While the entire country was going gung-ho about Netflix’s ‘Sacred Games’, The Viral Fever or TVF as you know it, delivered yet another gem – ‘Yeh Meri Family’, a show set in the 90s. In an exclusive conversation with FinancialExpress.com, Sameer Saxena, Chief Content Officer and Head – TVF Originals, who directed the show, speaks about the idea behind the show, the difficult time TVF faced after former CEO Arunabh Kumar stepped down following allegations of sexual harassment, and his experience of directing kids on the set.
Saxena who is the creator of some of TVF’s most successful shows like Tripling and Permanent Roommates said that the team wanted to come up with a show that everyone could relate to. Talking about the company’s future plans, he said that TVF will continue to produce quality content and, at the same time, will look to grow its other channels – The Timeliners, The Screen Patti and Girliyapa.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about ‘Yeh Meri Family’. Where did this idea of having a show around a family living in 90s come to you?
We haven’t seen a good family story on TV or in films in the last 15-20 years – a story that everyone can relate to. That was something we, at TVF, wanted to do. We wanted to make a show that brings out the dynamics of the quintessential India family, a show that would make the audience watching it say ‘Yeh Meri Family’. Setting the show in 90s was very organic because just like the family relationships, 90s had a certain innocence about them. With this show, we wanted to bring back that innocence and bring people closer to their family roots, something that we have kind of forgotten in today’s fast-paced tech-driven life.
Most filmmakers are using OTT platforms to produce bold content – something we saw with Sacred Games. So when you decided to make a family show, did it feel like a risk at that time?
No, there was never a risk. A good story always finds its takers. Yes, there has been an abundance of bold content on OTT Platforms just because there is no censorship, but we strongly wanted to make something that could reach the family audience. In fact, one of the reasons behind making Yeh Meri Family was to get people to watch the show with their families! With Permanent Roommates, we started the first wave of Digital Content Creation in India, with Pitchers and Tripling we gave it a new direction, now with ‘Yeh Meri Family’, we want to make way for lot of family-oriented shows in India. Having said that, bold-not bold is a choice. What’s important is being honest to the story you are out there to tell. As long as you do that, you will find an audience for it.
Your partner in crime at TVF has been Biswapati Sarkar. What makes him such a phenomenal writer and how is it like to work with him?
Biswapati is talent personified. He has written Permanent Roommates, Pitchers and most of our best sketches! He is easily one of the best writers in the country right now. Biswapati and I have worked together so much that we now a fantastic understanding of how to go about writing and creating a show. Working with him is always a pleasure! Yeh Meri Family, though, has been written by Saurabh Khanna. Saurabh is an exceptional writer. It would be difficult to believe but ‘Yeh Meri Family’ is Saurabh’s first writing work. So, this is just the beginning of some really fantastic stuff that Saurabh is going to offer to the audience.
Prasad Reddy as Shanky steals the show:
To get more life-hacks from Shanky, watch all 7 Episodes of Yeh Meri Family now on TVFPlay https://t.co/MxTg5bHRRr pic.twitter.com/xLnrZ9nbXi
— The Viral Fever (@TheViralFever) July 22, 2018
How did Mona Singh and Akarsh Khurana join the show? Did you have them in mind or was it after auditions that the names were finalised?
I have known Akarsh for sometime now. We worked together on Tripling. He was in our minds when we were writing the show. I was not sure if he would say yes to doing it because he doesn’t act often. But to our pleasure, he was onboard the minute we pitched him the idea. For the mother, Mona was an obvious choice. She is a fantastic actor and has such unique relatable quality to her. The moment you see her on screen, you connect with whatever character she is playing. And that was something I wanted in the mother’s part. She was an absolute pleasure to work with.
TVF has set very high standards for web series in India. Do you feel the pressure to live up to those standards and take it one notch up?
There is always a high expectation from TVF, but that doesn’t scare us. It rather keeps us on our toes all the time and makes us work extra hard to give something special to the audience, every single time.
In this show, you had to direct kids as well. How difficult was that?
Before we went on floor, I was skeptical about shooting with the kids. I thought it would be very challenging. But to my surprise, all the kids were extremely hard working and dedicated. They always used to come on set all prepared with the lines and that made the shoot a lot easy. Rehearsing with them during the pre-production stage also helped to prepare them well for the shoot.
Why, of all the cities, did you chose Jaipur for this show? Is there some connection?
I am from Rajasthan and I absolutely love Jaipur. I have lived there during my childhood, so the familiarity with the pink city helped me set up the show well. Also, Jaipur is neither too urban nor too rural. It’s a very appropriate representation of the middle-class India. So, it gave the show a very suitable backdrop.
Last year, a series of unfortunate events caused Arunabh Kumar to step down from his post. How difficult was it for you and the company to overcome that setback?
It was a difficult time for the TVF team and a true test of our resilience. We have put that behind us and moved on. We have seen growth on all fronts, with sustained partnerships. We are thankful to our fan base, which is still with us. Since last year, our monthly viewership has grown over 5x, and our programming output has tripled. The team at the heart of this creative engine is intact and a lot of young talent is starting to make their presence felt, which augurs well for our long-term future.
What can we expect next from The Viral Fever?
TVF will continue to do what it does best – creating great content. We have several great web-series planned including Tripling Season 2. Also, we will continue growing our other channels namely The Timeliners, The Screen Patti and Girliyapa.