Change of base

tele revamp

Change of base

Here is something to tickle your grey cells. Apart from stars and storylines, what is the major difference that one can observe between a television show of the 90s and those being broadcast today? Chances are, you will not be able to zero in on the major change that has surreptitiously crept in to the world of Hindi serials — the base location of the story. Earlier, like most of its big screen counterparts, Hindi serials were also based in Mumbai.

More often than not, the story would revolve around a business family based in Mumbai and the troubles they have to face from their unscrupulous competitors. Be it Khandaan, Junoon or Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi — the plot or locales never changed. However, with the change in storylines and a paradigm shift towards more socially relevant issues, the location also started to change. From Mumbai it moved to Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi — one could not but help feel that producers were on a discover India trip!

Sample this — 12/24 Karol Bagh is based and completely shot in New Delhi, Desi Girl in Punjab, Jamunia in Chhattisgarh, and Do Saheliyan in Jaisalmer. And remember, this is an abridged list of serials that are based and shot outside Mumbai. Explains Sudhir from Sunshine Productions (makers of 12/24 Karol Bagh), “Frankly speaking the Indian audience is bored of Mumbai. They have been seeing the same roads in Film City studios for the last many years and the same outdoors in Madh Island. Our show, which was completely based and shot in New Delhi, offered a welcome break to everyone.” True, considering majority of tele serials had common locations like a car accident venue, a temple or a bungalow.

However, Rupali Guha from Filmfarm — the makers of the immensely popular Uttaran, has a different point of view. “The location depends completely on the concept and storyline. It just happened so that both our shows Uttaran and Kashi required shooting in locations outside Mumbai. But in Mumbai, you can create any environment and set to create a different city or location.”

Filmfarm had erected a huge set in Film City resembling a village in  North India. Interestingly enough, apart from a few exceptions like 12/24 Karol Bagh and Desi Girl, almost all shows return to Mumbai after shooting their initial episodes in the cities or villages where the story is based.

The reason, not surprisingly, is logistics. Shooting a film or serial, as we all have seen or read, involves the effort of hundreds of cast and crew members. The kind of infrastructure and support one gets in Mumbai is not possible in a remote town or village. Also, carrying your entire cast and crew to the remote location increases expenses.
Set designer Vinod Bagh who is working for Sony’s Toh Baat Pakki agrees that logistics is the major reason for producers returning to Mumbai after a few episodes. His serial — the storyline for which the serial  is set in Mussoorie, returned to Mumbai after an on-locale shoot for a few episodes. “Through a few episodes, we could give the audience a flavour and essence of the location and yet manage our logistics well. It was a win-win situation for all.”

However,  Sudhir feels that across metros it is not so much of a difference. “The expenses, the infrastructure and the locales are similar in Delhi and Mumbai. Since we had decided to shoot 12/24 Karol Bagh in Delhi, we handpicked our cast, which was from Delhi and Chandigarh. So, logistics was never an issue.”

Another interesting aspect, some producers point out is that being close to the broadcasting channel’s office is a requirement since there is no concept of an episode bank. Explains Ratna Sinha, (producer of Do Saheliyan which was initially shot in Jaisalmer and Shimla), “Returning to Mumbai after few episodes is a practical solution, since we do not have an episode bank and there is pressure for telecasting the show.”
What Sinha means is that post- production and up linking facilities are much easily available in Mumbai due to the presence of most broadcasters, which might turn out to be a nightmare in remote locations.

Finances, understandably, also play a big role in the decision-making process. Says Yash Patnaik, producer of Jamunia, “The production cost doubles up if you are shooting outside Mumbai. Apart from the flight tickets, arranging for accommodation for your cast and crew make up for majority of the expenses. Add to that food and other sundry expenses, you will realise why it is not viable to shoot at the site for a long period of time.” Yash Patnaik also explains about  the minimum-wage-guarantee they have to give to the cast and crew when they are outside Mumbai. “It means, even if I am not making them work full time, I still have to pay their entire salary because they cannot do anything else outside Mumbai.” Whatever may be the reason, one must admit that watching tele serials outside Mumbai in other beautiful locales, albeit for the initial few episodes, does make a difference and can definitely be regarded as a USP for
any show.

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