It's very tough to write eulogies for something that's been very close to your heart for over eight months now. But it's only befitting that the acclamation comes at a time when Season 1 of "Dharmayudham" (my sms abbreviation stands as DY), the law firm series on Vijay TV, comes to an end this Friday with a brief break to the viewers and the team behind it. My journey started with a call from actor Karthik Kumar (popularly called as KK by the unit), who briefed me about this project before putting me onto the creator of DY, Arvind Krishna who was looking out for a female lead to be paired opposite KK. The whole concept of two rival law firms handling courtroom drama sounded exciting right from the word go and before I knew it, I was already on board after the first meeting with both Arvind and the director of the series Abanindran, fondly called as Abi. The project was initially titled 'Black and White' but later christened with an equally apt Tamizh title that had a powerful ring to it.
The promo music video, posters and hoardings across the State gave us that much needed impetus for a novel attempt in Tamizh television. When my friend's father came and told me that he never watches small screen content with the sole exception of DY because of its freshness in treatment and concept, it felt ecstatic. When my known circle kept track of the story and asked me questions about the series at various social gatherings, it felt that we must be doing something right somewhere. When an extremely elderly person noticed a pendant that I wore for a function and related it to a scene in DY that was crucial to the character Arjun cracking a murder case with that same pendant as a link, it reassured me of the kind of sharp audience we were catering to. We were probably the only programme in the channel to have been given two time slots on the same day with the second one being a repeat telecast of the same evening's episode. The comments below each episode's video on youtube would almost seem like a debate among the audience flooded with a bevy of predictions and suggestions as each episode went by. Finally it boils down to the verdict of the audience by and large and I can modestly say that we did manage to hit some positive notes.
When we started off this series, the entire team assembled at KK's Evam office for an induction-into-the-story-and-the-team kind of meeting and we were all so charged up to give it our best and I can safely assume that we did put our heart and hard work into giving those 100 plus episodes. It was a first for all of us as much as it was for the viewers who welcomed a series that showed that Tamizh television content can be both informative and entertaining if packaged and presented inimitably. All it needs is a daring producer, a creative writer and an able team of actors and technicians to back it up. My advertising industry colleagues who recommend the media plan for advertisers invariably slotted some of their ad spends in DY and clients apparently never questioned the inclusion because of the positive word-of-mouth and audience reviews. DY was not about giving what the audience wants but about offering what they have not asked. As Arvind kept telling us, this was not an attempt to degrade any other form of story-telling on television that has a strong women audience but this was our way of reaching out to our viewers by bringing new audiences beyond housewives.
When we were told that we're wrapping up Season 1 for now, there was not a single soul happy about it because we loved every bit of shooting on the sets meticulously created & erected at the AVM property adjacent to their main studio. With a given canvas of two law firms, two courts and one coffee shop, it would be a creative challenge for the DOPs to come up with as many ways of framing their shots, composing a scene in new angles, playing with the lighting and juggling the setting to avoid monotony of the fixed set. The two hour power cut time band would be used to shoot court corridor scenes and car scenes with natural lighting on days when a generator is not budgeted for. Every time we witnessed a heavy rainfall or were intimated about storm Nilam kind of warnings, Arvind would go all the way to check if the set is holding good and be relieved to know that the set, like the impression that this series has created, is here to stay.
Experiences become memories when the people around you make it a fun place to work at. The entire bunch of this series was such an interesting lot that we've always had engaging conversations at every given break, in-between shots or during lunchtimes chatting up and cracking up on varied subjects. Hierarchy between senior actors, directors and the younger new lot was not even remotely felt as far as interactions and treatment were concerned. The waiting time before your shot never seemed too long with MJ Shriram talking about his experiences with Illayaraja Sir, with Abbas taking us through his biking adventures, his take on life, philosophy (yes he's much more deeper than the chocolate boy we've seen on screen), with KK, LP and Praveen taking a dig at their own firm as never charging any lawyer fees as per script and being broke all the time, watching Kitty Sir co-write a long difficult scene with such ease and dexterity before he reads it out to you in the simplest way, with assistant directors being ragged in a lighter vein for getting our costumes, make-up, changing room, schedule dates, dubbing in place and the works.
Sometimes filler scenes were literally written on-the-spot like a suda-suda-coffee and improvised by us as we would rehearse the scene before a take. It is very rare to come by directors who give you the creative liberty to emote a scene in the most natural way possible without imposing their method of acting on you. Here was an extremely efficient director in Abi aided by Anand and Chandru as episode directors who consciously encouraged us to cut down on all the hyper-acting, loud dialogues, long sermons, incessant crying and anything that bordered on melodrama. Our suggestions and contentions with certain scenes or dialogues were openly welcomed or logically explained to retain the way it was conceived.
Every new attempt will have its share of hurdles and oversight in execution but the important thing is to learn how to handle it and move forward by improvising it. The first time is always the most difficult part when you've to be ready to be accepted or ridiculed or completely rejected. Fear of experimenting is the end of creativity and we will be stuck with giving what the audience supposedly wants and not what they've not asked for. But when you do manage to surprise them, it can only be as fantastic a journey as team DY has experienced all along. The just battle, as our title signifies, to deliver good content will continue and we're going on a break only to be back with a bang with Season 2. Until then, we bow and thank all of you for the encouragement, feedback and support you've given as a wonderful audience with a parting line.... Picture abhi baakhi hai mere dosth!
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