Indian television

‘No one will chop vegetables while surfing’: Tigmanshu Dhulia on what’s changed for TV

The filmmaker returns to the medium that nurtured him with an upcoming film on the Indian National Army.

Tigmanshu Dhulia is evidently good at multitasking. The director of critical favourites such as Haasil, Paan Singh Tomar and Sahib Biwi aur Gangster is helming two very different projects for television, marking his return to the medium since his popular 45-minute films for Star Bestsellers in the 1990s.

Dhulia is casting for a film on Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army for Rajya Sabha TV, which will also be shown as a four-part series on the channel. He has also directed a short film for Zee TV as a part of an Indo-Pak anthology on diverse themes. And even as you read this, he is prepping to cast for his much-delayed movie Milan Talkies, while winding up the post-production of Yaara, starring Irrfan Khan, Amit Sadh and Shruti Hassan.

In an interview with, Dhulia talks about his lessons in history, his disenchantment with the current cinema, and why television programming is staring at its biggest challenge yet.

Why did you choose the subject of the INA for your television comeback?

The team from Rajya Sabha approached me with several topics. But I was more interested in this because, as a student of history and being particularly interested in modern history, I was intrigued by Bose and the trails of INA and the mystery behind his death. No one really talks about what he did or what happened to the INA. The trials [during which several INA officers were tried for treason, torture, murder and abetment to murder during WWII in 1945-46] were symbolic because the INA had vowed to hoist the Indian flag at the Red Fort and the British had retaliated by trying the officers at the site. What also appealed to me was the fact that Rajya Sabha TV wanted to release it as a feature film first. They were also very generous with the budgets.

What was the research like?

I put together a team of four writers. Not just any film writers, but people with a keen sense of history and respect for this part of our history. They went about reading all available material on the subject, combed through all possible archives for five-six months. We now have the first draft of six episodes. Since the film is set in 1945, a lot of it will be shot on sets, and some of it at the Red Fort [where the trials were held], Parliament, places that haven’t changed.

The INA and its founder are topics that have now acquired tremendous political sub-text.

I did not pick up the subject because of the current ramifications. I did not anticipate any controversy. It was just a coincidence. Who talks about the past?

Before taking up the project, I knew very little about Bose or the INA. The process has reinforced some of the things I knew, armed me with more information and also changed my perception about a lot of things.

What are things about Bose’s life and disappearance that you changed your mind about?

I don’t want to talk about it now.

Are these ‘finds’ in the script?

Yes, they are. The script is backed by solid evidence. Nothing is fictionalised. Every plot point is backed by research from newspapers and books.

Tell us about your short film for Zee TV.

It is a contemporary romance called Baarishaur Chowmein, set in Mumbai, and starring Amit Sadh and Taapsee Pannu.

How has television changed since your first TV film in 1994?

I was lucky to be associated with television till the time it died. Rajdhani (1990) on Star Plus ended and the saas-bahu saga began. It was some sort of a divine intervention that I got promoted to films and did not have to go through the frustration of being involved with the degeneration.

Television is now about to change. With the arrival of web and television on the internet and Netflix, everything is changing. Now TV reaches out to a new audience – 30-plus males and educated and professional women who watch on computers, tablets and phones. Traditional TV sets are only for housewives and grannies. New audiences mean new eyeballs on these new platforms. So the programming has to be engaging because those consuming it are focused only on the screen. No one will chop vegetables while surfing the internet.

While shows like Nagin will still have its share of eyeballs, traditional television technicians are going to face a tough time. Concept, execution and packaging will have to change to adapt to the new platforms and audiences.

‘Ek Shaam Ki Mulakaat’, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia for Star TV.

What about cinema – what is the next big thing? For instance, you pioneered the UP gangster cool genre, but it seems to have passed its sell-by date.

Somebody does it for the first time and people follow it blindly, diluting the colour and essence of the genre. God is in the details. They do not get into the details. I knew the hinterland well, I was well-versed with the politics and culture of Uttar Pradesh, I am aware of the details. Others are not. When they just try to appropriate the concept, it dies.

There is a new audience emerging and we must now start making content for a global audience, or else Hollywood will decimate us very soon. Fast & Furious did better business than some of our best films.

What kind of content are you talking about?

Rooted films that appeal to a global viewership. A film like Dil Chahta Hai was rooted in the urban Indian milieu. But the detailing was very nice, which is why even someone from Allahabad liked it. When you stick to the formula of hero, heroine and dream sequences, you make films that audiences outside India laugh at. Hollywood has survived because it reaches out to different worlds. We cannot ever hope to make Fast & Furious. But does that mean we do a “Shaava Shaava, Shaadi Byaah” instead? We have to think of something else. And if we don’t do it, who will?

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The ordeal of choosing the right data pack for your connectivity needs

"Your data has been activated." <10 seconds later> "You have crossed your data limit."

The internet is an amazing space where you can watch a donkey playing football while simultaneously looking up whether the mole on your elbow is a symptom of a terminal diseases. It’s as busy as it’s big with at least 2.96 billion pages in the indexed web and over 40,000 Google search queries processed every second. If you have access to this vast expanse of information through your mobile, then you’re probably on something known as a data plan.

However, data plans or data packs are a lot like prescription pills. You need to go through a barrage of perplexing words to understand what they really do. Not to mention the call from the telecom company rattling on at 400 words per minute about a life-changing data pack which is as undecipherable as reading a doctor’s handwriting on the prescription. On top of it all, most data packs expect you to solve complex algorithms on permutations to figure out which one is the right one.


Even the most sophisticated and evolved beings of the digital era would agree that choosing a data pack is a lot like getting stuck on a seesaw, struggling to find the right balance between getting the most out of your data and not paying for more than you need. Running out of data is frustrating, but losing the data that you paid for but couldn’t use during a busy month is outright infuriating. Shouldn’t your unused data be rolled over to the next month?

You peruse the advice available online on how to go about choosing the right data pack, most of which talks about understanding your own data usage. Armed with wisdom, you escape to your mind palace, Sherlock style, and review your access to Wifi zones, the size of the websites you regularly visit, the number of emails you send and receive, even the number of cat videos you watch. You somehow manage to figure out your daily usage which you multiply by 30 and there it is. All you need to do now is find the appropriate data pack.

Promptly ignoring the above calculations, you fall for unlimited data plans with an “all you can eat” buffet style data offering. You immediately text a code to the telecom company to activate this portal to unlimited video calls, selfies, instastories, snapchats – sky is the limit. You tell all your friends and colleagues about the genius new plan you have and how you’ve been watching funny sloth videos on YouTube all day, well, because you CAN!


Alas, after a day of reign, you realise that your phone has run out of data. Anyone who has suffered the terms and conditions of unlimited data packs knows the importance of reading the fine print before committing yourself to one. Some plans place limits on video quality to 480p on mobile phones, some limit the speed after reaching a mark mentioned in the fine print. Is it too much to ask for a plan that lets us binge on our favourite shows on Amazon Prime, unconditionally?

You find yourself stuck in an endless loop of estimating your data usage, figuring out how you crossed your data limit and arguing with customer care about your sky-high phone bill. Exasperated, you somehow muster up the strength to do it all over again and decide to browse for more data packs. Regrettably, the website wont load on your mobile because of expired data.


Getting the right data plan shouldn’t be this complicated a decision. Instead of getting confused by the numerous offers, focus on your usage and guide yourself out of the maze by having a clear idea of what you want. And if all you want is to enjoy unlimited calls with friends and uninterrupted Snapchat, then you know exactly what to look for in a plan.


The Airtel Postpaid at Rs. 499 comes closest to a plan that is up front with its offerings, making it easy to choose exactly what you need. One of the best-selling Airtel Postpaid plans, the Rs. 499 pack offers 40 GB 3G/4G data that you can carry forward to the next bill cycle if unused. The pack also offers a one year subscription to Amazon Prime on the Airtel TV app.

So, next time, don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Click here to find a plan that’s right for you.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel and not by the Scroll editorial team.