The Hindu

​‘ Successful stories need not be formula-based’

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nikkhil Advani says he has always had a yen for thrillers and his forthcoming television series POW: Bandi Yudh Ke is going to be all about thrills

More than a decade ago, Nikhil Advani’s directorial début, Kal Ho Naa Ho, became paean to eternal romance. After a list of unremarkable films following that, he produced Airlift and is now turning to television with P.O.W: Bandi Yudh Ke on Star Plus. It is an adaptation of popular Israeli series Hatufim. “I think I was always made for thrillers,” says Advani . “All along I was doing things which I thought other people wanted me to do. Few people know that before Kal Ho Na Ho , I was writing a thriller, which was a bit too much to be a first film. So we decided to go with Kal Ho Naa Ho”

Advani says he loved Teesri Manzil and Johnny Mera Naam , and says that the first film he co-wrote was Sudhir Mishra’s Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin . “I like to watch the news and keep up with current affairs and politics. If I can marry them with fictional characters and emotions, it is the best combination,” he says. Advani says he watched three back-to-back shows of Parinda . “I liked the way it was crafted by Binod Pradhan and Renu Saluja and how even smaller characters like that of Satish Kaushik made a lasting impact.” He believes, “If you have command over drama and the ability to evoke a response from the audience, only then you can survive in this industry.”

P.O.W is about two Indian soldiers, who escape from Pakistan 17 years after the Kargil War. “Of course, it is about prisoners of war but what moved me was the story of their wives and children who could not move on in life. They are prisoners of hope. In one sense, hope is keeping them going but, in another, it is also holding them back. Thedilemma made me sit up.”

The series comes at a time when the country is grappling with nationalism. Advani says one of the main reasons that pushed him is the way the debate is trivialised. “We often put on the label of a nationalist without even knowing what it is all about. Raising a flag or eating a particular cuisine doesn’t make us national or anti-national. It is nonsensical.”

One of the POWs is a Sardar and the other is a Muslim. “It is not deliberate. And it goes with the original story…what happens when Imaan Khan, an Air Force pilot, comes back to India and is viewed with suspicion as some feel that he might have traded crucial information for his freedom. It adds suspense and drama to human relationships.”

“I have no right wing agenda in my stories,” he insists. “My aim is to show that politics is involved in the relations between the two countries and, until we throw that out, the situation won’t improve.”

Starring Purab Kohli, Satyadeep Sharma, Maneesh Choudhari and Sandhya Mridul, the series seems like 24 in terms of scale and reflects the changing scenario on Indian television . Like the 1980s, big names are once again eager to take risks on the small screen.

Advani maintains that the debate of big screen vs small screen is over, as now everything is available on your mini screen of iPad. “You don’t have to watch Game of Thrones on a big screen. And it’s not just about television. Pink deals with sexuality of three girls, Airlift is backed by Akshay Kumar and Neerja worked at the box office. The general consensus is successful stories need not be formula-based.”

Advani admits Hero and Katti Batti , were mistakes. “But now my company is five years old and we have produced two relevant films. We believe in our writers and all the directors that we are nurturing are either reinventing or breaking the formula.”

If you have command over drama and the ability to evoke a response from the audience, only then you can survive in this industry

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