Director and writer Amit Golani has been a witness and significant contributor to the growth of the online channel TVF. He speaks to Bulbul Sharma about his latest show Cubicles.
Amit Golani is currently working as a content creator and writer at The Viral Fever (TVF). The creator of shows like TVF Pitchers (2015), Barely Speaking with Arnub (2014) and Humorously Yours (2016), Golani joined TVF as the executive creative director soon after completing his engineering from IIT Bombay. He has also acted in several TVF Videos and received a lot of appreciation for those.
Golani spoke to Guardian 20 about his journey in TVF, the future of OTT platforms and his latest show, Cubicles.
Q. You have had a long association with TVF. How has the organisation helped you shape your creativity?
A. Prior to the launch of TVF in 2012, there were few or no avenues for us, as creators, to curate the kind of content we wanted to. TV channels rejected the videos we made because according to them no one in India would watch that content. Thankfully, the advent of digital platforms like YouTube not only helped us release that content but led to the creation of a loyal fan base that is receptive to our content and looks forward to it.
Q. How did the career switch from being an engineer to direction and writing happened?
A. After four years of engineering, I got placed in an investment banking job. While I had written and directed many plays and short films during the four years of college, the actual thought about changing career paths only occurred to me once I started working. I guess it was a combination of optimism with a tinge of naivety that helped me take the plunge.
Q. TVF is one of the earliest players that revolutionised the production and consumption of digital content in India. You have not just closely witnessed the change but have also been a part of it. How do you look back on that time and what were the risks involved?
A. For me, the initial drive was just having a platform to put out the content we made. However, for Arunabh, the founder of TVF, it was a chance to create a media company in a sector which for some reason witnessed major players not making the most of it due to them being in a stage of infancy. Because of his vision, we were able to get a two-three year head start that helped us define not only us, but the digital landscape as well in general with much freedom and limited risk or any baggage of expectations.
Q. How has the emergence of several small and big players in the digital world impacted TVF?
A. The biggest advantage of big players coming in is that they have truly lent the medium a great deal of legitimacy. This invariably means more capital, more talent leading to more ambitious projects across diverse languages and genres. The downside to this, of course, is the competition, which not only exists for eyeballs but also for talent and content.
Q. You have also been a part of several TVF videos. How was that experience? Have you ever thought about trying your hand at serious acting?
A. I am a very reluctant actor. If you see me on screen in any video, you can safely assume that the makers had run out of options and I was forced to do it as the last resort.
Q. As a writer, what is your creative process like?
A. The process is built around the requirement of the project. But I can roughly simplify and break it down into three parts: research, writing, and review. Research is the most fun and free-flowing wherein I would brainstorm with other creators involved, read about the topic and meet people with anecdotes on the subject. Writing is the most challenging and hence the most time-consuming. Reviews involve several rounds of narrations and feedback and this is where the scripts truly come together. This, I feel, is the step that makes the writing at TVF across its shows stand out from the rest.
Q. How different is life in Mumbai from your native place, Indore?
A. I am a Mumbai-born kid having spent 21 years out of 32 in Mumbai. So it feels more like home than Indore. But Indore too is not bad. After all it is known as mini Bombay.
Q. What inspired your new show, Cubicles?
A. There is an African proverb, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” This for me, in a nutshell, is the inspiration forCubicles. For too long, in mainstream media, the depiction of a 9-to-5 job has been an extremely boring, mundane job, where the hero feels “trapped” and needs to “break free”. Being from an engineering background and having friends who actually work at these jobs, I know that it is a hugely-skewed depiction. With Cubicles, we, for once, wanted to show the simple and sweet stories of people who are actually comfortable and enjoy this setup.
Q. How was your experience of the show?
A. The idea was to create a very simple, relatable and episodic show. One of my biggest lessons has been that to even create and conceptualise something like this, a lot of effort is required while bringing the best on the table. Thankfully, with a brilliant in-house core team, we were able to execute it smoothly and well within our budget despite having to shoot during the monsoon.
Q. What do you think is the future of OTT platforms? And what are your thoughts on the debate that OTT platforms will soon replace TV?
A. I think, simply put, OTTs are the future of content consumption among audiences worldwide. With everyone moving to personalised screens and Internet data rates becoming extremely affordable, the country has truly cracked the perfect recipe for a golden age of content. As far as replacing TV is concerned, I think we will witness content being merged across mediums where TV content will be made available on OTTs leading to the appointment viewing of traditional television becoming less and less relevant.
Q. What are your upcoming projects?
A. Viewers are in for an absolute treat as TVF Originals is aiming to come up with over 20 shows, both old and new,in the coming months. Some of these are already in the pipeline. The aim this year is to not just expand the volume of our content library but also explore genres we haven’t yet ventured in.