EXCLUSIVE: YRKKH's Rajan Shahi on financial crunch, need to recognise fair producers, 'double' per day demand
Rajan Shahi (Director's Kut Productions) is one of the biggest producers in our country with successful shows like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke. In an exclusive chat, he opened up on the ground reality, explained how this crisis has impacted everyone.
"When we collectively are dealing with both financial and creative pressure, it is the time to fight for survival, work proactively as a team. Every department in the industry needs to know the ground reality"
The entertainment industry is one of the worst affected industries worldwide, especially in India. With the entire lockdown situation and shooting stalled for close to three months now, the industry collectively has suffered huge losses. With the Maharashtra Government granting permissions to resume shooting with guidelines, producers have temporarily sighed in relief, but their struggles have just begun yet again. Rajan Shahi (Director's Kut Productions) is one of the biggest producers in our country with successful shows like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke in his kitty. In an exclusive chat, he opened up on the ground reality, explained how this crisis has impacted everyone. Sharing optimism, he emphasized on the need for the team to show its spirit today and fight together for survival. He also mentioned the need to identify producers who have been fair and be proactive to support them in these difficult times.
Working on SoPs
Expressing gratitude towards the State Government for giving approval for resuming shoots, Shahi shared, "It is a huge move by the government. The guidelines have come for every department which will obviously impact the way you shoot, how you shoot. A lot of procedural changes are happening and in due course of time, we will get a go-ahead to resume the shoot. In the meantime, we are gearing ourselves up to shoot and working on the system."
Known to be always supportive of his team, the YRKKH producer, asserted that he along with his production team are working on a module to ensure all the workers get a fair and equal opportunity to work. "At the moment, my production team and we are all discussing how to put the system to it. Maybe we will have a system of rotation. We are working on it and considering everything keeping in mind all the team members. Rotation is something we are trying to work on, so that it is fair. That is the biggest challenge we are facing currently." But Rajan is optimistic that if everyone works together whilst understanding the reality on the ground, they can overcome hard times.
Working with Guidelines
He also stressed that the guidelines will become the new normal for all industries and following it is not just the responsibility of one individual, but everyone else too. "Today, following the guidelines is not just the moral responsibilities of a producer or a certain department. Our safety depends on not only what we do but also what we do with others. I think the most important thing is to educate everyone on that and the onus lies with everyone."
He also explained how he doesn't want to rush into shooting because this is the time to think about everyone and not as an individual alone. "It is not about one broadcaster or producer, the one thing everyone has to take away from this episode is that it is not about an individual, a collective call needs to be taken. Any decision taken by one person or individual can impact the entire industry."
Financial Difficulties & Budget Cuts
Revealing that the Television industry has been facing financial difficulties for over a year now, he exclaimed that every department, person associated with the industry needs to be aware of the ground reality and adapt to it.
"Honestly, for more than one year, on TV as producers, we have all been going through a financial crunch. It is because of the shows not working, because of advertisers, revenues not coming in. For one year we had to redesign, rework with a lot of constraints. For big shows like YRKKH, YRHPK, to maintain that production value, the uniqueness, it has been challenging. It is a time when we all have to collectively understand and acknowledge the ground reality," he explained and added, "Today everybody knows about the budget cuts happening from the broadcasters to the producers because of obvious reasons. Right now, recreating the brand of the show will be like relaunching the show. So, in today's times when shows are being axed and very few shows getting the green signals to go ahead. For us as makers, the biggest challenge is to ensure that TRPs come in because we all know if we don't get the audience back, the show might be axed."
With uncertainty looming over everyone's head, Rajan said that the only way ahead is to adapt and work hard, not as one person but as a team.
"When we collectively are dealing with both financial and creative pressure, it is the time to fight for survival, work proactively as a team. Every department in the industry needs to know the ground reality. Sometimes, people who don't know the real facts or don't want to look at the facts, feel that everyone is doing so well, there is so much money," he sighed and added, "But we all know that every industry today is facing a financial crunch. People have to be very realistic and flexible for the new way of functioning, especially people in higher pay brackets have to be very very understanding of the situation. Given the situation, the collective responsibility of every department becomes- firstly, to adapt to the financial crunch which will form a chain reaction from top to bottom and be realistic. Secondly, today, we all have to be on toes to survive, because no one knows the future of the shows anymore. Be it the producer, actor, technicians, crew, editor, creator, director, everybody has to be on toes as it is a matter of their survival too."
"It is not the producer alone who is fighting the battle. People have to recognize each other's hard work more and no particular department can sit on a pedestal and say 'I call the shots'. No matter how big a star you are, no matter how big a technician or writer you are, we all have to work together and work hard as a team and the show to survive," he reiterated.
Without naming the actor, Rajan shared an incident that left him shocked. He recounted, "I won't name the actor but when my team called that actor and told him that 'you have to resume shoot' he demanded 'double per day' and put more conditions which were impractical. This was totally going against the contract already signed. Actor demanded double per day, and his talk with my production was that 'don't even call us if you want to negotiate'. At the same time, I have so many brilliant actors, my team, production team, workers, technicians, my unit members who have come together to proactively help and support me to take the things forward."
"These experience has taught me to value these actors, team members, my workers, who have come out and supported me till date and will support forward, a little more," he emphasized.
Recognise fair and transparent producers
Understanding the financial crunch, Rajan explained that right now, it is really important to recognise producers who have been fair and transparent to their teams. "In the industry, everyone and every department are aware of the production houses that have been fair and transparent and how they function. This is the time, the industry as a whole, and departments must recognize such producers. Producers like me have tried to be transparent and fair to the best of their abilities, be connected to my unit, and have team spirit.
"I believe that in the spirit of that, as we say, if in good times we are all together, then even in difficulties and bad times, we all should be together," he concluded.
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