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Maya Bazaar for Sale offers a throwback to the flavour of Amrutham, Anando Brahma on OTT, say its writers

Writers Gautami Challagulla, Swetha Manchiraju and Hari Babu Dasari throw light on the universe of ZEE5’s latest Telugu sitcom

Maya Bazaar for Sale offers a throwback to the flavour of Amrutham, Anando Brahma on OTT, say its writers
Haribabu, Swetha, Gautami Challagulla on Maya Bazaar for Sale

Last Updated: 12.08 PM, Jul 16, 2023


Maya Bazaar for Sale, ZEE5’s latest Telugu show is a rare tale that dives deep into the eccentricities of life in luxurious gated communities. Adopting a lighthearted approach to addressing a wide range of personal and social issues in a ‘sitcom’ format, the web series is entertaining, amusing and progressive at once, bringing in a new flavour of storytelling to the Telugu digital space.

The show’s creator Gautami Challagulla, writers Swetha Manchiraju and Hari Babu Dasari, in an interaction with, discuss their method behind translating the madness onto the screen.

Gautami, this isn’t your first brush with the OTT space. You’ve written for Youtube, OTT but are turning a director now. A lot has changed about the OTT space since you wrote for Posh Poris. What was this evolution like?

Ideally, there are a few scripts that I feel will work best when another director takes it up and there are others where I feel my voice needs to be represented on the screen. Direction was always on the cards. I think I took the decision to preserve the autonomy among our writers (Swetha and Hari Babu). When we write and others direct, there’s every chance that we may have viewed the material differently. At least, if one among us did it, we’d be able to do justice to our ideas.

It’s great to see OTTs come up with so much content. As a writer-director, I still had my reservations given there’s a danger that I may subscribe to mainstream cinema tropes and OTT-storytelling is vastly different. Maya Bazaar doesn’t fit into any of the boxes and we stayed true to the genre we were writing. We wanted to bring back the flavour of shows like Amrutham, Anando Brahma, Hum Paanch, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai. It presents an opportunity to explore so many characters.


Being a writer and having gone through the rigmarole, how did you ensure your co-writers had the right amount of creative freedom within the team?

Gautami: I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Swetha and Hari Babu. Swetha comes from a strong writing background, having done a screenwriting course in UCLA. She brings a lot of grammar to the writing process and we hail from culturally similar backdrops. In Hari Babu, we found a sample audience because he views cinema, and storytelling from an average viewer’s perspective. When we’re writing together, we really have these enjoyable debates. The high that we experienced while cracking a scene was unmatched. Writing alone can become narcissistic and it gives us scope to call out each other’s follies. We tend to run out of ideas when we’re alone. We call ourselves ‘blinking cursors’.

Swetha: Outside, it would look like we’re fighting but we were thoroughly having fun.

As writers, how do you divide your responsibilities - characters, episodes and the technicalities?

Swetha: On a subconscious level, we do divide our roles but all of us bring characters that we may have experienced in our cultural backgrounds. For instance, Pastry’s family in Maya Bazaar for Sale is a space I would be able to contribute and relate more, bring in context more. There are characters in the story that all of us identify with, more than the other and we use those inputs to enrich them.

Gautami: Hari Babu comes from HCU and we created an archetype of characters we came across at the university. During story discussion and while cracking a plot, we deal with the structure together and it’s collaborative. With the screenplay, we usually end up dividing our responsibilities.

The writers with Singeetham Srinivasa Rao
The writers with Singeetham Srinivasa Rao

As writers, when you want to bring a mix of old-world nostalgia and have a modern-day upgrade, how do you make sure it is relevant to your target audience?

Hari Babu: I’m not sure how much I’ve contributed to the writing process but I’ll have to credit Gautami for helping me discover the writer within me. I was interested in acting but I’m an accidental writer. She has introduced me both as a writer and an actor through her journey.

The sensibilities of Telugu audiences are quite different from viewers in other parts of the country. Telugu viewers appreciate comedy more than any other genre and the success of sitcoms can be attributed to that. Maya Bazaar for Sale is loaded with humour and will be relatable to those who live in and want to stay in gated communities. Once we understand their tastes, writing becomes an easier process.

Swetha: Some of the biggest hits in Telugu cinema have been comedies - Manmadhudu, Nuvvu Naaku Nachav and we still keep revisiting them. It’s a key ingredient to the stories/films they appreciate. More often than not, they want to forget their world for a while, watch something to relax, have fun and get back to normalcy. I think that’s how they (and we) treat life too.

In films, we often witness depictions of the poor, middle-class life, elite societies but we barely get to see life in gated communities. How’re they any different from other strata of the society?

Swetha: They appear different in terms of the clothes they wear and their lifestyle, but in the end, they’re no different from others as humans. In their groups, the discussions range from dog poop to a badam falling from the balcony. These ‘Telegram’ communities have been the biggest contributor to the show - that’s our fourth writer.

Gautami: I think it’s all about the gaze you have when you come from a different part of the city. Initially, you’re allured by the comforts, but gradually, you come across people who bargain to pay Rs 50 more to a maid. The core emotion of a human remains the same. Even if a Telugu-speaking person goes to space, they’ll carry a bottle of chintakaya pickle and eat it with rice.

I don’t only want to portray the oddities in the setup but also the beautiful bonds that can be forged. There are no lakes within gated communities but people bring tankers and celebrate Bathukamma and recreate the village atmosphere. Regardless of where you go and what you become, we’re more similar than we think.

Hari Babu: When I go to gated communities, I am quite amused by the issues there. The tiffs are so trivial and odd that you won’t notice anything of that kind in villages either. From another dimension, gated communities are so aspirational for a middle-class person, it’s something they look upto. They want to make progress in life to live in such a place.

Gautami with the cast
Gautami with the cast

Bringing together an ensemble cast - filled with artistes across various age groups and experience - must have been quite daunting for a first-time director. Was it?

Swetha: Right during the writing stage, we kept wondering if it would practically be possible to bring so many artistes together, though we thought it would be the director’s headache and not ours. (when Gautami wasn’t finalised as the director)

Gautami: We wanted to be as authentic to the scene during the writing stage. Even with casting, we chose our lineup based on the characters and not their stature, I must say we’ve come 99% close to achieving it. We were lucky that the characters resonated with nearly all the actors.

Bringing all of them together was madness, but once they were together, everybody thought less about their roles and had more fun. For instance, we were able to capture an unexplored side to Ravi Varma, a Jandhyala-style performance, and he’s truly looking forward to the response.

Everyone in the cast felt that their presence was valued on screen and gave their best. Naresh, Jhansi brought energy to the sets and they taught me how to treat comedy better with all their experience. Even though I was the creator of the show, I enjoyed being a spectator too.

Gautami with Kota Srinivasa Rao
Gautami with Kota Srinivasa Rao

In the touchy world we live in, how do we make comedy that entertains and still not offend people?

Gautami: We’ve in fact offended the sentiments of many people in the show. If you mess with a writer, you’re likely to become a character in their next story; it’s so funny that ZEE5 team asked us if even they would become characters in our future shows. On a serious note, we treat dogs as pets and one among our family now. If we go one generation behind, cows/buffaloes were an integral part of their existence. I wondered why can’t a country cow exist in a villa; she’s in fact more privileged than Eesha Rebba’s character in the show.

In terms of ‘offending’ sentiments, how one reacts to something tells more about them than the show. We break so many barriers/stereotypes that audiences will lose count of them in Maya Bazaar for Sale. The show is packed with self-deprecating humour.

Meiyang Chang loved his role because of how brutally it has challenged cliches pertaining to those who come from the North-East. There are wives who won’t think twice to use cuss words for their husbands. There are girls who make no bones about checking out guys in a pool. Besides the comedy, we’ve placed characters amidst several dilemmas that’ll also make the viewers think.

Hari Babu: (sarcastically speaking) There’s a long list of people who’ll be offended by Maya Bazaar on Sale - those who’re corrupt, drunkards, casteist, in a extramarital affair, we haven’t spared anyone.

Swetha: Ultimately, we haven’t written these characters with an agenda. These are people whom we come across within our surroundings and when audiences watch the show, they can’t deny the existence of such characters.

On the sets of the show
On the sets of the show

In a team where there are two women and a man, how did you look at gender equations and stereotypes? How did the women view the male characters and the vice versa?

Swetha: Gautami and I being women, we involuntarily give a heroic dimension to the female characters. We used to have interesting discussions when we wrote their characters as a widows or divorcees, Hari Babu asked us ‘what’s wrong with you?’ (laughs)

Gautami: When we write powerful female characters, we unintentionally end up emasculating the guy - men always need not be the patriarchs/ villains in a female-centric plot. Hari Babu’s main contribution is how he stood up for the male characters and gave us crucial inputs about their perception towards women. That’s why we enjoyed working together for Maya Bazaar..there’s a balance.

Hari Babu: My suggestions were to limit the empowerment angle pertaining to women in the story. There are other stories where we highlight their mental strength; this required them to be seen in a different light. I was the target audience of the show and wanted the common (wo)man to be represented in it. As much as I say that, my perspective towards women has changed drastically through the process.

Negotiations with corporates, OTTs, incorporating their inputs have a crucial part to play in the creation of a show. How do you ensure that you don’t bury bridges even as make your point?

Swetha: These discussions actually gave us a perspective because there’s something huge at stake for them too. We were quite open to ideas for they had clear parameters and they made sense - money, viewership, sustaining a viewer’s attention. It’s important to not react impulsively.

Gautami: During these discussions, I tell my team that it’s important to not look at them like ‘noise’ and try to understand the core point that affects them. They may not articulate it clearly but if we find out the actual reason behind the changes, the process becomes seamless.

Ultimately, the people whom we interact with, they have the authority for a reason and you need to respect it. You may accept/not accept a suggestion, but you need to listen. There are times it gets annoying and one needs to be patient and take it with a pinch of salt. Have a good cup of coffee and relook at it.

I can now come back to the production office and the OTT platform and have a good chat with them even after the show is over. It’s just a project at the end of the day; what matters are the bonds you forge and make peace with them.

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