The longest running show on Indian television, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, went through major shuffling after both its main leads Karan Mehra and Hina Khan quit the show. Fans went berserk, wrote petitions to bring them back and even threatened to quit watching the drama. But unperturbed, the show’s producer Rajan Shahi claims there are only positives that have come out of this change — freshness on the show and a new, “committed” team.
Shahi speaks about the much-speculated exits of the show’s stars, why he wouldn’t want to bring Akshara back and his belief that the show should go on for another eight years, criticism notwithstanding.
Q. There’s always a negative impact on a show’s popularity when the leads leave. What has been the effect of Karan and Hina’s exit from the show and how prepared is the creative team to take the story forward without them?
Shahi: With due respect to both the actors, it is a fact that after Naitik (Karan’s character) left we could consolidate our position much stronger and the TRPs actually increased. Likewise, after Hina’s exit, the show has grown. This is not to say that the two actors did not contribute to the show but this goes on to prove that people are interested in the new journey of Naitik and Akshara’s children. The show’s soul is intact and with newcomers coming in, there is a new enthusiasm among the actors, who are committed to the show and believe in it. There is a positivity with the team. Frankly, earlier we didn’t have time with the leads, everyone was going crazy. All the actors were overworking, the unit was overworking because there were just two-three hours of shooting with the lead actors. There was a certain tiredness, which had come, and now after the exits, a freshness has come and that’s because the team is giving time to the show.
Q. This has often been seen that actors become huge stars during the course of their shows which begins affecting its quality.
Shahi: That is exactly what happened to Yeh Rishta… We were not able to shoot, writers were not able to write. We were not aware of what we were going to shoot the next day because of the excess baggage the actors carried with them that people were not even able to shoot. Nobody knew what was going on. The entire cast would be waiting for the lead to come and decide whether she or he wants to shoot. There is a scope of such beautiful stories with Naira and Karthik (Akshara and Naitik’s children) and the writers are excited. In fact, now even if we are given a choice, the writers wouldn’t want Akshara back.
Q. So, now that the show has a much younger lead couple, are you looking at building a youth connect with the show, something which was missing earlier?
Shahi: I agree that though the show was popular with the family audience, it lacked a youth connect but it makes me so happy that the love story of Naira and Kartik is getting appreciation from the younger viewers. I have been getting a great feedback. In fact, the youth likes Naira and her brother Naksh’s bond. So, it is an amazing time for the show where we have our loyal family audience and now, even the youth is liking us. Our USP is upholding family values but we have evolved with time and that has helped us to stay at the top. So, while Naira and Kartik are a modern couple and their romance is contemporary but they retain the sweetness and innocence of Akshara and Naitik’s love. This is why our show is loved by people, for it has been consistent in its storytelling.
Q. Your high expectations of the new generation love story can be established by the fact that you have planned to shoot the wedding track of Naira and Kartik in Rajasthan which will go for a month or so.
Shahi: Fans and audiences have liked the show’s positivity, family values that we have shown. The show has never been over dramatic. So, Rajasthan works well as the backdrop. People there are very emotional, uphold values and at the same time they are evolving with time. Also, traditions and festivals are very rich there. So, with our show completing eight years and the story taking a new turn with Naira and Kartik’s romance, we thought of doing an exotic destination wedding in Rajasthan. Usually, our outdoors happen outside the country but this time we thought to do something within the country, to explore traditions and values against the backdrop of a local place.
Q. Despite its popularity, there is a section of audience, which feels the show has run its course and should be taken off, after all it has exhausted all the essentials of a television show — romance, marriage, separation and generation leap.
Shahi: Today in television, it is a fact that shows are not working. It takes years to conceptualise a show and it goes off air in a few months itself. Yeh Rishta has worked consistently and that too without an over-the-top negative character or melodrama. That in itself is the biggest thing. At a time when shows run on the shoulders of their negative characters or on superstitions, our show still talks about simple relations. That is what the fans have connected on with our drama. I take criticism actively and I learn from it. But I feel Yeh Rishta has a lot of years to itself and we have stories to tell. The day I will feel we don’t have any story left, I will close it.