Director Amitabh S Verma shares his experience of working on Disney+ Hotstar Quix's Teen Do Paanch
Director Amitabh S Verma is a jack of all trades when it comes to films - he is a lyricist, a screenplay writer, and an editor by training. His latest pursuit, Teen Do Paanch, is a part of Disney+ Hotstar’s Quix series that premiered on May 7. The short-form episodes of this series star Shreyas Talpade and Bidita Bag in lead roles.
Teen Do Paanch is the tale of a couple who adopt three children. Vishal (Talpade) is a little skeptical but Priyanka (Bag) has resolved to add to their family. But soon after adopting the children, they realize that two more are on the way - Priyanka is pregnant with twins! The series, which is Verma’s first experience of directing and writing a short-form series, is a humorous but heartwarming journey.
Verma, in conversation with OTTPlay, shared his experience of working on Teen Do Paanch. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
How was the experience of directing a short-form episode different from your past projects?
The short form episode format is a new concept for our viewers. In any case, every project and every format is different and just as challenging. The one thing that has to be kept in mind while making a short-form episode is that each episode must be left at a point in the story where the viewers would be inquisitive and would want to know what happened after that. I tried to treat every scene as a short film in itself which has a beginning, middle and end.
Before Teen Do Paanch (TDP) I had directed several short films, many of which won awards both in India and abroad. That helped me a lot. Those short films taught me how to tell a story in ten to fifteen minutes. The bottom line is that whatever be the format, the content should be so interesting that the viewers are engrossed in the story. Screen time is very precious and we can’t afford to waste it- TDP needed a lot of writing and re-writing. The episodes were edited on paper before we went to shoot so that we didn’t waste time on shooting a scene and then discarding it.
What is the scope of short-format series in India and how do you think the audience will perceive it?
In today’s time everyone is busy and not many have two hours to spare to watch a film. Also, the viewers have so many choices that we can’t take them for granted. Nowadays, the attention span of a viewer is also very short. A short format series insures that we finish a part before the viewer begins to get bored and switches to something else. The idea is to make them ask for more. I think this format is here to stay. If someone has even ten to fifteen minutes to spare while travelling or waiting for a meeting, they can finish an episode.
How did you come up with the idea for TDP?
I have always liked slice of life stories. Stories that everyone can relate to. Characters that seem familiar to everyone. This was the basic thought behind TDP. It was adapted from a story written by my wife Shruti Anindita Vermaa. Her story was called Paalna and it was taken from a real life incident that happened to someone she knew very closely. We took the story and along with my co-writer Mehran Amrohi, added some elements, changed the flavour and made it into its present form.
How was the experience of working with established actors like Shreyas Talpade and Bidita Bag?
I have been a big big fan of Shreyas Talpade. He is so natural and effortless that it doesn’t seem he is acting! I think that he is in the same category of actors as Farooq Shaikh and Amol Palekar - very, very relatable! Also he was our first choice for the role. I feel very lucky and blessed that he liked the script too and came on board. He was an absolute delight to work with.
I had seen Bidita in a film called Babumoshay Bandookbaaz and found her absolutely natural and very comfortable in front of the camera. Also for TDP, we needed someone who looked urban yet relatable and Bidita fit the bill. I’m glad I could get her to do TDP. She too was very co-operative.
Did you have to tweak your directorial strategies to work with children?
Working with kids is both difficult and easy. Difficult because they get easily distracted very soon. They will get bored and simply refuse to shoot many times. And you can’t really reason with a child. You can't tell them shooting is an expensive business and we can’t waste time. If a child is feeling sleepy or if he goes off to sleep you can't wake them and ask them to get ready and come for the shot. So it is difficult.
Easy because kids have no inhibitions and you can make them do difficult scenes too without them realising it. But yes, you have to make friends with them and win their confidence. While shooting TDP it was a daily ritual that I would take Shanaya, Ransh and Rananjay for an ice cream treat after the shoot. Often, they would wait for me to get free even after their work would be over only for the ice cream treat!
As far as dialogues and lines are concerned I had made it very clear to all the actors, not only the kids that they can alter the lines and say them as per their comfort, as long as the basic thought of those lines don’t change.
Now when I look back I realise it was great fun working with the three kids.
What projects are lined up for you in the near future?
I am writing two feature films. One for my friend and the other for my wife Shruti which she will be directing in September. There is also a feature film, a comedy that I am going to start soon. Right now I am working on the casting of that film.