Saurabh Tewari, who started his career as a television writer, now owns a production house, Nautanki Films. Saurabh tells us about his journey…
I do not have a filmi background. My father is a senior bureaucrat in Uttar Pradesh. I came to Mumbai when I was 21 and, just like thousands of other people, I wanted to make my own mark. I lived with a friend at Mira Road and travelled by local train. Thanks to my friend, who worked at an advertisement agency, they hired me as a trainee.
I began handling production for them. I was responsible for the entire cast and crew and also took care of food and other arrangements. So, at the very beginning of my career, I was just watching people eat and asked myself, ‘What was I doing?’ So I quit. Then I started writing. The best phase of my career was the initial four years. Little things taught me a lot and I had to go through a really tough phase, like being stranded on the sets after missing the last local train, sleeping on the sets and spending nights in the studio after a hard day’s work.
After struggling for a while, I landed a job as a programmer. Next, I worked in production. It was in 2004 that I began writing for television shows. Actually, when I started writing in 2003-2004, I wanted to direct a film. I had a script which was all set to roll. Jhamu Sughand was supposed to produce the film but he passed away and, after that, things did not fall into place. It was then that I started looking for a break in television as a full-time professional.
One of the executive producers in Star Network gave me a show called Siddhant, which was to air on their then newly launched channel, Star One. Though a critically acclaimed show, Siddhant did not get impressive TRPs or popularity. During that time, Ashvini Yardi was with Zee TV and she offered me a job with ZEE as a programmer.
My stint with Zee changed my life. It was by far the most extensive learning experience I have ever had. My talent was truly nurtured. Then, Raghav Bahl from Colors called me and asked me if I could design their fiction band for them. I seized the opportunity, and it was then that I started getting recognition for my work. People from the industry noticed my talent and we came up with shows like Balika Vadhu, Uttaran and Na Aana Is Des Laado. Then I joined NDTV Imagine. Every company I was with taught me something new and I evolved as an individual.
When I was the Creative Director at Colors, I tried my hand at non-fiction shows. I made a show on wrestling called 100 %. It didn’t do well and I never looked at the non-fictional genre again. I have done fiction shows that have been popular and I knew that fiction was my forte.
Television or Films?
My first love will always remain television. You write so much because of the number of episodes while a film is three hours long. I believe TV writers and technicians are much more efficient than those who work in the film industry due to the sheer pace and volume of content that we produce, it’s an obnoxious amount. We produce five episodes or two and a half hours of content a week, which is the same length of a feature film! And we produce and write in a zero-value where there are no stars like Shah Rukh Khan or Ajay Devgn, and yet you make shows like Balika Vadhu on a national level.
Most writers and directors in the film industry once worked in the television industry. Anurag Basu directed Koshish… Ek Aasha; Anurag Kashyap and Raju Hirani both directed Star Best Sellers. Even Ekta Kapoor produced TV shows before she made the transition to films. And, today, Balaji Motion Pictures is as big as Yash Raj Films. So TV professionals know much more.
Donning the producer’s hat for the first three months was very tough as I am a writer. While being a producer, I realised that cracking a good script wasn’t the only thing that made a show popular or a film work. There’s a lot more to it. There’s programming, creatives and so much more to look at. But the good thing is I don’t have to wake up at 9 am in the morning and reach somewhere on time. That’s what makes me happy.
Nautanki Films is backed by BAG Films & Media. It was a dream to start my own production house. We are already producing a show called Madhubala on Colors and working on our first feature film as well. Other than that, we have two more films which will kick off probably next year.
Our first film is called 21 Topon Ki Salami, a political satire. After that, we have two family dramas. We will also produce TV shows and have two serials lined up. They will kick off from January next year.