The hit jodi
JD Majethia and Aatish Kapadia, the duo behind Hats Off Productions which has produced some of the popular comedy shows on Indian television, talk about their successful collaboration, and how writing responsibly, along with creating layered characters, is important
Think television comedy and the hit pair of J D Majethia and Aatish Kapadia comes to mind. The duo has given some iconic TV series like Khichdi, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Baa Bahoo Aur Baby, R. K. Laxman Ki Duniya and several other shows under their production house, Hats Off Productions, which they launched two decades ago.
Their recent series — Bhakharwadi, which is currently airing on Sab TV, is also being liked by the audience. Known for their situation comedies, the writer-producer duo believes in providing content which is ‘audience-friendly’.
Majethia started his career as an actor and later moved to production and direction. He says that it sometimes becomes difficult for him to keep away from acting. “When I see an actor approaching a character in a particular manner, I tell myself, ‘I could have done it in a particular manner’,” he quips.
Not many know that Kapadia too started off his career as a stage actor but created a niche for himself as a writer. “Sometimes actors become intimidated when I enact a scene and they are like, ‘How did you do it’ and I am like, ‘It’s easy because I have created the character’. I can be a Maya, Himanshu or Praful,” says Kapadia.
The duo tells us more about their journey together, their writing philosophy and how they manage to get the desired TRPs for their shows.
Majethia: Aatish and I have been friends since college days. We also think on similar lines which has worked in our favour. We have our own space and share a great chemistry. More than anything, we believe in a simple funda — we will be very responsible in whatever we produce. We own up certain things and we stand by that. We have differences and end up fighting at least twice a week (laughs). But whenever we have difference of opinion, we look at the situation very objectively. We are also passionate people, so we motivate each other. After he completes writing, it’s my responsibility to find the right team who can support that content and justify the characters and story. We have been putting in our 200 per cent to create our shows and we go out of our way to handle any kind of crisis.
Kapadia: We are very transparent with each other. We do not hide anything, including our thoughts. The fights happen because we differ. But we are together because we differ. We are completely different people with different backgrounds. We are probably opposite in every sense. We are like chalk and cheese. Our beliefs clash but in a healthy manner, and something fruitful comes out of it. Our differences coexist in whatever we make and that makes our work a little more dimensional.
On the same page
Majethia: It’s not difficult for me to agree to what he is thinking because Aatish is such a prolific writer. I have worked with others but trust me, it’s a blessing to have him around. Running a daily soap is challenging, no matter how smoothly you run your production house. During those times, you have to depend on someone, and Aatish is my strength because he is the backbone of our shows.
Kapadia: Writing for television comes with a lot of responsibilities, both social and financial. Before we started working together, I used to write for other production houses. I used to think, ‘This is my production house and I have to support the producer’. I can’t write irresponsible stuff. I have seen writers who do that and charge a bomb. They sometimes write morally irresponsible stuff — things that are sexist and misogynist. Most of them don’t know the meaning of misogyny. I think that’s what they believe. They believe that this is how women should be made fun of. I can see so much of such writing on television today but I find it revolting.
Balancing between TRPs and content
Majethia: Lately, getting TRPs has become a lot more challenging because the method of counting has changed. Though we do not agree with the method of counting we can’t do much about it. TV is quite heavily controlled by advertising. It’s a cycle. For example, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai was a hit show but when we had launched the first season, we did not get any TRPs. That show taught us an important lesson: ‘If we do good work, it will someday speak for us’. If we hadn’t learnt the lesson then, we wouldn’t have been able to produce successful shows. We would have been disappointed all through the journey. We do shows which we know will be liked by the audience but we add a few gimmicks for the sake of TRPs.
Kapadia: Numbers are important and we will not deny it. We are commercial people, which we had decided long before because we need our audience. We are not making experimental theatre which will be watched by only a handful of people. Every show should have a commercial angle. Having said that, it shouldn’t be like we become pedestrian and create just anything. We have offers, where we know we have to dumb down ourselves and the audience, but we will never do that. We never make shows thinking, ‘The audience will like it’. We make shows that we want to make but in an audience-friendly manner. We had done the same thing when we were doing theatre.
Writing layered yet simple characters
Kapadia: Our characters are very layered but we don’t let the audience see it. We complicate them on paper and then iron out the complications. We understand the complications but internalise it so well that when it appears in front of the audience, it looks very simple. We tell our writers to create complex characters but do not throw those complexities on the audience.