Shailesh Kapoor: In A Politely Incorrect Industry, Can You Call A Spade A Spade?

20 Jun,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


Those who attend movie trial shows would relate to the predicament I’m about to share. Have you seen a movie at a trial, sat tortuously through it wondering what they were thinking when they were making it, and thenfaced with with the question you would pay anything to avoid: “How did you like it?”


Seasoned industry folk have mastered the art of responding to such questions. They would tend to say all the good things first, and then point out the big issue as an appendage: “But I just felt that if you spend some time explaining the story, the film would work better.”


This infectious living-in-a-bubble-at-launch-time disease has fast passed onto the television industry as well. Whenever a new show goes on air, I try and sample it for a couple of episodes, purely out of a disciplined habit inculcated over more than a decade. Seventy-eighty percent such experiences are excruciatingly boring. Mediocre writing and direction is rampant, and there’s only that odd show that stands out as being smartly made.


Whenever I liked something new, I used to make it a point to call or message my friends at the relevant channel about how it made me feel. Silence meant ‘not liked’, not ‘haven’t watched yet’.


But of late, this formula has stopped working. Imagine that you get a message from a channel friend, who has put his heart and soul into a new project, at 8.45pm, only 15 minutes before the new project goes on air for the first time ever. His message is brimming with excitement, requesting you to watch and give your feedback, because “it really matters”.


This scenario forces me to reply at 9.30 or 10pm, whatever the end time is. And my option to reply with my true thoughts (which could be “your team has killed the spirit of the concept you tested with us” or “sack the director now! NOW!”) can be limiting at times.


Hence, out of no choice, and actually with a baggage of guilt, I started behaving like the filmi guy at the trial, who would slip in the big negative as an inconsequential by-the-way. But the more I thought of this behaviour, I found it dishonest on every count, both to the client and to myself.


What’s the big issue about criticism, especially when it comes with a constructive solution-oriented approach? Can Indians stop being less touchy and more objective about their work? Can they not get that just because they have produced or marketed something, it need not blow everybody’s mind?


We have all been on the other side at some point or the other. Listening to appreciation about our labor of love can be a high, while criticism, especially when coming from trusted parties, can deflate you. But the ratings or the box office will deflate you anyway within a week. A bubble is never a stable place to live in.So, at some point of time in the recent past, I decided to shed the fear and the inhibition, and decide to say it like it is.


I would urge others in the business to consider liberating themselves of the responsibility of being polite and dishonest, within and outside the organization. You will discover how it can empower you from within. Not to speak of the respect you are likely to win over time!


TV Trails is a weekly column written by Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor



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