Woman of Substance - Kavita Barjatya

Home  Behind the Scenes  Producer's take Woman of Substance - Kavita Barjatya

I am in conversation with Kavita Barjatya, the woman who has used her talent, commitment and ambition to cut through the glass ceiling in the television industry.  Somewhere along our tête-à-tête, it dawns upon me that Kavita is an embodiment of the Rajshri heroine. She is charmingly beautiful, is an absolute perfectionist, sings like a bird, dances like a dream and has the steely determination to win no matter what the odds! Her graciousness is a breath of fresh air and despite her overwhelmingly busy schedule; Kavita insists on catching up for the interview when the time is convenient for ME! Being born with a famous last name is one thing but, Kavita has taken the ‘Barjatya’ name to new heights in the world of television and has become an icon for women all over India. Rajshri productions may be well known for its films but Kavita took it upon herself to revive their television division and this was by no means an easy feat. In a day and age when television production houses are a dime to a dozen, Kavita’s sole competition is the standards that she has set for herself. “When I decided to spearhead Rajshri’s television division, it became my responsibility to live up to the brand name that my grandfather had created” states Kavita. Her entrepreneurial zest paid off and show after show, Rajshri’s television offerings held their own. Her shows captured the viewers’ hearts through stories that were woven in traditional family values and set in the 21st century. Multi-faceted and multi-talented, Tinsel Gupshup gives you a woman of substance – Kavita Barjatya



TG: I read that after assisting Sooraj ji you were wondering what to do next and he advised you to produce something independently. After working on movies, how did the transition to TV happen?

KB: Yes, I assisted him on ‘Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon’ and that project took up nearly three years of my life and of course, I was also in the process of working on other scripts. Before that, I had worked for our company under my father. So I was able to gain an overall knowledge of the company and that helped in so many ways. Sooraj ji was very happy with the way I worked and he always emphasized that if we decided to take on a new venture…it should be headed by a very responsible person. I have always had a keen mind for developing new business plans and strategies and it just made sense for a person who is so well versed with the family business to spearhead the television division. In 2004, I started working in television and it brought about a complete change in my mindset. It took me a long time to sort of unlearn films and learn television. I mean both films and television are audio-visual mediums but they are completely different. Television comes with its own set of challenges and I was responsible for everything right from story development, script, casting, contracts, budget, taking the project to the channel, getting the project approved, budget approvals and so much more. It was a lot of hard work and I was on the job 24/7. My first television show was ‘Woh Rehnein Wali Mehlon Ki’ and it did extremely well. The show went on for nearly 6 years! So despite my experience in the film-making side, the transition to television was not an easy one. It required a lot of hard work and dedication.





TG: After Rajshri’s first show for DD – ‘Paying Guest’, you re-launched the television division with Woh Rehenein Waali…that was a huge task. Can you tell us about that experience?

KB: Actually ‘Paying Guest’ was made in 1984 and at that time my uncles were not used to working under the pressures of the television industry. After producing 13 episodes of the show they were like – ‘how does one manage in this environment!!??’ Everything from scripting to edit happens simultaneously and they just got so fed up with the whole process. Television is tricky that way, because it is not completely up to the producer to make all decisions. My uncles were not used to working for anyone because we are an independent production house. Reviving Rajshri’s television division was a daunting task but I understood the needs and pressures of the industry and I asked my family to trust me. I convinced them to let me have my people and team and in return, I promised them an outstanding product and happy viewers! I have been lucky because my family gave me the guidance yet they gave me the space to do whatever I wanted. They never interfered or asked any questions and soon enough our television business started doing well. My father and uncles were so proud of me and they told me that I had successfully turned the company around. At that time, our movies were not doing too well and for me, the happiest moment was when my father told me that we were completely debt free! We were able to clear all the loans and cover the movie losses through the television division. The most beautiful part was when my uncle said to me – ‘Kavita there was a time when you would come and ask us for guidance and today we come and ask you for advice!’





TG: Rajshri is a brand unto itself. Also, the brand stands for certain values and beliefs. Obviously there are positives and negatives attached to that…people expect a certain standard from your shows, but at the same time some people might not watch Rajshri products because they prefer edgy shows away from family dramas. How do you deal with both aspects?

KB: Very honestly, TV shows are not edgy. In fact shows on television are exactly what they used to be 8 years ago so the same stories, same kitchen politics, same emotions. If someone tells you that they are making a completely different show…trust me, they might run their show in a different format for a few weeks, TRP’s will fall and they will be pushed into coming back to the same old concept. People ask me why we make shows with the same ‘rona-dhona’ but at the end of the day our shows are well accepted and I will continue to give the viewers what they want. You can expect edginess in films but not in TV shows. I have made some shows like ‘Main Teri Parchhain Hoon’ on NDTV Imagine and ‘Pyaar Ke Do Naam’ on STAR Plus, where I managed to maintain the original flavours of the show. So I made it a point to stay away from kitchen politics in those shows. At the end of the day the channel will brief us on what they want and we understand how to make it work. Rajshri has a certain forte and I will use our strengths to make the best shows. When my viewers want ‘Dal-Roti’ then why should I force feed them with Fondue and Pasta? I am very clear on my strategies and you will not see us getting into reality, crime or horror shows because those genres are not our areas of expertise.



TG: You have studied Kathak for 18 years and I have heard that some of the dance sequences in your shows are choreographed by you…

KB: (Laughs) yes, yes that is correct. I am not a choreographer but it was great fun. In fact our show ‘Pyaar Ke Do Naam: Ek Raadha Ek Shyaam’ had 8-9 songs and I choreographed all those dances. Even in ‘Pyaar Ka Dard Hai’ I choreographed Pankhuri’s dance in the first episode. We had gone on an outdoor shoot and I could not afford to take a choreographer because we were shooting one shot in every possible location. So I just could not take on a choreographer for 20 days on an outdoor shoot. My director encouraged me to choreograph Pankhuri’s dance and I was apprehensive because it had been years since I had danced. Finally I agreed and it came out really well. After the shot I made the entire cast and crew dance and we had so much fun. I always believe in creating a homely atmosphere on the sets and I can assure you that my team enjoys coming to work. I know all my cast and crew personally and they can come and talk to me about any issues or problems. I am involved in each and every aspect of the show and even when we were in Manali for ‘Pyaar Ka Dard Hai’, I would be at the shoot from morning till pack-up.



TG: Tell us a bit about your new movie venture

KB: I have been doing television for such a long time so recently I decided to take a break. Luckily, I have set the television unit up in a way that now it is a well oiled, smooth functioning unit and I don’t have to stick around for all the shoots. My team only gets in touch with me if there is a serious problem and they need my guidance on a crucial issue. So I have been acting as a consultant and in the mean time I have started work on a film. Our production house has been associated with a certain genre of films but this time around I really wanted to try something different. So going back to your earlier question…the movie I am working on will definitely have an edge to it. Having said that, I would like to emphasize that my movie will stay within the limits and boundaries that are associated with the Rajshri name. Our production house was established by my grandfather and Goddess Saraswati resides on the emblem of our brand. So even though I call my movie ‘edgy’ it will not contain any content that will any way demean what Rajshri Productions stands for! Our long standing viewers always expect a certain type of product from us and at the same time people keep asking me why we stick to the same tried and tested formula. So we are always faced with a dichotomous situation. I always feel that Rajshri’s name will not be able to live up to an edgy theme but I want to try it. My aim is to make something different…sort of a suspense thriller and I don’t know if it will be accepted or not but I do know that my film will be made with conviction.





TG: Pyaar Ka Dard is doing very well. How did you go about choosing your Aditya and Pankhuri?

KB: When Nakuul’s film had released, I had kept a clipping of one his interviews. When I began searching for ‘Adi’, I realized that Nakuul would fit that bill completely. He is such a wonderful and warm person and he does complete justice to Adi’s character. Disha’s audition had come to me and once again I felt she was perfect for Pankhuri. Both Disha and Nakuul are amongst the best actors I have worked with. Casting is an extremely important facet of the job for me and I have set up each and every character on the show. Even my assistants understand the importance of casting so I have trained them to set up auditions, send me the lists and most of the auditions are held in my office. I take great pride in the fact that all our shows have showcased some fantastic actors.



TG: As the producer you get involved in each and every aspect. Is there one aspect that you enjoy the most?

KB: Oh My! Let me think about this…well, I really enjoy the process of creating the story and then casting the characters. I hate the coordination part! In television we shoot cut to cut and then the channel gives us feedback and sometimes the feedback does not really fit into what we want to show. So coordinating the whole thing becomes pure hell. We have telecast deadlines and in the middle of all that we are going back and forth with the channel and that can be very stressful. At such times, I am not a creative contributor rather, I become a people manager. I don’t mind coordinating when there will be constructive contribution to the project but when I am just arguing and wasting precious time…I just hate that part! Unfortunately, this is a day to day issue because we are in a dynamic field and so many parties are involved in the making of the show. So friction and difference in opinions is natural.



TG: Producing a TV show or directing a movie…

KB: Television is a part of me and I have been on the job 24/7 for more than 8 years. Even when I am on vacation, the episodes are flown down to me, I watch them and give my feedback and basically I am on call all the time. It has been my dream to direct a movie but I don’t see it happening any time soon. I have to put in a lot of work and preparation before I direct and till then, I want to work with my team and keep producing movies. God willing, when I gain the confidence, I will definitely direct a film.




TG: When you get time, what shows do you watch?

KB: (Laughs) I watch Comedy Circus and I was watching Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. I am not a big fan of reality shows but since I am musically inclined, I enjoy musical shows.



TG: Your favourite male / female protagonists?

KB: I have been very fortunate to have worked with some lovely people so I can’t name just one but I’ll give you a few names. Megha Gupta from ‘Main Teri Parchhain Hoon’, Reena Kapoor from ‘Woh Rehnein Waali’, Barkha Bisht from ‘Pyaar Ke Do Naam’. I adore Reema Lagoo ji and Alok Nath ji is like a father figure to me. Aamir Ali, Suhasini Mulay, Nakuul and Disha…just love them both! Oh God, I feel like I am forgetting half the names and I don’t want anyone to feel bad! Maybe I’ll keep texting you the names later!!




TG: I know this will be a tough one but which has been your favourite show?

KB: Oh my God! I just cannot answer that. Each and every show has been so close to my heart for various reasons. ‘Woh Rehnein Waali’ will always be special to me because it was my first show. I cherish ‘Pyaar Ke Do Naam’ because I set that show up from start to finish and it was like making three movies together! ‘Main Teri Parchhain Hoon’ was inspired by real life so it was a unique experience for me. Basically my first three shows will always be very dear to me…



TG: So finally you are taking a well deserved break…

KB: Yes and I am using this break well. I am revisiting Kathak and my music, working on my film, spending a lot of time on myself. I have started some beautiful spiritual courses and I am spoiling my family by cooking for them. I live in a large joint family and they have been asking me to stop cooking because everyone is putting on weight. I still do go to the office but I am really using this time to focus on my film.


Photo Credit: Kavita Barjatya

©Tinsel Gupshup

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