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Shantanu Maheshwari-starrer Campus Beats released three back-to-back seasons last year and received positive response from the audience. At a time when OTT offered a wide range of thrillers, Campus Beats offered something new to the audience with stories revolving around youngsters. In an exclusive interview with News18 Showsha, the creator of the show, Palki Malhotra, opened up about the show and revealed what made her pursue a romantic drama instead of a crime thriller or action drama. Palki, who is also known for popular television shows like Dil Mill Gayye and Dil Dostii Dance, talked about content on TV in today’s time and answered if it has become regressive.
Did you expect this positive response for Campus Beats when you were working on the show?
I will say I hoped for it. But, of course, when you’re hoping for things, there is a certain kind of expectation, but also nervousness. So I would say that I neither expected it nor was I surprised. The whole team worked very hard to make it successful, and we were hoping to live up to our hard work and live up to the hope and the expectation that we had from the show. So I would say that yes, I mean, I did not expect it, but glad that the response was great from the audience!
At a time when we usually see thrillers, action, and crime dramas on OTT, what made you pursue a romantic drama?
I wanted to do a romantic show, a breezy show. I was also very bored with thrillers and crime shows on OTT especially. I didn’t understand why there was a herd mentality. I think at this point people are working on different content. But when we wrote and sold and pitched Campus Beats, the whole idea was to break free from the thriller and crime world because I thought that there was a need to break the clutter. We needed to stand out and that would be happy by doing something different that people are not doing.
Do you think OTT has become restricted to thrillers and crime dramas?
I think when platforms feel that there is one formula that has become a hit, they want to go and not change the grammar. They just continuously want to do more and more of that. It is great to have a business, but it can’t only be about business. And then what happens is, if it’s about two projects, which are thrillers and have become a hit, then everyone wants to do a crime-based show. What happens is, that when you do a thriller, you’re expecting a lot. But to consistently get the viewers to predict and figure out what is happening or what is not, it’s taxing. Sometimes I don’t want to apply that much amount of brain. I want to just see something which eases my heart. Therefore, I feel that thriller bahot hogaya hai, crime bahot hogaya hai, mature content bhi bahot hogaya hai. I feel that there is a dearth of youth shows and good youth shows.
In season 3, Campus Beats introduced an LGBTQ love story too. Do you think while OTT audience is ready to accept and watch such stories, it cannot be presented on television even today?
We wanted to do a different kind of love story and the beauty of it was that we were telling a story about two boys, who were trying to find love in each other. They’re very confused because they’re conditioned to believe otherwise. They’re conditioned to believe that love lies in the opposite gender. So, we added aspects of bullying to it. I think that was beautiful, you know. I feel that we are depriving the audience of these kinds of stories. I don’t know why people are not doing it. I don’t know what the apprehension is. I understand that there’s a certain standard of practice on television. I think television is a little more family-driven and it’s also a little more about the mature audience watching television shows. So I’m not very sure if they will be very accepting. But I know for a fact that OTT platforms will be more accepting because it’s a single-screen viewership. It’s about it’s people watching content on a phone.
We often see LGBTQ characters being mocked in Bollywood films. Do you think filmmakers need to be sensitive and sincere while presenting homosexual relationships?
To be very honest, LGBTQ+ community continues to see a the struggle of being accepted. We have to be sensitive. We cannot be mocking anyone and anyone’s feelings. Presenting them in a particular or compartmentalising the way they are or saying this is what they think and, it’s absolutely wrong because we just know one side of the LGBTQ story. I wouldn’t say story, but one side of them which has been portrayed, especially in Bollywood. I don’t think we have ever given them an opportunity to be 100% public about what they really are. And till the time we don’t know about them and about their feelings and their emotions 100%, we don’t even have the authority to say anything to them. So it’s very wrong for us to put them into a particular box. We have to accept them wholeheartedly because they are us, we are them, and we can’t really mock them.
You also made shows like Dill Mill Gayee. Unfortunately, we do not see such shows on TV anymore. Do you think, over the years, TV has also restricted itself as far as its content is concerned?
To be very honest, making a show like Dill Mill Gayee, was not just about experimentation. It’s about having the strength to fight with almost everybody in the industry. Because 20,000 people will tell you that it’s not going to work. And this is not what television is all about. So when we did Dill Mill Gayee, it was in that space where everyone said, ‘aree kya bana rahe ho? Ye toh chalega hi nai.’ So the point is, I’m not very sure if something like this on TV will work or not but till the time we don’t really experiment, how will we know?
Do you think we need to rise above Saas Bahu Dramas for the progress of television?
I feel that TV has also gone through a lot of changes. A new, completely new platform like OTT has appeared. So obviously, a lot of people have segregated their audiences. People know what kind of audience will watch TV today, which is fair. But the point is that whether it is Dill Mill Gayee of that time or Dill Mill Gayee of this time, something which is an experiment needs to happen on television, it can’t really just be about kitchen politics or a female fighting for her sasural or for her husband. It is important because it’s a reflection of society. We need to show girls slightly more empowered and than to show them fighting for their husbands or families. I’m not saying be rebellious only for their careers, it could be something which is a little more personal.
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