Known for enthralling audiences with his beautiful sets and romantic films, Sanjay Leela Bhansali surprised everyone when he decided to venture in to television with his big-budget serial, Saraswatichandra. Calling this detour to the small screen an adventure, the filmmaker talks to us about wanting to reach out to audiences through a new medium.
Usually filmmakers shy away from the small screen. What drove you to produce a TV show?
Television is a powerful medium today, with a wider reach than cinema. Many popular actors are doing TV not because they are out of work, or are choosing to retire. I always wanted to make Saraswatichandra and felt it would be right for a serial as the novel has the necessary requirements to make one.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make?
I learnt about what’s right, and what’s not. I also didn’t compromise on the scale of the show. It’s the first of its kind on TV— an experiment — so it will be a challenge to sustain it for a long period. Then the tension of getting high TRPs is very stressful.
In films you have control over everything but on TV you must have dealt with channels, audience feedback and other factors…
Making a serial has brought me out of my comfort zone. I am a good learner. Carrying an attitude that says ‘I know everything’ doesn’t really work in films and TV.
Is the set really worth R3 crores?
Saraswatichandra needed that scale. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam(HDDCS, 1999) and Devdas (2002) were the parameters, and many serials do keep HDDCS as the yardstick to show grandeur. Many shows have followed it in terms of drama, clothes, sets, and even scenes.
After Jennifer Winget was cast as the lead, it was umoured that she opted out of the project and came back again. What happened?
Jennifer did the pilot and she was wonderful. She’s a beautiful girl and a good actor, but there were some contractual issues that reached a point where we felt it wasn’t working out. However, there were no ego clashes or a point of no return. So we sat down and worked things out.
How different will the show be from the 1968 Nutan-starrer Saraswatichandra?
The book is a four volume novel, the film an abridged version but our show is set in 2013. We took the key elements and the story changed a lot in process. It’s primarily a love story, but Saraswatichandra also wants to bring changes in society.