Television has always intrigued Nikkhil Advani, right from the time he assisted Aziz Mirza on 'Nukkad' 30 years ago to now, when he's ready with his magnum opus 'P.O.W - Bandi Yuddh Ke', which will air on Star Plus in October. He says, "TV is the only medium that can give you a loyal audience, something we filmmakers yearn for." As he gears up for his big launch on the small screen, he speaks to Bombay Times about the show's trailer and who are the real prisoners of war. Excerpts from an interview:
How did you decide to make this show?
The channel wanted a show on the lines of my films 'D-Day' and 'Airlift'... basically something in the space of politics, terrorism, hard-hitting, family drama. They came to me with this Israeli show 'Hatufim', on which the popular American show Homeland is based. My first reaction was, 'I don't want to make 'Homeland'. In India, the police is not about plain clothes or wearing tight suits.' They told me it's not like 'Homeland' and when I saw the Israeli show, I was blown away. It's the 'Buniyaad' or 'Hum Log' of Israel. The Americans made it as a thriller, but I planned to make a drama. I wanted to use politics and terrorism as a backdrop and not as the main story. My story brings forth the sacrifices of the families of war soldiers through their sufferings. In the recent events in Kashmir, we have lost our jawans. Watching the angst of the families of the martyred is tragic.
What impressed you most about the Israeli show?
What struck me was who were the real prisoners of war — the soldiers who were captured or their families that were waiting for them. Later, when I was in touch with the maker Gideon Raff, I told him that as you watch the series, you realise that the real prisoners of war are the wives, the children and the people left behind. Our story starts at a point when the people are just about to move on in their lives and these guys, who were in captivity for 17 years, come back. In the Israeli show, they have big actors. I decided to rope in good actors — Purab Kohli, Sandhya Mridul, Amrita Puri, Satyadeep Misra and Manish Chaudhari — who I thought would do justice to the characters. I'm not here to change things because there is nothing that needs to be changed on TV. As filmmakers, we want a loyal audience and with TV there is already a loyal audience, who will watch shows irrespective of whatever they are doing.
Right now, the successful shows on TV are the typical family dramas. Yours is a thriller...
Every time I was manipulative or dishonest with my films, they didn't work. So I decided to be honest here. I can't run away from the fact that the dhaga of the show lies in the suspense and the thrill in what the two men who've returned home are hiding. I have tried to be true to the story, but there is a lot of emotion in the show. In fact, it has every single ingredient required to connect with the Indian audience.
You started your career as an assistant director on 'Nukkad' three decades ago. TV has grown since then, but is there any one thing you feel really needs to change?
The writing needs to change and it's not about TV alone. It applies to cinema, too. We have to give more credit and freedom to the writers, allow them to soar with more ideas. We must understand that we don't know what audiences want. If we knew that, every Friday we would make a blockbuster. But yes, in the end, it's about connecting well with them. 'P.O.W - Bandi Yuddh Ke', co-powered by Tiago from Tata Motors and Patanjali Keshkanti, coming this October on Star Plus.