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Every show on air begins with a premise, or what we call, a concept. What is the show about? It is a different matter that sooner or later every drama goes the same way. After about 50-100 episodes you cannot make out the difference between a Kyunki and a Kahani.  But by then the stickiness factor come into play.

But to grab eyeballs initially you have to have a differentiator. So we had Saat Phere: Saloni ka Safar which was about an otherwise accomplished girl but who has a dark skin. Banoo Main Teri Dulhan was about an illiterate girl who is conned into marrying a mentally challenged guy. The main protagonist of the show, and therefore, the concept is always, always about a woman.

The concept is accompanied by a broad storyline for six months and detailed story, screenplay and dialogues for a month.

So there is this girl who is dark skinned. She is otherwise accomplished and affectionate, an ideal Indian woman, but all efforts to marry her off are in vain. No one wants to marry a dark skinned girl and infuse the bloodline with her swarthy genes. And then comes along. End of month 1.

Nahar wants to marry her but he faces opposition from his family. Nahar eventually overcomes the opposition and the two are married but Saloni is made to feel unwelcome in the extended family. There are numerous efforts and attempts to belittle and humiliate her. Saloni faces everything with stoicism. And then she saves the family from dishonour on one occasion. This leads to her acceptance in the family. End of month 2.

(Disclaimer: I’m not very familiar with the show so I’m mostly making up the story. But yeah that’s how the broad, broad storyline goes.)

Based on this document, the channel takes a call. Though they usually hear out the concept and story, it is usually the concept that hooks them because the story can always be modified. Sometimes as soon as they hear what the story is about, they tune off. It happened to me once. We were pitching to a major channel for a show about a woman who becomes widowed on the day of her wedding and how she survives, thrives and eventually even finds love again. But as soon as the channel heard ‘widow’ they said, “Next.”

Yeah you do have to go with more than one. But never more than three. It’s never a good idea to present too many choices. I hate it when that happens to me. I can never make up mind about which jeans to buy.

Later, the story is fleshed out and we add incidents. How is Saloni humiliated? Does someone add excess salt to her daal when she is not looking? How does she save the family’s honour? Doe she save the unmarried sister from getting raped by reaching in the nick of time?

After the story is fleshed out – in minute detail for a month, we get into the screenplay stage. This usually takes a lot of time and involves a lot of back and forth with the channel. That’s because at the beginning of the show everyone is struggling to find a look and feel of the show. Ditto for the dialoguing stage.

And then there is casting to be done, sets to be built, costumes to be designed and a bank of 20 episodes to be shot (which usually never happens). It could be anywhere between 6-9 months (more if it’s a comedy) from initial approval before a show is ready to go on air.

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