperCollins – Beyond TheDreamgirl. That’s taking up most of the time. Apart from that I have couple of other writing assignments. So I need to finish those before I plunge for another serial.
You recently met Shah Rukh Khan in Eid. What was the reason of that meeting?
Shah Rukh is one of the finest human beings I have come across. I met him regarding my book on Hema Malini. It was an informal gathering organized by Shah Rukh’s production house at Taj Lands End. He spoke about Jab Harry Met Sejal and many other things that excite and bother him. But the best part of the evening was Mutton Biryani and sweets that he served on the occasion of Eid.
ALT and TVF are the only ones who are making originals. I don’t think Eros Now, Voot or Hotstar is doing anything noteworthy. . Netflix is not even commissioning anything, and even if they do, they will work with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. Amazon is playing it safe by outsourcing their content with Excel Entertainment or Yashraj Films. But I don’t think they have done their market research
You don’t want to make a movie?
Yes, that’s always the intention. In fact, I started making a movie while I was making Bin Kuch Kahe. I had put in the entire project, and had even shot for a couple of days. But due to demonetization my financiers ran out of funds and I had to face the music. It’s a very dear subject, and hope someday someone will revive it. That was a tough time, and it was Rajshree (Ojha, co producer of Bin Kuch Kahe) who stood by me.
Can we know a little more about the film?
It’s in my womb. Even I don’t know much about it. Let’s wait for the due date.
Would you like to cast any of your actors in your future project?
Yes of course! But by the grace of God, all my actors are getting good offers in movies and serials. Shamata Anchan is doing an English film with Abhay Deol, Rashmi Somvanshi completed three feature films, Nirvana Shawney has bagged an English film in USA, Archana Mittal bagged another show with a leading channel, Sameer has been offered two more shows, Krish Chauhan is playing Hanuman in Colors show, Vandana Chopra is acting in a YashRaj Film. I think all of them are doing pretty well. So maybe they won’t have time for me, and I might have to go with a fresh cast.
Who according to you had a best chemistry on screen?
Rashmi Somvashi and Bharat Sharma had a very raw sensual chemistry, Nirvana Shawney and Shivam Sood had a very cute chemistry and I have seen Shamata and Sameer only fighting with each other, so they have a weird chemistry. But the best chemistry was between Archana and Danish.
Is Suzzane Bernert a part of the show?
Yes, she plays a pivotal role in the serial. It’s an extended cameo. She is an extremely talented actor, and one of the most professional ones. It was a sheer pleasure of having her amongst us for a crucial track, which will get unfolded soon.
Will you be able to make a daily soap?
The question itself sounds like a grocery quiz. Jokes apart, I totally salute whoever is making daily soap. This finite series was grueling enough. I don’t know how people make daily content for years? It’s more difficult than being a contestant at Khatron Ke Khiladi.
That reminds me of a chat show which you always wanted to host?
Yes, very soon. I don’t want to ape any show. I am currently working on the look and feel of the show for a webportal who has taken initiative in creating the show. Hopefully you will hear from them soon.
Anything with Rajshree Ojha after Bin Kuch Kahe?
She is a dear friend and I am always there for her. She is working on a couple of interesting projects for TV and digital platform. She is a power bank of ideas. She is already working on four concepts. Currently she is busy working on her film. We might soon collaborate on movies.
Is she a better director or a better producer?
I think she is a better director, and even she would agree on that. She is the happiest when she is directing, I could see that in her face. Once in a while when she would direct scenes, actors would get excited. Her framing and way of execution is far better than any of her contemporaries. She is quick and efficient. As far as being a producer is concerned, both she and I learnt a lot from our mistakes. I would say that from our next, we would be a far better producer, that’s a promise.
I have realized that in television a producer is nothing but a felicitator. Channel is the mai-baap of all!
What’s the worst thing that you faced during the shoot of Bin Kuch Kahe?
Rajshree lost her dad, and she was very close to him. I stood by Rajshree while many abandoned her during that phase. She is an American by soul, so she didn’t want to tell anyone in the unit that her dad was suffering and had counted days. She hated sympathy. She thought that he would survive, like any daughter or a son would believe. I remember the day he passed away, Rajshree was beside his bed in Mumbai. She had only called me from Mumbai, I was shooting in Jaipur. When I broke the news, everyone had tears. The next day, entire staff from Zee Studio had organized a prayer meet for her father, and we all prayed for his soul. I will never forget that.
And the happiest moment…
When Rajshree’s mother visited us in Jaipur after this incident.After pack up, I would sing Rabindrasangeet with her, walk her around the studio. Aunty is a fabulous singer too and extremely fashion conscious. On Bengali New Year’s aunty specially got masur dal, rice, aloobhaja, began bhaja, sweets and chutney made for me, Rajshree, our creative director Anindita Sinha and costume designer Ghazal Lalwani Daing. I can never forget this personal touch.
Any memorable moment from the show…
Yes, the day we shot our climax, we had organized fire crackers and local Rajasthani dancers to perform at the venue. That was our wrap up party. While everyone was dancing and enjoying, I could see aunty sitting at the corner of the monitor with tears. I guessed that she was missing uncle. I could immediately connect with her loneliness. I hugged and told her, ‘Look up… he is smiling from the sky!’
Shoojit Sircar feels that kids should not be used in reality shows. What is your take?
But Alia Bhatt is not judging any reality shows!
You have a very strong social media presence. Being a first time producer you have tremendous fan following on micro-blogging sites. How did you manage?
From Kapil Dev. As kids we would watch him on TV saying, “Boost is the secret of my energy!”
You mean to say none of it is organic?
I am not into farming. I am into filming. And I repeat, I am not responsible for your interpretation of my answer.
Do you feel that there is an additional social media pressure, apart from the regular work load?
Yes! But you need to enjoy the process. You won’t believe, I was the one who forced almost all my cast members to get into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Roposo. They being ‘dramebaaz’ would give silly excuses like ‘memory space nahin hai’, ‘internet connection nahin hai’ and ‘password bhulgaye’! I think in today’s time, you need to blow your own trumpet. Just make sure, it’s in sync.
Why did you shoot the entire serial in Jaipur?
We love Dal Bati Churma, Ghewar and Laal Maas, that’s the main reason. And also because Zee wanted us to shoot in their new property.
Will you ever venture into regional content?
I am clueless about regional television content. The only Bengali show I watch is Dadagiri, a quiz show anchored by Sourav Ganguly. But I would definitely like to make a Marathi and Bengali movie.
You have also launched your own production house Assorted Motion Pictures. Are you making anything under that banner?
Yes, we would like to make short films and feature films under that banner. But as of now we are focusing a lot on digital marketing and promotion. We did Salman Khan’s concert Dabbang Tour in Australia in association with Red Universe and Chocolate Room. Now we are gearing up for yet another international musical event across India.
You have a strong association with Hema Malini. Wouldn’t you like to do a film with her?
That’s something which I have been telling Hemaji since ever. There is a lovely subject for which I wanted Amitji and Hemaji to act. Hopefully, someday I will be able to.
Your book Long Island Iced Tea garnered positive reviews. Don’t you think you should make them into short films?
I would love to. All eight stories can be made into short films. Some of the studios have shown interest. I am waiting for someone to sign on the dotted lines. But I have given myself a deadline, if things doesn’t work out in next one month, then I will produce it myself.
Will you direct those films?
No. I have handpicked eight talented filmmakers to make it. But the toughest part is to get investors. These days investors are very skeptical. Most of them ask for ROI (return of investment) while they don’t even know the meaning of it.
When was the last time you watched an entire episode of a Hindi serial?
Very recently. I was watching Bin Kuch Kahe.
If someone writes a biography on you, what will the name of that book?