Rangmunch:Dil Dosti Dance (D3) as a concept, you have said on various occasions, is one that you have wanted to make into a show for a very long time. Now that you have finally brought it to life, and that too for more than a year, would you say in retrospect that it is everything you had imagined it would be?
Palki:Umm…no, actually! (Laughs) See, the thing with imagination is, that there’s very little consideration for rationality involved. You imagine on a very high scale, and think up all the things you would love to do, yeh bhi kar sakte hain, woh bhi kar sakte hain…but then when ground reality hits, changes in your vision are inevitable. Many things, when you sit down to work them out logistically, aren’t feasible for many reasons, and you have to think of different things and make do with what you can do. But theek hai, there’s still time and we’ll keep getting there and doing things we’ve always dreamt of doing. We are growing, and it’s really heartening to have gotten response of a kind neither we nor the channel had ever thought we would get. So yeah, we’re working our way on, and will try to do as many things as we can.
Rangmunch :Like you just said, the show has grown steadily over the last year, and has really managed to create a space for itself in the youth bracket as a force to reckon with, touchwood. What are the elements that you feel have worked best for it?
Palki:I’ve always believed that positivity and hard work always work very well. And this team, not only those on the floors in front of the camera but also those behind it, the editing team and everyone else involved in the overall packaging of the show the way it reaches you on your TV screen, have worked SO hard on D3…because it really is a very difficult package to edit and craft. One very great thing here is that this team is also very young, and so most of them don’t care if people yell and scream at them over the product of all their effort. Because they have this willingness to work and this enthusiasm to keep doing better, which is one thing I personally feel has really worked well for us.
Rangmunch :And we’ve heard that all this positivity and hard work have recently also found a reflection in numbers, with D3 raking in its best TRPs last week? Congratulations to you and your entire team!
Palki:Yes, they have been D3’s highest so far! And there’s also the fact that Channel V as a GEC is still growing, and isn’t in the big league yet. So for a show on here to fetch numbers of 1 plus was really something we were all happy about…it made me go “wow, we really did that?!!”(Smiles) It’s really wonderful when after all the hard work you put in, you see the numbers actually reflecting it. It feels really good, and thank you so much!
Rangmunch :The show you did before D3, Dill Mill Gayye (DMG), is known to have been extremely close to your heart. From there to D3, have there been any changes in your approach to making a show, conscious or unconscious, based on your experience?
Palki:Everything has changed! I mean, of course, the people are different, ways of working are different, ways of characterization are different, but most importantly the viewers are different! This generation of viewers is very different…they aren’t as patient as the viewers were during DMG, so you have to keep giving them something or the other to sustain the entertainment quotient. Back in DMG, I could get away with a whole episode filled with eye-locks and no one would say anything to me (laughs) but here with D3 I can’t do that…so yes, everything has changed from DMG to D3! In DMG there was also a very conscious effort on the cast looking good…like you can see for yourself, they’re all so good looking, Karan, Shilpa and in fact all three Armaan-Riddhima pairs…that was a very conscious effort on our parts. And the casting worked out really, really well that way too.
Rangmunch:One thing DMG and D3 do have in common though, is that they have both had to go through a major transitional phase after each completed its very first year: a female lead had to be replaced, in the former with a new face and in the latter with a new character. Do you feel a sense of déjà vu, in terms of the inevitable difficulties that have followed? And what has been your approach to dealing with the situation, since you have already come through something similar once before?
Palki:Oh, yes…but it’s very different here with D3. Here it was…sudden. Honestly, it has been painful, and extremely difficult because there were times when we were struggling ki yeh episode pura theek se ban ke on air jaane ke layak ready ho jaye, bas. It was that tight, for us. And it was very ironic, actually, because the day Shakti texted me that she didn’t want to continue with the show was the same day that I was informed that our numbers had hit an all time high! It was a very strange feeling, that on the one hand I was losing one of my leads, and on the other my show was doing so well! That, in fact, actually gave me quite a bit of strength to get out of that okay-now-what-do-we-do zone and say, come on, Palki, we really CAN make something good with this show, no matter what. It was painful though, and for a good three months we didn’t have anyone on board, which is why Rey didn’t have a female lead for a month even on air! With Shakti it was always a task to get her into ‘Kriya’ mode, to get her out of her ‘Shakti’ personality, which is completely different from the character she was playing. In fact it’s a running joke on set that Shakti is more like Sharon and Sneha is more like Kriya! (Laughs) So yeah, it was a task to do that…and in that situation, of course when you write a character you mould many of its elements around the person playing it, and as a consequence you can’t just replace the face so easily. But yes, here I’d definitely like to say that after whatever has happened, we’ve tried our best to manage well, and since then our numbers have only risen, touchwood. They’ve hit new highs, and we’re really happy and proud of that.
Rangmunch :So with Kriya’s exit you brought in a whole new character, Taani. In your last interview with Rangmunch, you spoke of how easily saleable Kriya’s character was, and how tricky Taani’s has been in comparison, what with her starting out on a note of cheating. Given that it seems to have been a conscious decision to create a more complex character this time, did you at any point think that you were taking a risk?
Palki:It was a completely conscious decision, yes. See, Kriya’s character wasn’t so much easier to sell, as easier to write. She was this typical girl-next-door, done to death kind of likeable character, very simple and yes, that way easy to sell because very familiar and endearing. Taani, on the other hand, is someone we’ve designed to be very real. When you’re at that age, of 17-18, you really don’t think of the consequences of your actions most of the time. It’s like, what you think you need to do right now, you just go ahead and do it regardless of what might come to you because of that later…and this is exactly what Taani did: she acted without thinking. Because at that age you’re really not mature enough to understand or really even care about these things most of the time. We wanted to make Taani real that way, and yes, we wanted her to be completely different from Kriya, and not have even a fraction of Kriya’s characterization. And we knew we would face a lot of flak for it, and we were ready too. But it seems to have worked out for us quite decently, overall, so we’re quite okay, really.
Rangmunch:In terms of creating characters, you moulded Amar and Shakti into Kriya and Reyansh, and as ‘KriYansh’ they did command a following detached from the reality show that had erstwhile made them popular, Dance India Dance. Nevertheless, they came to you as a pair already somewhat established as a pair. On the other hand, Shantanu and Sneha aka Swayam and Sharon are a pair that is entirely a Cinevistaas find, as it were…from the actors, to the decision of their being cast opposite each other as a romantic pair. You had once spoken of this as a decision that was made during the workshops before shooting began, based on the Creatives’ observation of their potential as an on-screen pair. From then to now, Swayam-Sharon have come such a long way, and stand with a tremendous fan following in their own right. How does that feel?
Palki:One little correction I’d like to make, first…that Swayam and Sharon were always meant to be a love story. It’s just that I was really upset that I wasn’t being able to find Swayam very easily, and that had made me give up on this love story, almost. We had decided that we would keep the base fact of Swayam being lattoo on Sharon and the whole impossible love wala narrative, but not in the way I had originally planned it out in my head. Then we had workshops which we conducted ourselves, before shooting began…and when I saw Shantanu and observed him properly, I knew that this guy has something to him that can really work for the show. And Sneha was a firebrand, we knew it immediately. Like, if you’ll see her generally, she’s absolutely nothing like Sharon! But she’s so good at getting into the skin of whatever you give her that we were one hundred percent sure that she’s our Sharon, and the only person who can be our Sharon. And then gradually during the workshops, we thought of trying out exercises and improvisations with Shantanu and Sneha together, and then we realized that this story could still work in its original form. I felt great that I could actually get to keep Swayam-Sharon like I had originally thought of them! Here, I’d also like to say that like Swayam-Sharon, all the characters that you see on the show, and all the things that have gained popularity over time, are Cinevistaas ‘finds’ in a sense. Even with Kriya-Reyansh honestly, I had never watched DID, and just positioned Amar and Shakti together after the auditions and felt that they would work as a pair. Only after that did Vanshika (Mahajan) tell me that these two were already popular as a pairing! So that put us in a safer zone, definitely, but I don’t think they had as huge a fan-following before D3 as they did after the show went on air.
Rangmunch :After Rey-Kriya, came Rey-Taani. Now, a section of the viewers of D3 feels that Rey and Taani are happening a little too fast. One doesn’t necessarily mean Rey should have moped around some more over a love lost, but simply that him developing feelings for Taani the way he has is a little sudden and therefore slightly difficult to digest. What would you like to say to that?
Palki:I actually don’t agree with that, honestly. It’s not sudden, for me, because Kriya left, what, in January? And we’re sitting in August. Seven months is a LOT to brood…and if you see right now, Rey hasn’t entirely moved on, which is why he’s still confused about his feelings. Even he doesn’t really understand what’s happening, and is most of the time trying to convince himself that he doesn’t have any feelings for Taani. See, you must also understand that Rey is not a Swayam…he’s a guy who’s had girls all over and around him, and it was with the coming of Kriya into his life that he began to change. After she left, he was a completely changed man: he’s become much more of a voice for his friends, and has developed a lot more maturity…but in the midst of all this, somewhere, he’s also a human being, and had to someday recognize the emptiness within him. And then this girl comes along who, right from the beginning, makes it clear that she has feelings for him, and tells him to his face that she loves him. He tries to cut himself away from her immediately, as much as he can, but situations are such that the two are thrown together…aisa real life mein bhi hota hai, and the confusion that he’s feeling right now, is very natural that way, if you think about it.
Rangmunch :Likewise, another section of D3 viewers has been disappointed by the fact that Sharon and Swayam fight too much, and are happy too little. Here, one acknowledges that they are two very different individuals and are therefore bound to have differences, but the point being raised is that lately the differences far outnumber the rare moments of affection, and there needs to be a better balance between the two. What would you like to say to that?
Palki:Well, I can say that I’ll try to give you that balance. I thought I had been doing that, actually…like if you see before this Footloose misunderstanding, we did have Swayam climb up all the way above the stage to watch Sharon dance and applaud her performance, and we had her notice and acknowledge that too…so yeah, we have tried to maintain that balance, and you must also understand that the kind of characters Swayam and Sharon are, such friction is bound to happen. Think about what we have shown in the last few weeks, for instance, where Sharon tried to do what any girl newly in a relationship would try to do: do and be everything she thinks her partner wants her to do and be. But Swayam has told her very clearly that he wants her to be the Sharon he knew from before, and he wants her to go back to being her original, real self. And that self is a very complex one…and there are things about her that will always come to the fore during situations like the one they are in right now. Agar Sharon kisi baat se chidhti hai, to chidhti hai, that’s the way she is. She’s not a bad person, has never been one, it’s just that hers is a very complex character, and Swayam’s is a very sorted one. So when sorted meets distorted, some friction is inevitable, and very real…which is what we’ve tried to show. All of us working behind D3, we’ve been in our teens and twenties too, and have also experienced relationships or crushes at the time, and if we think back to those, nothing has ever been an easy, happy ride. The first year of such a relationship is always its most difficult time, and that’s the kind of ups and downs we’re trying to show with Swayam-Sharon. The SwaRon fanbase is also, how should I put it, a very passionate one (smiles) and they’re usually wanting something or the other, because they love this pair with such dedication. We have always tried to make SwaRon as real as possible, you must also understand that. But yes, I will try to give you guys that balance.
Rangmunch:What can viewers expect in the episodes to come, from all three key elements of the show: Dil in terms of the SwaRon and TaRey tracks, Dosti in terms of the gang as a whole, and the third and most important element of all, Dance?
Palki:You can expect a lot from them all, actually. See, the thing with D3 is, that while there will be times when you’ll see more of Dil or more of Dosti or more of Dance, the basic essence of the show, which is all THREE of them together, will never be lost. So, I can say that viewers can expect loads from all three things in the episodes to come. In particular, I’d say watch out for next Monday’s episode. It’s going to be fantastic.
Rangmunch:Finally, anything you’d like to say to those reading this…
Palki:Guys, please keep away the negativity. It’s really disheartening to come online looking for serious creative feedback, and instead to see only negativity. I’m not saying criticism is a problem, we welcome criticism, but it needs to be more constructive than just saying this track is crap or that is horrible, and that you want the show to fall in online rankings and things like that. We always appreciate creative feedback, but so much negativity really gets in the way of that, so please, keep the negativity away and try to watch and enjoy the show for what it is, along with giving us constructive, healthy feedback.
As told to Nandini Tripathy