Shot like a film, adapted from an Israeli tele-series and Indianised by connecting it to history, Nikhil Advani’s much awaited tele-series Prisoners Of War – Bandi Yudh Ke is going touch many hearts. Advani talks to Sangeeta Yadav about the making of the show and his views on where Indian TV stands today
- How is Prisoners of War (POW) Bandi Yudh Ke different from Homeland?
The show is majorly inspired by the Israeli tele-series Hatufim. Homeland is a thriller and Hatufim was a drama and narrated the story of three PoWs. The Americans adapted as per their style. Hatufim is about the prisoners of war and the families who were are left behind; what they went through and how their present lives are affected, connected and dictated by these prisoners. When they return, how they adapt to the change. Instead of three prisoners, we have two in our show.
- How did you Indianise it?
I decided to put a historical context to the story. Hatufim is also about prisoner exchange and India has never done prisoner exchange, so we fictionalised it. But the roots are very much the same. The best part of Israeli cinema is they are simple yet so much to say, being so bold and dramatic.
- Was there a difference in approach in shooting the show?
I have not approached it as a TV show but like a tele-film. First thing I told to people to stop saying ‘TV pe toh aisa he hota hai’. Let’s stop that. TV pe wahi hoga jo hum karenge. To be honest with the story, what needs to be done I do that.
- Music has played a great role in your films. Do we get to see the same in this show?
Anything I do, whether hit or flop, my music has been a great part of my filmmaking, be it Kal Ho Naa Ho, Airlift or any other film. It’s quite phenomenal. Hopefully after watching my show, people will say TV pe asia bhi no sakta hai.
- You have portrayed patriotism in different ways in films and now in this show…
Patriotism is the word which people use without knowing the meaning of it. You don’t need to be a soldier or raising a flag to be patriotic. I feel that a wife, who stands by her husband who is in the Armed Forces and wait for their return, is equally patriotic than the man who is rotting in jail for so many years. I don’t want flags to be flying but at the end of the film or a TV show but since it was required in Airlift, flag does come out.
- At film fraternity, there was CBFC to monitor each films but at TV, there will be BCCC. How are you going to work through that?
Pahlaj Nihalani has been very good to me and my films. In terms of TV, the kind of show I am getting will touch the heart of many viewers. It has strong emotion, visual quality but there is nothing that I am showing in this show that you will not see on the 9 pm show. The underline force of POW… is the human drama and the connection that the prisoners.
- Is POW… going to give a tough competition to shows like 24?
I have never thought of it. I don’t bother about my film clashes too. With the popularity and success of tele-series, it will inspire more directors to make shows like 24s and that is good for everybody.
- Do we get to see more of your TV shows?
I hope so. If I survive this one, then yes. I am very happy to do something like this which is so powerful.
- How was your experience directing this TV show?
I worked as an assistant before for TV shows like Naya Nukkad and Shaadi Vaadi And All That, but like nothing on this scale. When you are making a TV show like this, one thing that you need to remind yourself is that there are 125 more episodes to go and it’s not a film that will come to an end in two hours. You need to pace yourself and keep going. In 126 episodes, I would have made 22 films of two hours. TV show making requires a lot of stamina. Filmmaking is like running a sprint whereas TV soap is like running a marathon. I was a good sprint runner. Now I am trying marathon for the first time.
- Do you think the ban of Torrent in India will bring a good change?
Yes of course. I support ‘No to Torrent’. People will now turn to Netflix, Hotstar and other online live streaming websites that have the latest episode of English TV shows and films. This will make the entertainment scene legalised and regulated in terms of monitisation.
- Recent TV shows that you enjoyed watching them?
I recently watched The Night Of which is an American eight-part miniseries based on British TV show — Criminal Justice. It is a fabulous show. Master Chef Australia is my big time favourite entertainment show. After I would complete the shoot for POW, I used to come home, watch Master Chef and go to sleep. Sadly the season has come to an end. I want Season 9 to start as soon as possible.
- What about Indian TV shows?
Indian TV for me is a lot of Arnav Goswami. That’s so entertaining to watch from 9pm to 11 pm. Somebody is shouting here and other was asked to shut-up. I also got an offer to be the panelist in one of the debates but I turned down the offer as I like to listen to myself and nobody else. Other than the news hour debates, there are some very good shows that have been made in the past like Balika Vadhu and Uttaran. I was a big fan when Bigg Boss was started but not anymore. KBC is my favourite because I am a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan and love to watch general knowledge quizzes.
- Any other story or English GECs you would like to adapt for small screen?
Every story of Saadat Hasan Manto should be made into a show. Everything that he has written is mindblowing.
- How is the movie Lucknow Central shaping up?
I am just the producer. Full credit should be given to Ranjit Tiwari. He is the captain of the ship. I have a very good production company that has been working for over five years with people who are associated with it for the last 10 years. They do their jobs very well. I get the cheque book to sign at the end of the month. My job as a producer is to develop a relationship with director and the rest of the world and me at the helm. I make sure that he has everything that he needs.
- Of late a lot of changes have happened on TV…
The best part is the change has happened universally especially in the sports arena whether it’s Pro Kabaddi League or anything else. To be able to take the desi game and mount it at a scale where Star Sports has mounted is a victory in itself. To give competition to the IPL format to a game which is deep in our ethos is fantastic. With POW, all the actors of the show be it Purab Kohli or others, they are championing the cause of good content on TV.
(The article got published in Sunday Pioneer newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/tv-pe-wahi-hoga-jo-hum-karenge.html)