Niraj Kumar Mishra started his career with the very first season of the iconic quiz show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and then, went on to contribute as a writer and a creative director on some of the biggest shows made on television. Last year, he made his debut in cinema with ‘Baaghi 2’, a blockbuster hit. This year, Mishra stepped into the digital space with two shows ‘Ishq Aaj Kal’ and ‘Silsila Badalte Rishton Ka Season 2’ and now, he is straddling between three different worlds, cinema, television and web.
You are the showrunner for the Zee5 original show Ishq Aaj Kal. A lot of people in India are still unaware of this term ‘showrunner’. Can you please enlighten our readers by throwing some light on it?
I am glad that you asked this question. When I tell somebody that I am the showrunner of a particular show, they immediately ask me ‘what does showrunner mean?’. The concept of ‘showrunner’ originated in the first decade of 21stcentury in British Television Industry, specifically interpreted as a writer or presenter with overall creative responsibility-cum-authority for a television production. In other words, a showrunner is an informal term for a person who both runs the day-to-day operations of a show (television or web) and guides the show creatively. A showrunner might be a writer or a director or both, but most showrunners form a team of writers and directors to help bring the showrunner’s vision to life. In layman’s term, a showrunner is sort of a concertmaster who runs the entire orchestra, from writing to direction, from production to final edit.
You made your debut as a film writer with Baaghi 2 last year. Is there another film in the pipeline?
There are a couple of films are in pipeline. A film project takes a lot of time to shape up. Hopefully, there will be a formal announcement very soon.
You started your career with KBC Season 1 and worked in television for several years. Which shows, do you think, proved to be a milestone in your career?
Though KBC Season 1 was my very first show, I would also call it my first professional milestone as it has always been close to my heart. My first show was with two favourites, Amitabh Bachchan and Siddhartha Basu. It was no less than a blessing for me to start my career with such an iconic show. The other prominent shows in my career have been Kya Kahein, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, FIR, Adaalat, Rakshak, Na Aana Is Des Laado, Jamai Raja, etc. I would also consider my first web show Ishq Aaj Kal to be a milestone in my professional career. I worked on the Zee5 show as a showrunner and the story writer. It was produced by Dheeraj Kumar, Zuby Kochar and Sunil Gupta for Creative Eye Pvt. Ltd.
How has television evolved as a medium in the last couple of years?
Let me put it honestly – I do not see any evolution in terms of content, we are still dancing around naagins and dayaans and over the top romance and fake characters. Not just me, but the audience are also tired of it. For most of the producers it is just a moneymaking device, there is hardly any passion involved which clearly reflects when we see the final product. This is the core reason television audience are gradually switching to web in quest of quality content. We have to change before it’s too late.
What are your thoughts on the digital boom? Do you think web will take over television someday?
Content, with a few exceptions, is getting globalized. Now, factors like region and language hardly matter and all thanks to digital boom. For example, right now I am watching two shows, one is in German and another one is Israeli. I don’t know either of the two languages but subtitles are there, so as an audience I am not only getting entertained but it also helps me to understand their culture, thought process, issues, lifestyle. It is a kind of virtual tourism through fine storytelling. Because of the digital boom audience is more curious and keeps looking for better content. I strongly believe that web and television can co-exist together if we enhance the quality of content and execution. Digital boom is a reality check for local players. We cannot be unfair and casual about the audio-visual storytelling business, which is technically a by-product of many forms of arts. God lies in detail and so does the art, do make money but let’s be true to it.
You worked as a writer on the show Silsila Badlte Rishton Ka Season 2. How was the experience of working on that show?
Technically, Silsila Badalte Rishton Ka Season 2 is my first web show and my first project with Sphere Origins. Experience was wonderful; it was a short and crisp journey. It was the first time I explored my hidden capacity to redefine the nuances of complex relationship.
In the recent times, who are the writers whose work you have been inspired by?
I mostly get inspiration from non-fiction, events, legends and theories. So in that case mostly I choose according to subject such as science, history, philosophy, drama, horror, sci-fi, etc. It could be anything from anyone; a good piece of write-up inspires me more than a complete book of a particular writer. On the other hand in terms of thoughts, I enjoy reading Oscar Wilde, Kafka, Nitezsche, Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, Elliot, Ghalib, Premchand, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Kautilya and many more. In terms of money, I get inspiration from the billion-dollar success of James Patterson, Stephen King and J. K. Rowling.
Which are the projects you are working on at the moment?
Some films are in the writing stage. Television shows and web series are in the pipeline too. I recently finished with the broad story of Silsila Badalte Rishton Ka Season 2 on Voot. Ishq Aaj Kal is on-air; I am working as a storywriter for season 2 apart from being the showrunner. One more web show is in process with a big digital platform as a story writer, it will be announced very soon. So overall, all I would say, touchwood!