Two's Company : Shyamashis Bhattacharya and Neelima Bajpai
They are the ones who run and almost rule the world of television. Master artists and visualisers, they create dramatic sequences on the small screen that touch emotional chords in the hearts of millions. And the reason for their success is because they share not just professional but personal ties as well.
Two’s Company introduces the lovable and respected duos in the world of television who work together to weave magic.
Let’s take a peek into the lives of these dashing entrepreneurs and understand what makes them and their shows tick. This week we feature Neelima Bajpai and Shyamashis Bhattacharya of Shakuntalam Telefilms.
Shyamashis Bhattacharya, Founder and Producer at Shakuntalam Telefilms, graduated from Cotton College, Guwahati. He started off as a cameraman with TV 18 and then went on to launch Shakuntalam Telefilms in 2004. He loves photography and has a penchant for lenses.
Neelima Bajpai, Creative Head and Co-founder at Shakuntalam Telefilms is a post-grad in Mass Communications from Delhi University. She also began her career with TV 18. Neelima is an avid reader and loves travelling.
From the house of Shakuntalam Telefilms:
- Reth (2004)
- Banoo Main Teri Dulhann (2006)
- Santaan (2008)
- Bandhan Saat Janamon Ka (2008)
- Na Aana Iss Des Laado (2009)
- Love Ne Mila Di Jodi (2009)
- Maa (2009)
- Devi (2010)
- Gunahon Ka Devta (2010)
- Sapno Se Bhare Naina (2010)
What was the first thought that crossed your mind when you saw each other for the first time?
Neelima: Talent. He was a cameraman and he was so good at his job that I was almost bowled over by him. We met in Delhi ten years ago when we were working together in the same company. I was a director and he was a cameraman. I met him and liked his calibre and commitment. Apart from that I found him too thin. So the first thoughts were thin and talented (laughs).
Shyamashis: Initially the interaction was at a professional level. I was impressed by the fact that Neelima had complete clarity of thoughts. She was always clear and certain about what she was doing as a director. Personally, it was not love at first sight but more of fright at first sight as she was my boss (laughs). So we kept working together and slowly and steadily we fell in love with each other.
How’s the equation between you two?
Neelima: Well, professionally our roles are pretty much segregated. I look after the creative part of the shows and Shyam looks after the production and management aspects. So the equation is quite balanced professionally. Personally, we are quite different temperamentally. I am more aggressive and get angry pretty often but he is very calm. I think very fast and he is a bit slow in decision making. But the fact that we are different as individuals helps us to pitch in for each other at times of crisis or necessity. This helps a lot to enhance our compatibility ratio. At times being different does lead to irritation and frustration but if I would have been with an equally aggressive person, then I would have fought all my life. So it helps that he is calm and I am volatile. It balances our relationship.
Shyamashis: I think Neelima has rightly put whatever it could have been said regarding this particular context. We do complement each other temperamentally. She does get agitated at times but I am calmer as a person so I know how to handle the situation. There is a balance in our relationship which helps us to maintain a good equation.
How do you balance professional and personal life?
Neelima: It gets difficult at times. But over the years I have realised that a woman has to look after the house even if you are superb on the professional front. Initially I used to get irritated to manage both work and household responsibilities but now I have got used to things. I can work from home as you need not be at the office all the time to get creative. Furthermore, I believe multi-tasking is the key to balance personal and professional life. I talk over phone and discuss an episode of Laado and at the same time think about my daughter as well.
Shyamashis: We have a ten-month old daughter. Kudos to Neelima for handling work and home so efficiently and beautifully. I am more of a planner and she is the executor. So there is a balance.
Neelima: I don’t think I will follow your plans! I make my own plans! I have always been clear on what to do and how to do it. As far as my daughter is concerned I am very organized but I am not that organized at work. But everything is there in my head and I know how things will be done. I know how to deal with crisis situations both professionally and personally.
How do you handle difference of opinions?
Neelima: Professionally we don’t face any difference of opinions as our goals are the same. Shyam is more of a risk-taker and I am a bit cautious. But at the end it’s all about the betterment of the company. Personally we have differences as we are different persons. It’s just that we shout and we calm down. I don’t bang phones but I get angry and then cool down later.
Shyamashis: Professionally, as Neelima said there’s no clash of opinions as we respect each other’s professional space and decisions. Personally, I rarely get angry. Neelima does but we have known each other for a long time now and we have learnt to deal with differences.
How did Shakuntalam Telefilms happen?
Neelima: We had never thought of entering into production. It happened by chance. We narrated Reth’s concept to Zee and they asked us to produce it. That is when we floated Shakuntalam Telefilms in 2004. Initially it was tough as the person who was financing the show was a cheat. He tried to arm-twist us. So we got rid of him and my brother-in-law financed us. That was how things started to roll. We didn’t know if we could return the money and make profits. But the show clicked. The journey has been good but I am still learning with each passing day.
Shyamashis: The journey so far has been fabulous but in the last two years production has become difficult. The entire dynamics have changed. Longevity of shows has decreased with the advent of so many channels. Getting creative and maintaining the desired quality on a daily basis is quite challenging. But we are working hard to ensure that our shows are creatively satisfying and cater to viewers’ interests.
Do you feel you have enough creative liberty as show makers?
Neelima: In our country ghum firke baat ladki ki shaadi par hi aa jati hain. So we have to cater to the sensibilities of the janta. And if we tend to make a little intelligent show then it will be meant for a niche audience. Even channels are weary of churning out one similar show after another. They want new and creative shows. But at the end of the day it is all about TRPs. No one wants to make losses. People know you for your hit shows. So there is enough creative liberty if you have patience and passion.
Shyamashis: Channels in today’s time have become more open to experimentation. In the last two years no single show has become a phenomenon on the small screen. So they want something that will blow people’s minds. And I am sure that in the future people will get exposed to some fascinating shows with amazing concepts.
Now tell us about one thing that you like about him/her the most...
Neelima: Patience. It’s not easy to live with me (laughs).
Shyamashis: Of course her clarity of thoughts and I love the way she narrates a subject or a concept. I wish I had narration skills like her.
What is the thing that you hate about him/her the most?
Neelima: He can never get ready on time. Even on the day of our wedding he came late. I remember every single guest turned in at the right time but the groom. He is always late.
Shyamashis: I can’t think of anything. She is almost perfect. But at times she is a bit impatient. Other than that she is just fine.
What is the song that suits him/her?
Neelima: The title song from the movie Kal Ho Naa Ho.
Shyamashis: I am very bad with songs. I don’t know which one to mention (laughs).
Can you share one secret about each other?
Neelima: He used to dance wildly before. This is something people won’t associate him with. Now he is more responsible so he doesn’t dance much (laughs). There are two faces of him. One face is really calm and the other is full of energy doing all sorts of buffoonery.
Shyamashis: There are no secrets as such. She is quite transparent as a person.
What is the cutest thing about him/her?
Neelima: I find it really cute the way he handles and talks to babies. He is very warm and gels with them wonderfully.
Shyamashis: She maintains a diary and every night she writes something to our daughter. I find it really cute.
What are your future plans?
Neelima: I have no future plans. Life has just happened to me. I have never planned anything. I would like things to be that way.
Shyamashis: Professionally, we want to make the company bigger and better and do more path-breaking fiction shows. We want to enter the non-fiction genre as well. Personally, Neelima and I love travelling and in the future we want to travel more.