Founder and Creative Director of Swastik Productions, Siddharth Kumar Tewary is one man who believes in living his life on his own terms. After realizing his dreams of making a magnum opus namely Mahabharat battling criticism and comparison, the man is now ready to gift Indian television another intriguing show titled Bandhan, which will depict a human-animal relationship.
Here, Siddharth spoke to us at length about Mahabharat, his beliefs, career, regrets, life and a lot more. Excerpts:
From Amber Dhara to Mahabharat, when you look back at your career what exactly comes to your mind?
I would like to believe that I have had a fabulous journey and with Mahabharat (Star Plus) it has been a complete learning experience. I was working in a cushy job in a channel but chose to start my company so that I could tell stories in my way. Stories that are creatively different. Challenges and risks make me happy and I am glad that till now I haven’t been disappointed by my choices.
Given a chance, anything you would want to change in your career so far?
I don’t personally believe in regrets as I think whatever you do, the dots connect to form a larger reality. Whatever I have done is all connected and has made me what I am today.
Mahabharat took a long time to get started, how did you manage to keep the faith? Also how did you keep the actors waiting?
When I started working on the project I thought I will take a year or so but it did not turn out that way. As I delved deep I understood that this show will make history, and will be made just once in a lifetime. So the dream cannot be given up easily as a lot was at stake. As for the actors I was clear that I did not want people who would be doing the show for a living but rather living to do this film. Hats off to them for having believed in my dream and making it their own.
Everyone in the industry also wanted to run down the project, but it turned out to be a hit…
Honestly, it has been the toughest journey to get Mahabharat on screen and prove the world wrong. There was so much expectation and yet so much negativity with people wanting to pull it down, but I had my faith and thankfully we managed to hold our head high.
In TV industry behind the scene folks are not given the limelight like Bollywood directors/producers are given on doing a hit film. Comment.
That’s the way the industry has been over the years. TV shows are written in a way that the limelight is on the actors who perform and make things happen. Also importantly the age of our industry is way too less than Bollywwod, so I hope that in some years the change will come but I have no reasons to complain.
The casting of Mahabharat is talked about a lot; how much were you involved in casting for actors? Who are your personal favourites?
I am the creative director of the production house, so of course I was involved in every stage of the making of the show. I am happy that casting is being talked about for it was a challenge for us to reinterpret the entire series and do away with any comparison. It’s an achievement for me that the characters were accepted and the actors held their own ground against the shadows of the legendary team of the earlier Mahabharat.
Also the production value has grown manifold; do you think the expense is justified?
I think it’s high time that Indian television starts looking at content rather than the budget. With daily shows being watched every day, I think makers should use newer and better technologies and also up the content value to give the viewers an amazing experience. The production value shouldn’t be compromised on money.
So are you a satisfied producer with Mahabharat?
I would say I am humbled for having made the show, and it is like a blessing to me. I am thankful to Uday Shankar, Gaurav Bannerjee, Danish Khan and many others in Star who have kept their faith in me. I didn’t want to say I could have done better post the show and thus gave in all I could and this up and down journey has been a superb one for sure.
Mahabharat has a concrete story already known by people; what was the creative strategy to get audience hooked to the show?
See when we were discussing about the script, our biggest concern was that the world has changed and to make the youth understand this epic it was important to get them connected to it. If we had followed the old Sanskrit script, the message would have gone unheeded. We had to put an effort to make it interesting and interpret and recreate the text in such a way that the character’s journey will come across in such a way that they won’t be judged.
You are the founder of a production house and work as a creative director. What aspect do you enjoy more?
My brother Rahul (Tewary) runs the company and my job is to visualize, conceive and present stories that get connected to the viewers. My focus has always been content and handling the team of more than 400 plus people in the creative team. I don’t have a business mind and do whatever I believe in. That is how I work; being true to myself and doing work that deserves to be the best.
Siddharth, there is a buzz that the channel wanted to give it an extension but you refused for an extension. What are the facts?
Mahabharat is not something that will be a never ending series. I would never opt for an extension without any reason. As we were writing the war sequence we realised we would need a few more episodes and thus we extended the schedule but it’s not going to go beyond that schedule.
The expectation level has grown manifold, so what next apart from Bandhan?
Bandhan (Zee TV) will be the first show on Indian TV that will present the tale of a human-animal relationship. It is a challenge to shoot with an elephant and it will take some time for us to get the show rolling. Also there are a few interesting concepts in the pipeline something out of our comfort zone which we will make in the coming couple of years.
Shaheer (Shaikh) has been part of your earlier show Navya and now plays the central role in Mahabharat; so do you have a biased approach towards him?
There are no favourites as such. The character needed someone with a strong emotional look and strangely Shaheer looked nothing like it when I signed him. But I could see Arjun in him and thus asked him to beef up and look his best as the character, and what an amazing difference he has brought out. The actors in this show have been out from the world working so hard on their style, diction and performance, and without any question that has made the difference.
Can an actor and producer be friends -comment?
At the end of the day everyone is a human being so I guess the equation that you decide on the outset remains the same throughout. Ego clashes are bound to happen although I try avoiding such situations. My approach is towards my work and I believe in a professional relation. Handling so many actors together has being difficult (in Mahabharat) but I think we have worked well happily and it’s only because everyone’s aim was to give a brilliant show. And anyways whatever be the issues, it can always be tackled rather than creating a furor.
With which character do you relate the most in Mahabharat?
I think Krishna, hands down. He is the voice to the nation and our message on the show also comes through him. The hard work that Saurabh (Rajj Jain) has put is worth applauding. I think he was born to play Krishna.
And finally you are someone who goes deep into content and believes in presenting tales in your own style. Do you think that works in the competitive world?
I am a firm believer that competition keeps you on the edge. But rather than being on run, it is better to constantly better yourself. I always tell my team to not look around but have their agenda in place, and to give out better performances every day.