When Zee Network made its foray into the state with a new infotainment channel, a plethora of opportunities opened up. It was not just more work for the local artistes and technicians, but also a chance to work with successful minds from outside the state and learn the ‘Mumbai way’ of doing things. One such platform was Mo Jejemaa of Herald Productions, a reputed production house of the state that had plans of heralding a new era in Odia television. The director for the show had been summoned from Mumbai. Vikas Srivastava entered Odisha with the hope and determination of forging a lasting partnership with the state.
He was just like any other nondescript small town boy. Hailing from Lucknow, UP, Vikas studied to become an engineer. But the acting keeda landed him in a theatre and aspirations of making it big in the film industry gradually took shape. His journey from the nawabon ka shahar to mayanagari Mumbai could make for a full-length feature film in itself!
“I used to make the rounds of Balaji Telefilms everyday with the hope that one day I would get to meet the television baroness herself. Of course, I was denied entry inside the gates on multiple occasions. There were a lot of times when I thought I wouldn’t get to achieve what I set out to do. But ultimately I struck gold with my luck and perseverance,” quips Vikas, when asked about his early struggling days.
Success is also about finding the right people at the right time. The pan shop outside Balaji Telefilms will always be critical to Vikas’ career where he forged many a relationships that catapulted his career in the intended direction. He treaded the prescribed path and started working as the eighth assistant director in the immensely popular Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Life started ‘rolling’into ‘action’ mode and he then moved on to do a show on Nimbus as the chief associate director. He made his directorial debut with the second unit of Rab Se Sona Ishq on Zee TV.
So how did Odisha happen? “Zee TV had made inroads into Odisha and I was offered to direct a show for them in Odia. Needless to say, I had my own apprehensions, the most important one being an alien language. Mustering all courage, I decided to take the plunge and delved into the making of Mo Jejemaaon Zee’s regional Odia channel, Zee Kalinga. Working with some of the best minds in the business here has been an enriching experience to say the least. Directing one of the biggest actors and directors of the Odia film industry Mr. Hara Patnaik will always rank high in the list of my professional challenges and achievements,” adds Vikas.
A series of events, one that also involved the shutting down of Zee Kalinga, saw Vikas back in Mumbai. Destiny had other plans though and Vikas was pulled back to Odisha to direct the second season of Mo Jejemaa for Sarthak TV. Meanwhile, a chance opportunity of producing a Hindi show for a national channel, Anjan TV, fell into his kitty. He decided to base the show in Odisha since he didn’t want his second innings in the state that he had come to love to be short-lived. “The transition from director to producer has been a smooth one. I know this place now, I have built a team of my own. The power of entertainment lies in cutting across social barriers and I can safely say that I have been able to do so.Barring the occasional, unavoidable hiccups, I would say I couldn’t have found a better location to produce Beti Sasural Ki,” he adds.
Vikas describes his experience in Odisha as ‘wholesome’. He loves the place and the people have made him feel at home. “Odisha will always have a special place in my heart since Mo Jejemaa is my first independent project as a director. I have some strange connection with this place which brings me back here again and again. This industry is self-sufficient in its own ways. It has immense potential in terms of creativity and manpower. The other regional industries might be bigger in terms of the money pumped in but the one here offers more scope. The influx of national elements such as channels, producers, products and advertisements is what this industry needs at the moment,” concludes Vikas.
Producing a Hindi show for a national channel on a regional platform could sound like a hard task at hand to many. The setbacks could be manifold, and the results not up to the mark. But, like Vikas says, creativity can’t be fenced. Perhaps this step could act as the torchbearer for the future producers to tap into the resources that are in plenty in Odisha. What one needs is that extra nudge in the right direction.