You don’t need money, you need GUTS to be a Producer – Yash Patnaik

In conversation with Yash Patnaik, the man behind shows like ‘Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi’ and ‘Veera’…

Television has come a long way from once being referred as an “idiot box”. The reach, connect and impact that TV shows have on the audience today is remarkable. And while the actors usually walk away with all the praise and glory, it is the makers who put their blood, sweat, and soul to pump life into a raw concept and turn it into a spectacular show.
We at decided to hear it from the makers’ perspective, in order to understand their journey, challenges and thought process behind the making of some iconic shows…
Beyond Dreams, a venture of Yash and Mamta Patnaik, has given us some of the most outstanding shows in the form of ‘Ek Veer Ki Ardaas Veera’, ‘Sadda Haq’, Million Dollar Girl’, ‘Jaana Na Dil Se Door’, ‘Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi’ and many more.
We got in touch with Yash and in a candid conversation with us, he sheds some light on the expertise he has been associated with, for more than two decades.

Yash, you have been in many contrasting fields. You started as a journalist, moved to become an Executive Producer and now you helm Beyond Dreams. How has the journey been?
I started as journalist and cartoonist back in 1995. After, a few jobs there was a period when I directed, edited and wrote few documentaries and educational entertainment content. In the year 2000, I decided to make a shift from non-fiction to more solid content. C.I.D (Sony TV) had just started and I joined Fireworks Productions. After working for 6 years, I realised that unless I move on my genre will get restricted to just thrillers and horrors which were not the mainstream genres in India at that point of time. I took the decision to launch my own production house, where I can produce multi genre shows and may be create my own space.
My wife, Mamta, who was a very successful creative and writer, used to develop shows and write scripts for leading GECs such as Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony TV among others.
When I told her about my plans, without thinking for a second she agreed.
We started with zero investment. There were only 3 staffs when we started from a 2 BHK flat in Andheri West. So when people say that to be a producer you need money, I say no, to be a producer you need guts. I was just 31 when I took this decision.

You have created some very successful shows like ‘Veera’, ‘Kuch Rang…’ and ‘Saada Haq’. Your stories are too relatable and these shows brought in a new wave in the Telly world, defying the ongoing family drama trend.Do you see yourself as a trend breaker?
Some of the shows didn’t do well, in fact, some of them were disasters! But all the shows were good shows. We tried to do different shows. Some worked some failed but we never gave up the experiments. The only thing common between all our shows is simplicity’. If you talk about epics such as Mahabharata or Ramayana or for that matter, even Titanic, they all have simple stories and believe me that’s most difficult to create.
Speaking about ‘Kuch Rang…’, the idea was to explore mother-son relation with a different lensing. How every mother is possessive about her son? Once the son gets married, with the entry of wife, mother-son equations change. It happens in every family and we wanted go keep it very real. In Kuchh Rang every detail was created with a lot of care. From costumes to sets to music, there was nothing in which we followed any trend.
We wanted to be honest with our show and not force feed content. In the show, everything happens as life unfolds. Negativity comes with incidents not with characters. I believe none of us are black or white. We all are grey. Our percentage of grey changes as per the situations and the people we deal with.

So you are saying… Realism, relatability, and simplicity are the core of storytelling at Beyond Dreams. Now that you have tied up with Sony TV’s production wing, how is that going to change your programming strategy? Also won’t this affect your equation with other broadcasters?
Beyond Dreams is our holding company fully owned by me and Mamta. TV content is produced under Inspire which is a 100% subsidiary of Beyond Dreams. In commissioned content the IP eventually goes to the broadcaster. We have created another company, Telenovelas Productions Pvt. Ltd. which has been created to carry out line productions and joint ventures. Under Telenovelas we facilitate production support. There is no partnership with anyone. We will continue our operation the way we have been doing for past 10 years.

So Inspire and Telenovelas are subsidiaries…
We have also another company by the name Proto which is into comics and graphic novels and we plan to venture into animation soon. We are also looking at creating digital content.
Telenovela is a company for co-production. Beyond Dreams and Inspire remain in the game, the way they have been. Tomorrow if any other channel wants to work with us in this fashion, we will be happy to extend our services. As a production house, we will work for every channel and would love to join hands with like-minded people.
Your shows have a humongous following in the digital space but when it comes to TRP ratings, the scenario is different. What do you think is the reason? Is there any disconnect between both audiences?
Definitely. I think all our shows have been appreciated well on the internet. We have produced a lot of content in the youth space. A lot of research has gone in to it. We try to apply the learning to the shows and characters. That’s the reason our shows draw natural youth audience. But overall if you look into the research, there is a huge general audience who watch our shows.
Do you have the same response on OTT (Over the top) platforms as well?
Every episode of Kuchh Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi generates more than 1.5 million views in YouTube alone. So it’s unfortunate that these internet audience is not counted in Rating System. I’m sure, at some point of time digital audience will be included to arrive at the numbers that decides the fate of the shows. I also believe that BARC should have included producers in its management since we create content.

The entire shift to OTT gives consumers the convenience of time. Is it helping makers to garner popularity for the show and tap the younger audience too?
From a broadcaster’s point of view, OTT has surely affected the viewership, for now. The audience does not need to make time to watch their favourite show. For instance, ‘Jaana Na Dil Se Door’ on Star Plus airs at 5.30. We fetch TRP’s up to 1.5, which is good for the timeslot. I am not sure if the telecast time suits the audience who would like to watch the show and missing out because of the timing. I am happy they can catch it on Hotstar anytime if they have the access.
Same applies for other shows. I don’t have any complaints about the shows being broadcasted on television or online. As long as the owners and broadcasters continue to believe that there is penetration in both the platforms and that both are responsible for the success of the show.
The unfortunate part is that calculation is not translated into a rating which is a public perception. If a ‘Kuch Rang’ is doing 0.7 today, I believe it is seen by more people than another show on another channel which is 1.8.

Since your content aims to cater to the younger audience even when your shows are not hard-core youth based (in respect to how digital is portraying it), do you plan to make a shift to other platforms on a big scale?
I don’t need to make a shift when I can operate in both the places. We will continue our focus on television content. We are also very serious about venturing into the digital space with a different strategy.

There is also a divide in belief, whether it is Television v/s digital or you’d treat them as completely different verticals? Are you of the belief that they are catering completely different audiences and offering completely contrasting content?
Chinese food kitna bhi aa jaye, Punjabi food ka demand kam nahi hone wala hai. They will co-exist. There will be demand for all kinds of content and platforms. Audience is consuming content across all platforms. Going forward its going to be convenience consumption.
The content produced for broad cast and digital will be different because of its consumption pattern. When you watch TV, you watch with your family. But in digital its more of singular consumption. So our content for tv and digital will be different from each other. In digital I can produce the entire story in just 6 episodes or 10 episodes. Or 5 seasons of 10 episodes each. It’s up to us to decide. The decision will be based on the analytics and success.
Secondly, I don’t have the limitation of S&P. When I say S&P, my S&P is not about sex content. Its about the selection of characters, plots and treatment. Unfortunately most of the existing content in digital, barring a few, are riding on sex and slangs. Whether it’s a visual sex or audio sex, you know they are using that. But the content that we are working on digital will be disruptive, unique and engaging. By the end of 2017 we will have at least 3 such series on web.

So are you tying up with some existing platforms or coming up with a new platform?
It will be too early for us to say that. We are ready to put our money where our mouth is. Some of the content will be produced first and then pitched. Some will be produced as per a brief. Some will be produced with a partnership in risk and profit.
Your content on television and digital have mostly been simple and relatable stories. You then came up with fantasy series ‘Nagarjuna’, so what is the pipeline now? Are you banking on your usual forte or do you plan to explore more genres?
Definitely, I think that’s a very exciting genre. Fantasy as a genre allows a lot of experimentation. You create your own grammar of storytelling in fantasy genre. In fact, we are right now focusing on some great content in fantasy space in comics. Our other company, Proto is doing that. We have people who have worked with Marvel and DC comics are working with us. The work has been in progress for last couple of years. So once the books are ready and out, we will decide if any of the properties can be converted into TV series, films or animation.

You count so big on relatability factor, but you are serving the Indian audience, which has a huge variety in terms of culture and taste. There is a division in Tier I and Tier II cities also, how do you cover that gap?
I will give you an example… I have two shows right now on air- ‘Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi’ and ‘Jana Na Dil Se Door’. ‘Kuch Rang…’ is more urban than rural. ‘Jana Na Dil Se…’ is more rural than urban. So when ‘Kuch Rang’ is more exclusive. ‘Jana Na Dil Se…’ is inclusive. That is the experiment within the space. See, I am from a village. I’m not from some metro. So I naturally understand the values, the lifestyle, the ethnicity. I have grown in Mumbai, so I understand the urban thinking. I think there is a huge opportunity to bind these two worlds together. We are currently working on a concept which can bridge the gap between village and city. Once we are ready with it, we will pitch to broadcasters.

So what is next for Beyond Dreams?
Television will remain our major business. We have expanded our teams and added domain experts for digital, comics and animation. Digital production will start this winter and comics by 2018 end. Animation is a time consuming business and will roll out later.
Cheers, Yash! You have surely come a long way and are one producer, our industry can boast about!

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