Vikas Goopta, the Project Head of Balaji Telefilms' upcoming youth based and contemporary show faced the heat recently when leading tabloids took offense to the sensuous auditions that were held at the Balaji office, that required youngsters to smooch in the open.
Here is Vikas in a frank exclusive interview with Telly Buzz where he talks about the big hullabaloo that was created about his project, on the audition process involved for it, its adverse as well as positive effects and much more...
I wouldn't call it as hogging limelight, as it was a phase which was very dangerous. It was like taking in one full glass of karela juice down my throat (smiles). All the questions thrown at me brought about so much of negativity, and there were many who considered the whole thing wrong. But overall it was not a bad experience at all.
Can you take us thro' the entire process that happened at the Balaji office?
Of course!! We had auditioned over 200 young boys and girls thro' a large scale process and had short listed about 8 of them. The project that we are working on demanded some intimate scenes as it is a very contemporary subject, involving youth. We took over a month and a half to get to our final 8 youngsters, and they again went thro' a look test. We had given them a clear brief of what will be required of them, and this is when they volunteered to do the intimate scenes. Whatever pictures came out in the tabloids were a part of the look test, wherein they were briefed of what they need to be doing. The pictures were part of a 4-5 minute scene which was shot. I would want to mention here, that Ekta Kapoor is nowhere involved with the project. She is just the Producer, and this young team is headed by me. We are making something different, and you can say that Balaji Telefilms is entering a new territory with this project.
Could we get to know some detail about the show for which this audition took place?
Yes, sure!! The story is the journey of a boy and we will be depicting all that happens in his life. Our main protagonist will be a boy, and this is what I can say now. This project is three layered – We plan to launch it as an internet series, which will be called 'Web Episode'. We will simultaneously turn it as a TV show, which will be our second layer, and the third layer is to make it into a film.
Which is the channel that will air this show?
As of now, that's not decided.
What exactly was the requirement in the boys and girls that you were looking for when you auditioned them?
We wanted fantastic actors who would look their character and age. For ex: We wanted girls who are 16-18 years old, and they needed to look their age. As the tabloids depict, we do not want every character in the show to do intimate scenes or wear a swim suit. For instance, we have a girl in the show who is a swimming champion. So this girl needs to be shown in a swim suit when she holds her medal aloft. In the same way, we have a guy who loves intimacy and he needs to be shown intimate with girls. We are making a real story of how today's generation behaves. Our final product will be very classy, fun to watch, and above all, identifiable to all youngsters.
Tell us more on the project..
See, those who are looking forward to a show which will have only kisses and intimacy will come in for a big surprise. This project is more than all this, I can tell you that. The music of the show is mind blowing, and will surely connect to the youth of today.
Did you sit thro' the entire audition process and had a one to one with all the youngsters?
Yes, we not only had a one-to-one with the youngsters, but with their parents too. All of them were briefed about what's required of them in the next one month of audition. Since ours is a very young show, we made sure that the parents were kept in the loop all the time.
Did you and the management of Balaji Telefilms hold a talk before organizing such an audition?
Absolutely!! We made sure that the auditions happen in our office, where there is a senior person around whenever the boys and girls come for look tests. Everyone of them was trained to talk about the show, and we tried our best to make the entire process easy going.
Who came up with the idea of letting the boys and girls who had come over for auditions smooch in the open?
See the concept of the show is mine. But the decision to take audition this way was of the entire team. And as I said earlier, not all the 200 guys and girls were asked to smooch. The kissing sequence came only when we had selected our 8 youngsters. Also, all the eight of them went thro' a grueling session of workshops, photo shoots, script reading with our director and creative team, and only then gave the look test where they had to be intimate. Again, I would specify that only few were needed to kiss and only few were needed to appear in swim suits.
When you conducted the audition, did you ever think that this could become a big issue that will raise eyebrows?
Well, I never did realize that everyone in India would just leave everything and probe in to see what exactly will happen in our show. The way we auditioned was covered everywhere, in all channels, papers etc. But this has turned beneficial for us, as it gave us an opportunity to handle this sensitive topic and tell the public what we are exactly making. We are making a show which will show the life that today's youth leads, and we will be giving a realistic picture to it. Also, if television has certain clauses regards the content that can be shown, we will also abide by it.
Was this a planned move to get all the media attention?
Not at all!! Everything leaked out in tabloids when one of the contestants talked about this audition process to one of her friends. We then butted in, and had to give them the right picture of what we are doing. This intervention by us was needed to revise their thoughts on the show. Basically, we had to come out to clean the negativity of the whole story.
How do you feel the conservative minded public has reacted to this particular incident?
To tell you frankly, when you talk of conservative minded people, my parents will fall into that bracket first. They reacted very badly when they came to know that I am heading such a project. At the same time, the messages that I have got in mails and in my Face book account are encouraging enough. Youngsters from all over the globe have reacted positively to it, and want to see something like this. I would like to say one thing to all those who have an apprehension about this project, and that is to watch our final product first and then react. I can promise you that it will be nowhere close to what you have imagined, it is going to be mind blowing and amazing.
A certain Trupti Shukla who was part of the audition process reported in print that she did not like the way you questioned her about being comfortable doing intimate scenes, and wearing swim suit. Your take on it?
First of all, let me clarify that Tripti Shukla was not chosen to do any intimate scene. She was selected to play mother to one of the youngsters. She is actually a lady in her mid 30's, and she did not like the fact that we wanted the youngsters to kiss for a show. So she went out in print talking, giving a negative picture to the whole thing.
Obviously there were many who gave in to this and smooched publicly. Did you get to hear from their parents after the whole scenario?
Yes. In fact, the parents who had accepted to all the terms and conditions earlier got into so much of pressure after the tabloids carried the story. Few even wanted to give it a second thought. We actually lost one of the eight selected people because their parents could not handle the pressure coming in from their relatives and friends. We are auditioning again, to get the required faces.
Was this type of audition held to just prove a point that Balaji Telefilms is now trying to work on a completely different genre?
At this juncture, I would again want to mention that Ekta is not involved in this project at all. Ours is a team which comprises of youngsters who have passed out of college. The team is headed by me. We wanted to come up with a project that would interest all youngsters, and is contemporary in look and feel. In addition to the new faces, this show will also have some big names too. Yes, we are entering into a whole new territory with this show..
At the end of all this, do you now feel that you could have avoided this entire fiasco?
I would have loved to avoid this. But I also believe that all that happens is for good. I see a positive outcome with all that happened. All this has made me more confident and has prompted me to take a careful route.
Is it that you being young in age has helped you see this project in the right perspective?
Absolutely!! All thro' my tenure with Balaji Telefilms, I have learned a lot from Ekta, Nivedita Basu and many others. I have always been a mama's boy, and that helped me work on saas bahu sagas. My interest in love stories helped me do that, but in this new project of mine, I am able to focus more and bring in the thought process of the youth, mainly because I am young in age. So it's very true that being young has helped me (smiles).
Moving away from this topic, we have been hearing rumors about your past baby Kis Desh going off air. Can you throw light?
Kis Desh is doing extremely well in the afternoon slot. Even when it was in the prime time slot, it gave a 2+ rating which is exactly what the new show is delivering at the same slot now. So I think all this is a rumor and Kis Desh is going well.
You have been the Creative of Kitani too, and what do you have to say about the show reaching its logical end?
I was very sad when I got to know that Kitani is ending, but I am happy for the fact that this was one of the top shows on Imagine. It will always be remembered as the youngest and freshest show on television, and we have got some great responses for the show.
What are the shows that you will be handling now?
I will be handling shows that are completely different, and is as realistic as possible. Whoever said they have seen realistic shows on television have no clue of what we are coming up with.
Basically, you had left Balaji and joined Colosceum for few months. Why did you leave in the first case? What made you come back to the organization?
I had been working on projects like Kis Desh, Kyunki and Kasamh Se for a long time. Working for Balaji means that we are working 24/7, and I wanted a break. I had only worked with Balaji, and wanted to see what happens outside. That is when I joined Colosceum, and was there for a month or so. Then I started missing the type of work that I was accustomed to, and got back to Balaji. I served a notice period of nearly seven months before I left Balaji, but was back again after just few days of notification.
Even when I informed Ekta that I needed a break, she was fine with it. And when I told her that I wanted to get back, she welcomed me. Now I have got a show that has made me fall in love with it, and this is what drove me back to Balaji. I simply love this show even before it has started.
Now that you are with Balaji, how does it feel?
It was a totally different Balaji when I joined it for the first time. And now, we have a different Balaji Telefilms, which has more of management involvement. We have company policies for the betterment of all. We are making lot of different things, and it is just not shows on television. We have soaps for internet, mobiles etc, and there is lot more to learn now.
TV is no longer making the saas bahu sagas. Does it make a difference to you all?
We just cannot say that there is no saas bahu stories today. Even a Balika Vadhu has the bahu factor in it, and all the betiyaan shown in TV today are bahus. But the treatment given to the shows today are different.
Given a chance, will you be making a saas bahu story again?
Given a chance, I would want to make a love story. And what I am doing right now fascinates me to no extent. But if I am pushed to do a saas bahu saga, I will do it the way I want.
Do you know that you have a big fan following at India-Forums?
Yes, someone told me that I have a fan following out there. I was also invited by a group of members on Face book, to have a view of what they had created for me. It is a surprise to have a fan base, who are kicked about my writing work.
Your message to your fans…
My team and I are coming up with a completely different content on television, which has never happened before. We have put in lot of soul and hard work into the project. It would be great if you could discuss about our show, and give us your feedback. It's always great to read your suggestions in the forums, and that really helps.
Finally, when are we going to see the project on air?
Shooting for the show should start by this month end. You will see it definitely before this year ends.
Reporter and Author: Srividya Rajesh