The life of a TV writer is like a student constantly preparing for competitive exams. There are no real breaks. We don’t know how much fun the students have, but Ishqbaaz’s writer Harneet Singh is surely having a blast. After a slow start on the TRP charts, it picked up and has been doing consistently well. It completed a year and now it is a one-hour episode. Bollywood Life caught up with a chat with Harneet to know more about the show, what inspired Shivaay and how writing ShiVika’s romantic sequences are super fun. Excerpts..
What made you think of a show revolving around three brothers when TV was dominated by super bahus? The concept was Gul Khan’s my producer. She thought of this story about three brothers. For me it was very exciting because it was a clutter-breaking idea. The thought of three boys representing mind, body and soul was different. It was refreshing to get into the headspace of three boys when TV had more than 5,000 super-bahus doing every imaginable thing. Telling a story from a male gaze with strong male protagonists was interesting as a writer. Right from the first visual of the three boys coming on the speedboat to the bromance, it was fresh. One year later, it is a cult show and it’s to Gul’s credit that she thought of this fresh concept. A year later, Omkara and Rudra are as loved as Shivaay. It goes to show that if you write characters that are strong, good, grounded and identifiable, they will create an impact. At the Star Parivar Awards, the hoardings had all bahus, and in the middle was Shivaay. It shows that Shivaay was as big as any TV bahu and it’s great! (Also Read: Ishqbaaz 14 July 2017, Written Update of Full Episode: Shivaay is shocked to see an intimate video with Ragini, while Svetlana is back on the show)
Who was the inspiration behind the great character of Shivaay Singh Oberoi? I think the inspiration was, Gul and we discussed the character a lot. Basically, we were following her vision. When we thought of Shivaay, we thought of a guy who was a protector. He was like great wall. There was the aura of nobility as he could do anything for his brothers and family. So, he is this guy who finds it easy to give but it tough for him to receive anything. It took Shivaay 100 episodes to say thanks to Anika. So, he is egoistical. SSO has many shades, we have named him ‘Saurangi’. We know that Gul creates some great bady boys, she has a good track record. Shivaay has anger issues but he is damn sexy as well. SSO is a wholesome character, he can cook, there is a nurturing side to him too. There is the mothering quality, which is just so interesting. Shivaay is definitely an alpha hero and my inspiration were a couple of bad boys I know. We had to make him desirable and aspirational and smoothen the edges over a period of time. The beast in him came out during the wedding track but there was the question of his family’s izzat if he was jilted at the altar. Shivaay is always a little unpredictable and flips a little. Post the forced wedding, we made him charming and a man who can take a bullet for his woman. From Stone Singh Oberoi, he changed. (Also Read: Ishqbaaz’s Nakuul Mehta’s beard game is sexier than Barun Sobti’s, say fans!)
How much do TRPs bother you as a creative person? I call TRPs, Thursday Monsters. I would be lying if I said it did not matter. We are trying something new but it is a numbers game at the end of it. TRP is a report card of how a track has fared. TV audience is diminishing by the day. Many people do not like to watch GECs. We try to provide wholesome entertainment. In Ishqbaaz, the ex-girlfriend track of Mallika was appreciated. Even the episodes on women’s empowerment, but we only got critical acclaim for it. Then, all the top rated shows revolve around bahus. For us, Shivaay is our bahu, we are little different. Some weeks we shine on TRPs, at times we don’t. TV is a mass medium, we need to cater to everyone. We were convinced about the forced wedding track. We can only stay honest and write with as much conviction as we can.
Ishqbaaz has its own vocabulary, especially Anika. Which is your favourite word? Yes, Anika’s dictionary is a rage. My fave is Khidkitod. Gul and I use it often.
ShiVika’s romance is considered as one of the hottest. Did the actors ever tell you to tone it down or did you face any inhibitions? People talk about the romance and chemistry but the fact is Nakuul (Mehta) and Surbhi (Chandna) are simply brilliant actors. We visualise something, write it down and they take it to another level. They are thorough professionals. The romance is not just an add on. They are in context of an emotional discovery or stage in their relationship. All pool scenes have a reason. The first time when he threw her and asked her to say sorry, she realised that they were both takkar ke individuals. There was chemistry but he was too arrogant. In the latest pool sequence, he said sorry. All the romantic scenes take the tale forward. Of course, kudos to Lalit Mohan Ji and Atif for making them look beautiful and lit up. Every little moment has been thought over. The first hand-holding, hug, when she leaned on him as she was vulnerable, blush lessons, all are part of love graph. It is a joy to imagine them in our head and full credit to the actors to make them really iconic. They are real joy.
How many hours does it take to script a 20-minute episode? It is a 20 minute episode but for a writer, it is like a rat is on a treadmill. You always think about the moments and your characters’ journey. You sleep and dream the scenes. As a writer, you want to fix the mistakes you think you made. As of now, Omkara (Kunal Jaisingh) is being nice to Gauri (Shrenu Parikh) out of guilt, but you need to make it more interesting. It is crazy but if you are inspired, it is fun. Thinking is a big process. Everyone thinks that they can write better scenes. Maybe it is true but they should know that the characters have been established. The tough part is to create characters and make them real. You are never on a break from them. And in Ishqbaaz, we have a huge family. It is so much fun.
What is the craziest demand you ever got from a fan? Fans of Ishqbaaz are truly crazy. There was this fan who had imagined a family tree post generation leap. SSO and Anika’s babies were called ShiVika and Ansh. And Omkara’s son was like Shivaay’s in temperament while Ansh was more artistic like Om. So much imagination went into it. There was another one who wanted to see a photo of Nakuul along with my pet cats. She wanted to see if his kanji eyes matched that of my pet. It was crazy.
Your favourite scenes of ShiVika so far? My favourite track is ShiVika’s marriage. I personally did not agree with what SSO was doing and it was a challenge to write it in a manner that he was somewhere right. Then, we had to humanise SSO from the beast to a loving husband. I love the bromance sequence too. We have a baby sequence coming up and it is hilarious. It will be fun to see the three brothers manage an infant. In our stressful time, it will give us something to laugh about. It has been a great journey. We have our adoring fans and haters too. They love to hate us. Fans have made Ishqbaaz what it is. The one hour episodes are going to be a buffet for the entire family.