A class apart

A class apart

A class apart

Bindu gopal rao speaks to well-known Kannada film and television director T N Seetharam on his experience in the industry, his preference for television over film and theatre,and more...

T N Seetharam is a name that has an instant connect, be it in theatre, movies or television. A prominent Kannada film and TV serial director, actor and writer, this veteran wears several hats with equal ease. The best part is that he lets his fame rest very lightly on his able shoulders and his affable nature and friendly, candid conversational style makes you warm up to him instantly.

Down memory lane

Looking back at his initial years, he gets nostalgic. “When I was growing up, there were hardly any references to television since there was no such concept.

I was however interested in theatre and was part of several plays. P Lankesh was my mentor then and moving to films for me was like a change of medium, that’s all,” he says. In fact, he says that performing is constant; it was only the medium that changed. Incidentally, he was also associated with famous director Puttanna Kanagal and had written scripts for his movies.

His first movie Pallavi released in 1977, where he played the lead and was directed by Lankesh. In spite of playing the lead, he never let fame and adulation get to him. “Back then, there was a new wave of films and it was a new feeling to be recognised, but I never thought much about it nor felt anything different,” he says candidly. Having dabbled in several performing arts, he adds, “Theatre gives you an active response and interaction since a live audience is present when you are enacting your part. In movies, you can only guess the reaction.

Again, with theatre and television, there is always an opportunity to make corrections. But, of course, the best part of television is that you can give your message and say anything that is acceptable which is not possible with movies since there is a monetary risk involved. Theatre, on the other hand, has its time constraints.” At the 47th Indian National Film Awards, his movie Mathadaana secured the Best Regional Film Award. Quiz him about it and all he says is, “I was happy to receive the award from the President of India.”

Television calling

It was television that finally gave him the thrust into the big league, where both name and fame followed. He was noticed when he started directing TV serials for Doordarshan. His first daily soap Mayamruga, a runaway hit, stood apart for its take on reality. “Television gave me a medium to express myself and also clear my loans,” he laughs.

It was in 1990 that he started working on television serials. His successful run has sustained for over 20 years now, with hit serials like Manvantara, Muktha, College Taranga, Jwalamukhi, Dashavataara, Minchu, Male Billu and more.

He counts Manvantara as his best serial till date as it was set on a big canvas. In fact, he has also acted in most of his serials. In 2005, he also received the Karnataka State Government’s Aryabhata Award as Best Director, for his direction of the tele-serial Muktha. So what makes his serials connect with his audiences?

“Most of us live in a state of nostalgia and cherish experiences of the past. Juxtaposing this with my work has clicked. In fact, my serials speak about my immediate past experiences and I believe what is true for me is also true for my audience.

It is not so much about the story but about the feeling we have towards the past as well as how things have a tendency to come back after a period of time,” he explains.

Another key feature that has been part of his work is the elaborate courtroom scenes — something that is his unique selling proposition. “In my serial Mayamruga, I had directed my first court-room drama and that became a big hit with audiences. That has been a definite pattern in most of my television serials. Although people do not like courts, they certainly like to see court scenes,” he smiles. Little wonder then that his serial Muktha Muktha has been on air for the last five years!

Commenting on the trend of long-running serials, he justifies, “Initially, we had planned the serial for a year, but then we started adding new dimensions. The difference lies in being meaningful and saying what you need to convincingly. Just like newspapers are a habit, so are serials. If you do it well, the audience will always connect with you,” says this multiple award winner. Incidentally, the serial is scheduled to wrap up over the next two months, after which he is scheduled to take a well-deserved break.

“I really have not thought of what’s next at this stage as I have been doing quite a bit of television in the last 20 years,” he says candidly. For someone who has always ensured that he takes up social issues via his serials, T N Seetharam is certainly a class apart.

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