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New stories to tell

Ravi Rai, the man behind tele serials `Sailaab' and `Sparsh', will shortly be back with `Kashish'

Photo: K.Gajendran

RAVI RAI'S name evokes memories of Imtihaan, Sailaab, Thoda Hai Thode ki Zaroorat Hai, Teacher, Sparsh... serials which are ingrained in viewers' minds for the sensitivity of relationships portrayed in them. Serials, which fetched him accolades and awards. This `master storyteller' who captured the subtleties of daily life and created characters straight out of life is now spinning new yarns - making a new tele-serial Kashish and looking at the big screen too. "Nothing much was coming my way. I guess channels were not interested in the Ravi Rai kind of stuff. Channels want people to take directions. I am not comfortable doing so. But now, I feel I have struck the right pitch. I have submitted a pilot project of a serial titled Kashish starring Simone Singh, Aman Varma, Mahesh Thakur, Kittu Gidwani. It is all about new women. The take-off point is when a wife tells her husband (who is having an affair with another woman) that there is a man in her life. So the man is caught between two strong women, each of which does not want to be the second woman. The women are clear about their life... The contract with the channel (does not disclose it) is to be signed shortly," says Rai who was in Hyderabad recently.

Rai has two feature films up his sleeve - both scripted by him. "One is an untitled comedy (for Sahara) and the other is a Hinglish film (to be produced by himself) Let's Blame the West. The latter will be shot in London later this year and will appeal to Asians all over. The cast for both films is yet to be finalised," he says.

Since Rai dealt with relationships, he became branded as that kind of director. "I got stuck in that image. Even when I wanted to do something, I was told let somebody else do it." Ravi shone with Sailaab (he was just about 28-29 when he made the serial). "Even today, people remember it. It provided me the runway to take off. This and other serials like Sparsh and Thoda Hai... were from an unconscious mind. I just put my heart in them and did not fear whether they were going to work." But the writer in Rai had also surfaced by then. "Post-Sailaab, I realised that I have a writer in me." Was not writing and directing taxing? "I am a writer first and I feel a director goes on the sets to supervise the written words."

As a person who achieved success with his serials, he rues that "there is nothing like Buniyaad or Humlog on television these days. There is no television revolution. Depictions of women are regressive when women are galloping to be progressive. The entire portrayal is fake. Why can't anyone make a serial about the first woman cadet of the merchant navy? People in the television industry are frightened. The stakes are high, the remuneration is good and everybody wants to toe a safe path. When the TRPs are good for certain serials, the formula is not changed. When a serial like Jesse Jaisi Koi Nahin is made, it is ahead because it is different." So people do accept when there is something different too.

Rai is an acknowledged name on television. But very few know his rise from humble origins. "I hail from a lower middleclass background. My parents were teachers. I wanted to rise higher in life. So I came to Mumbai from Delhi. I did odd jobs, sold some products (from door to door) and later joined Mahesh Bhatt as an assistant. Simply because I was paid Rs. 25 per day as conveyance. All my food requirements were taken care of and the money I got was a princely sum in those days.

That was the turning point. I learnt more about life and filmmaking. Bhatt gave me a channel to think and look at life differently. From there, I moved on to TV. And I got three Screen awards consecutively for three serials after which I turned producer." He is thinking of writing his autobiography. "Some years ago, Penguin had approached me to describe this journey of a middleclass boy who touched fame. At that time, I was happening. Now I don't know whether they would still be interested."

Today Rai likes to spend time with his wife and two daughters (aged nine and six-and-a-half) and play cricket with other kids. "When my wife chides my daughters about their studies, I tell her it's not necessary for them to come first in class. The world outside is a different school altogether. Life shocks you. So I tell my wife to give the children some freedom from studies."

Despite the riches and the fame, his feet are rooted in the ground. "When I touched name and fame, I found it to be plastic. I was not over joyous of what I achieved. Ambitions tire you. Every time you climb higher, you will find somebody higher than you. A few years ago, I decided that god has given me everything. I am content with life. I often say `You are a guest, God is a host.' Be a good guest and feel full. Don't let him think kitna kaata hai." That sums up his outlook.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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