Strength of Character

Hollywood may close up shop and go into vacation mode around Thanksgiving time every year, but in other parts of the world (in this case India) TV execs eyes remained riveted to the ball:

by Divya Kaushik

bollywoodPurnendu Shekhar feels that to be a successful writer for television one needs to understand relationships and their complexities, the working and business of channels and the art of interweaving several stories smartly. He tells Divya Kaushik that the audience should also be blamed for the success of low grade content on the small screen 

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works. Virginia Woolf must have been speaking on behalf of every writer when she wrote this famous line. Purnendu Shekhar can’t agree more on this. The script writer strongly feels that to weave a beautiful story it is important for a writer to connect with it personally. Each of his stories is born out of his experience and observations. He gives an example and says that the story of famous show Balika Vadhu that made him a household name was partly based on the experiences of his mother, who herself was married at the age of 15 in Rajasthan. “In fact, in the second episode of Balika Vadhu the lead (Anandi), who is a child bride, says a few lines and those lines were actually my mother’s lines which she told us in our childhood. In India, most cases of child marriages are from Rajasthan and since I spent a major part of my life there I can easily understand that. I started writing the story in 1992 and it was always close to my heart. Its success is an example of the fact that the audience connects with stories that are born out of writer’s heart,” says Shekhar.

The television writer who has mostly written stories with strong woman protagonists, introduced the trend of social issue-based shows on the small screen. Saat Phere on Zee TV was the beginning for him, though people might believe that it was Balika Vadhu that did wonders to his career. He says that when the show was launched, it was an experiment and Colors being a new channel then, was the right platform. “Fortunately Colors had no image to follow. Ashwini Yardi, who was my colleague in Zee and is a good friend, was with the channel then. I did Saat Phere with her and she wanted me to do some show for Colors. I asked her if she was keen on something based on child marriage. She agreed. She trusted me immensely and I think it was only because of her trust in me that Balika Vadhu wasn’t polluted like most shows in the beginning,” shares the writer, who has moved on to do different kinds of shows in the last few years and is even producing some. His latest is Satrangi Sasural on Zee TV.

Though Shekhar has been writing since his childhood, it is interesting to note that he came to Mumbai with a dream of being an actor. He shares, “I was always interested in writing and was actively involved in theatre during my school and college days. While training in theatre, you are supposed to write a character’s story. This is a part of theatre training procedure and is very interesting. You are only given a few lines and based on that you have to construct the story of the character. I think that set my foundation. After college I ventured into journalism. For over five years I was the cultural correspondent for one of the leading dailies in Rajasthan. Then I went to Mumbai, definitely not for writing but to try my luck in acting. Satellite television had not made an entry then and Doordarshan was the only channel. The TV industry witnessed a boom with the arrival of satellite television in India and suddenly there were so many channels and so many serials.

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