The Director

B.P. Singh, the director of Aahat and CID calls him the “biggest television producer today”. He is rumoured to make “one pilot every week”.That, most certainly, is an exaggeration, but there is no denying that Manish Goswami, the man behind Siddhant Cinevision, is one of the big guns of television.

Take a look at his track record. His TV production unit has churned out a breathtaking 700 episodes of different serials in the last five years. That is over than 16,800 minutes of programming, or more than 280 hours of ptogramming. Seen back-to-back you could watch Siddhant Cinevision shows for more than eleven days at a stretch.

Starting off with Parampara in Octoberr 1993, Goswami has made eight serials for Zee; five of which — Parampara, Daraar, Adhikar, Chashme Baddoor and Aashirwad — are currently on the air. Also, he has produced some episodes of Saturday Suspense and X Zone. Does the moniker TV moghul” fit Manish Goswami, or what?

“My success is a result of good and honest intentions,” he smiles, forgetting to add good business acumen. “May be the decisions I took proved right. The decisions of what to make and what not.” And, perhaps, smell out a TV hit better than others do? “I strictly go by the taste of the audience,” he explains. “My serials have never questioned our traditional family values. There is so much clash in values all around us. What is the need for me to add to the confusion?”

Manish Goswami was trained in the production side of filmcraft by his cousin, Manoj Kumar, in whose banner he worked as a production controller. When preented with the option of going solo, Manish chose television, and started his own editing studio, Simran Videotech, which also hired out video equipment. Then, in early 1993, Manish set up his television banner, Siddhant Cinevision and made the pilot of Parampara which was approved by Zee TV. After that there was no looking back for him.

Parampara has completed more than 250 episodes on air, and is, finally, to be wound up in October. The serial, admits Goswami, has run out of steam. But Manish brushes aside criticism that the serial has overstayed its welcome. “Parampara spans three generations. So we needed these many episodes to do justice to the story of every generation.” He also brushes aside the idea that TRPs dictated its shift from prime-time to a late-night slot. “Had it continued in its original slot it would still have been one of the top ten programmes of Zee,” he counters.

Points of contention aside, it is a fact that Manish Goswami has had an uncanny knack of reeling off high-viewership programmes. And, all these programmes have been on Zee. Are we witnessing brand-loyalty of a different kind? “I have never felt the need to make programmes for any other channel,” he confesses. Prod a little harder, and he says: “We have always been treated very well by Zee. It has been a good working relationship with them,” stresses Manish. And, lasting relationships will be the way of the future, he predicts.

Ask him to do a little bit of crystal gazing, and he says that the future will see production houses concentrating all their work on one channel. “It is happening even now. The Adhikari Brothers have more or less settled into the Doordarshan groove, Neerja Guleri has a good relationship with Star Plus, B.P Singh is in a similar state with Sony and I have all my eggs in the Zee basket. This single-channel working relationshop will become even more apparent in the future,” he says.

Strict financial discipline, says Manish, is the key to his success. “You have to control your costs. With competition being intense, it is imperative that the producer keep a firm handle on costs if he has to be effective. And you have to ensure that the product you make boosts the channel’s bottomline. No channel, no matter what your personal equation with them, will tolerate a show that is a drain on its resources. This is a cut-throat world, and you usually don’t get a second chance,” he says.

Talking about chances, he says that the the current downtrend in the fortunes of television companies is because they don’t give a chance for new talent to come to the fore. “Take writers, for example,” he says, “There is a dearth of talented writers in the industry. You basically have five or six good writers who are being overused. This explains the lack of product differentiation in the market.” And, he feels, things won’t get better in the next twelve months.

That pessimism doesn’t extend to the plight of talent in the industry. “Talent can be delayed, but it cannot be denied,” he quotes. “As more and more television producers realise that way forward is to develop core-competence, they will also come to realise that they can achieve success only by promoting new talent.”

Manish isn’t overly pessimistic about today’s television scene, either. He predicts an imminent shake-out, both among production companies and in the channels. “Eventually, you will have about twelve to fifteen committed, competent television companies specialising in software production. They will eventually come to corner the bulk of television production in India. Small-time producers will either die out or will learn to align themselves with one or the other production house,” he forecasts.

And what will Siddhant Cinevision be doing then? “We will continue to make shows until the viewers like to watch our shows. And, let me tell you that we will concentrate on soaps and dramas, because that is what we are good at. Not comedies,” he declares.