Writing a television show is a process that requires careful preparation and planning. The importance of a writer can never be undermined. At a time when serials are made as per specifications set by marketing teams, the writer needs to satisfy the demands met not only by the production house but also the channels and of course, the viewers.
Amongst the shows on television we watch today, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, is undoubtedly one of the best shows on air. Most of the credit for the show’s success goes to Rajen Upadhyay, one of the writers of the epic comedy show who has written 1200 episodes and has taken the audience by storm with its distinguished stories. We speak to him about his journey in the industry.
Rajen, please tell us about your journey as a writer…
To begin with, I entered the industry to become an actor. I did a one year course where they held plays internally. Since I was also inclined towards writing and poetry, I offered to write for their plays too.
As it was difficult for aspirants to make a mark as an actor, I started working backstage into stage theatres held on a larger platform.
It was then that I met Imtiaz Punjabi who was then writing Hum Paanch. I asked him for a chance and after watching my writing, he offered me a chance to write for the show. From there on, my journey began as a writer and till date I have written 1200 episodes of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, around 3000 episodes of shows in the south amongst many other shows. I am currently associated with a show produced by Dharmesh Mehta’s Namanraj Productions titled Chandrakant Chiplunkar Sidhi Bambwala.
What was your struggle period like?
It was during the time I wrote Hum Saath Aath Hai, after which comedy was lifted off the market. I was jobless at that time as we writers are given work according to the genre we specialize in writing. It was a bad phase and I overcame it.
You have explored a lot in the comedy space. What do you think about comedy evolving in television today?
Well, today the market of comedy has widened a lot. There was a time when each channel used to feature one comedy show on their channel as they focused more on drama. Earlier it was an understanding that comedy had its limitations of reaching out to an audience; but I feel now comedy has a wide scope as the acceptance has increased a lot. There is a market of people who prefers watching comedy shows only.
Also, satirical comedy is something which has worked a lot amongst the sub- genres in comedy and I see the trend growing for good.
So, what are your work timings? How do you schedule your work hours?
Look, a writer’s mind is like a 24 hour ATM machine churning out creative ideas. There are times when I get an idea while eating or for that matter, even while having bath. Irrespective of whatever situations posed, be it fever or going out of station, we are on duty 24/7.
We are sure it is a stressful job. So what motivates you to keep going?
When one works because of pressure or monetary gain, he gets stressed. In my case, I work for the passion of my work. I love what I am doing. So, if I get tired, I watch a movie, read, get some rest and bounce back to work.
Writers work very hard and they are known to be the king of the script. Do you feel a pinch when they are not acclaimed much?
We fill a blank book with colorful incidents and draft a show and make it a hit. When the show is a hit, everyone including actors, directors and producers run for credit. But what they forget is about the writer, who built the base.
What problems do you face dealing with people at work?
I would not crib but then there are times when the channel has their demands and so does the production house. We are in constant pressure to win the battle of TRP’s. There are also times when the producer feels that an idea planted by us is not satisfying enough and asks us change it. This attitude is not only irritating but also creatively dissatisfying.
If not a writer, what would you have been?
(Laughs) I would have definitely been an actor.