Have you ever wondered how Devon ke Dev Mahadev , one of the most popular serials on TV currently, manages to be breath taking-ly authentic in its presentation, even when the premise it deals with is mythical? Have you caught yourself picturing the Shiva of Devon Ke Dev in your head, while praying to a real Shivling? Do you find yourself continuously marveling at the continuous innovation that shows itself through the looks given to Mahadev and the other characters on screen?
Mahadev and all his avatars have always captured the viewer’s imagination instantly. They inspire and often exude sheer poetry. Whether it’s Jatta Shankar’s saffron pagdi, Jallandhar’s smoky eyes, or Aghora’s matted hair : all of them have generated a phenomenal response. A phenomenal response though, requires some phenomenal work. Often, we get so obsessed with actors that we fail to acknowledge the background work that goes into making them so obsession –worthy.
Therefore today I bring you a conversation with Angira Vats, the creative director of Devon Ke Dev Mahadev on Life Ok TV. Her affable personality instantly grows on you and her sharp wit makes it an absolute pleasure to talk to her. Below she talks about the nuances of her profession, her hopes regarding the future of the Indian TV industry, the importance of audience feedback & why Mohit Raina is one of her favorites.
D&D: What exactly is Creative Direction? We have heard of directors, producers and writers but the concept of creative direction is very new for Indian audience…
Angira: TV, especially in India, is an industry which works 24*7. Predictably there are challenges: coordinating with different departments within a project, meeting various deadlines on a daily basis, dealing with the channel etc. A creative director basically facilitates this coordination by looking into all these different departments and making sure that the show is put together in time without compromising on quality or the initial vision. We look into almost everything concerning the show-scripting, casting, looks, music etc. So basically, a creative director is an additional director, (if you can call them that) who works behind the camera-putting the fabric of the show together.
D&D: This sounds like a tough job. Would you say that this creative faculty, needed for putting an entertainment show together, is innate or it is something that can be learned through training?
Angira: There are courses; but I believe creativity is not something that can be taught. It is an innate thing. Either you are born with it or not. Once you have that intuition, then you can of course hone your skills to a certain extent- with the help of professionals in an institute. There are also self taught people. Voracious reading and being in loop with everything that is happening around the world help immensely. Using this further to enrich your creativity and to be able to apply it as and when needed ,to your job, is what makes the difference in this line of work.
D&D: Would you say that the concept of creative direction is more relevant to period dramas, mythology and fantasy? Since these shows are still a minority in the Indian TV scenario, what do you think is the future of this discipline?
Angira: It is true that in the mainstream serials as of now, there’s not a lot of scope for a Creative. The tracks are similar. There is a particular area where the story is set and then looks are decided on the basis of the stereotype projected by that particular place. For example, a Gujarati story will have a family dressed in a typical gujarati attire. The experimentation with makeup and jewellery is also very limited. So basically, when you focus on adding to the stereotype that is already very out there, the scope of creativity is limited.
It is sad that Indian TV Academy still doesn’t have an award category which lauds creatives. I have proposed this to the channels and let’s hope that Mahadev and Angira Vats can bring a revolution in this field of work ! You see creating a world which you have never lived in or even read about, and to keep it authentic so that it establishes a connect with the audience in all brackets- is an extremely tough work. So it is only justified to expect that this kind of work should be acknowledged at some level.
D&D:Totally agreed and I am highly intrigued. How do you manage to create a world that you have never heard about? The looks created for Mahadev have been extremely striking and impressive. They instantly transport the viewers to the mythical times and the authenticity is unbelievable. How do you do it?
Angira: (Laughs) You are asking my trade secret. As I said, the faculty of imagination is an inborn asset. Gathering information from everywhere for your research is only a part of the work. How you use it to your advantage; how you apply it to your work as and when required, is where the true talent of a creative lies. It’s a continuous process and the learning goes on.
D&D: Mahadev showcases that you have mastered it to a great extent. The serial is in itself a benchmark for many but what about your benchmark? What kind of work inspires you?
Angira: There are people who are doing great work in India and abroad. People like Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, and Guru Dutt have left a marvelous body of work that teaches you about everything in this industry. TV or cinema is all about this spirit of creation and these legends have left a rich legacy behind. I also get highly inspired by international cinema. Talking of international standards, I would like to say that Anil Kapoor’s 24 is such a welcome change on Indian screens. It makes me happy to see that things are changing. The way it has been shot is very different. The look is very international. Finally there is a popular serial where the sets don’t focus on a fancy staircase with heavily made up women climbing down while dramatically delivering predictable dialogues!
Angira: Definitely, Mahadev. Very challenging and immensely satisfying. The looks I have created for Mahadev and for all other characters have been so well received by people. It certainly gives me a high and motivates me to work harder.
D&D: And who has been your favorite among all the actors you have prepared looks for?
Angira: The answer again is Mahadev. Mohit is a keen observer. He has many queries regarding all his characterizations and when I convince him regarding a particular look, he brings that conviction on screen flawlessly. He is also very co-operative. Even when I design looks for him that are not very comfortable,( long beards and thick moustaches), he does it readily.
D&D: How is a typical day at work?
D&D:Do you have a new project in pipeline that we can look forward to?
Angira: Yes. Hatim is coming soon on Life Ok which will also, hopefully, be loved as much by the audience and will go on to break records. The genre is fantasy and we have worked hard to bring authenticity, not just in terms of graphics, but in all aspects.
D&D: Do you have a message for your audience?
Angira: Keep on watching good stuff. It’s all a game of demand and supply. If the audience demands quality entertainment, we get to work to the best of our abilities and that is very satisfying.
In my opinion, the family dramas ( saas -bahu sagas) that dominate Indian TV now, have been done to death. There’s nothing to explore in that genre. The themes are fixed, the stories are predictable. We are not giving anything new to the generation. TV is for posterity. Twenty years down the line, people would not look back and remember the kitchen politics and drama that is shown currently.
A varied portfolio will do Indian TV good. All sorts of programming should be available for all sorts of audience. The ratio should be balanced. Therefore we look forward to the support of viewers when it comes to experimentation with genres and bringing innovation to TV: because ultimately it is all about what you want to see on your screen.
Food for thought. And while you are contemplating your TV preferences to see if they are changing, let me leave you with a final collection of Ms Vats’s mind boggling creativity in the form of this Picture Poster!