He makes sure to deliver you enough laughing dozes every week. Always busy to create better than the best and his work does not need any introduction. A young director, live shows expert and a result oriented professional. Yes, we are talking about Mr Nikul Desai, the director and the man behind India’s most popular comedy show “Comedy Circus”. We had a great conversation with Nikul. Here are few highlights –
Matpal : Please tell us about your journey so far. How did you start?
Nikul : Well, I come from a Gujrati Jain family. The producer of “Comedy Circus” Mr Vipul Shah is my maternal uncle. He started his career as a writer. When I was young he was writing comedy serials and sitcoms like “Dekh Bhai Dekh” etc. I used to go with him to the sets and shooting locations during my school vacations. This world of shootings, lights and cameras always excited me as a kid. I always wanted to be the part of this. Also, I was more interested in films and Bollywood then studies. Later, I realized that this is the place where I should be.
Matpal: Were you always interested in direction?
Nikul: Not exactly, in fact as I told you that I was always interested to work in this Industry and this direction thing happened with the time. I started working since 2001. Actually, after finishing my SSC (Schooling) I joined a morning college and after my college I used to go for work. I worked with various directors during those days. I started from third assistant director, then promoted to second assistant director and like this gradually moved towards the main direction. Somewhere around 9 years back, I was working in a show as an associate director and meanwhile the main creative director fell ill. Then the producer and the network decided to give me the responsibility of the direction since I was the person who knew the show in and out. From there I got this opportunity to direct and run the show by my own. After that I worked for various other shows and God has been really kind that all our shows did well.
Also from my childhood I had this leadership quality to be a “Captain of the Ship”, so direction was the best job for that. I want to direct films and that’s my ultimate goal. I want to move towards film direction step by step.
Matpal: What was the reaction of your parents when you told them about your decision to join this field?
Nikul: Initial 2 or 3 years were really tough. They had some reservations like most of the parents have for this industry. I belong to a middle class family and my parents had concerns about late night timings and parties etc. They had a perception that media and entertainment industry means parties and drinking. Though it’s a wrong perception . But, when they started watching my work on TV, heard about my appreciations and realized my hard work – they changed their opinion. Now they are very proud of me and very happy because they allowed me to pursue my dreams.
Matpal: You are directing a very popular comedy show “Comedy Circus”. Are you interested in other zoners as well?
Nikul: Well I wasn’t sure of any zone when I started. I have done projects other than comedy shows as well. I have done singing shows, reality shows, game shows and fictions. In fact the first Indian Idol was done by us. I have done various awards and events as well. But when you work in so many different products and one product comes out really well in the market, so people start thinking you as a specialist of that particular product. But yes, you learn with all the shows. In the journey of Comedy Circus I learnt so many things. I learnt from actors, writers and all those who worked with me. You grow up with the product. You start thinking and doing the things, which are necessary for the improvisation of the product. But yes, comedy brought all the name, fame and success to me so this credit goes to Comedy Circus.
Matpal: Comedy Circus is running since 2007 and you guys have done 18 seasons so far. How difficult is it for you to maintain the position and sustain the quality?
Nilul: It’s not easy at all. It’s very difficult but God has been really very kind to us. Television is a very competitive market. Also a major credit goes to our writers. I have a team of six young writers. My eldest writer is 32 year old so you can imagine how young my team is. This team of new generation brought a whole new prospective of comedy. But if we talk about the show- it’s like arranging a marriage party every week. You have to maintain the quality. Your reputation is on stake. As we are working in this system for last so many years, we know what to be delivered and how to manage but a pressure is always there of audience reaction on content. We have to balance our acts according to audience feedback and make sure that we should not cross the lines.
Matpal: You keep introducing new talents in comedy. How do you find these new faces?
Nikul: For various seasons we have done multi city auditions to find talent. But I think comedy is a serious job. All our celebrity comedy stars like Krushna, Sudesh, Bharti has become what they are in last 7 years. It’s a time taking process. You don’t achieve that level in a day or two. Now the standard of comedy that we have set has become a challenge for ourselves too. Anybody who joins our team as a new artist has to face the pressure to meet that level or to perform with established actors. Also, audience takes time to accept new faces. Unfortunately in this competitive world where people have options, they don’t want to give you multiple chances. You have to perform in a limited opportunity. So it’s not at all easy for new talents as well. And new talent is always compared with the old ones wherever you go.
Matpal: What are your future plans or roadmap for comedy circus?
Nikul: Well there is no roadmap or plan as such. We never knew that this show would become such a huge success. For our first season we were granted 13 episodes only but after the response from audience we got extensions. If you talk about plans, we always try to bring new things to the audience. We do experiments as we did in “Comedy Circus Ke Tansen” where we mixed music with comedy that was never seen before in television. But, we always try to keep the DNA of the show same. The core should not change. It’s like potato recipes. We can serve you burger, fries, samosa or any other recipe but the potato will be the same . That taste should not go away and I think that’s our USP as well. So, we keep adding different flavors in our show but we never change the base.
Matpal: How do you select your content for comedy or how do you prepare that?
Nikul: The main thing is audience feedback. Our network team does a lot of research on audience feedback and their taste. It’s like selling a product. You need to have a basic idea of the taste of your customers. Comedy and content has to be meaningful for a metro city citizen and a small town citizen at the same time. You have to understand the regions and language aspects as well. In India humor changes with the place. For example Rajasthani or Punjabi humor is different for a person who is from south and vice versa. So, you have to manage these micro things in content.
Also Bollywood and Cricket are two major source of content. Bollywood and Cricket I must say drive India. Bollywood has given us a lot of content in terms of parody, spoofs, mimicry and people actually enjoy this. Even sometime they email, tweet or request us to spoof their favorite actor or show. I think the reason is people understand Bollywood characters and easily connect with them.
Matpal: What do you do for new ideas and freshness of your content?
Nikul: I observe my surroundings a lot, like current affairs etc. Then I think what is missing in my list of ideas. What is there which is hot in the society but not on TV?. As I said, our network team spends a whole lot of money in customer feedback and their segmentation that helps me to create my list of ideas. Also, I try to increase this list with things, which are new or experimental. So you can say it’s a steady thinking process with the help of audience feedback and writers team. Its difficult and challenging to bring something fresh in front of audience every week. I also watch foreign TV shows and movies to understand what other people are bringing in the market. We keep doing experiments in our acts like : A pregnant mother is talking to the baby who is in her womb, A mobile talking to the sim card etc. In all these acts we tried to use objects as living things.
Matpal: What is your favorite pass time?
Nikul: SLEEPING :). Yes I do love sleeping in my pass time. I love to spend time with my wife and family. I also love to travel. My wife and me both are travellers so whenever we get time we plan to explore new places.
Matpal: In India there is a lot of social responsibility expected from creative people. However, entrainment is a business as well. What do you think on that?
Nikul: People watch comedy to relieve their stress. We can’t be a preacher about values and as you said it’s a business. But sometime when there is a need, we should focus on the social issues as well. We keep doing this in our acts time to time. We recently did an act on female foeticide as well. But there must be a balance of business and responsibility.
Matpal: Thanks Nikul for your time and talking to us.
Nikul: Your welcome. Thanks for calling me.
This interview is based on a conversation between our editorial team and Mr Nikul Desai. You can mail your feedback to us on firstname.lastname@example.org