“Corruption is at the root of the television industry’s downfall”
Acclaimed director and screenwriter Shihab Shaheen has gained prominence in the television fraternity with productions like Romijer Ayna, X Factor and numerous other tele-fictions over the past eighteen years. He made his debut in films with Chhuye Dile Mon in 2015. Recently, he directed August14, the Binge series, featuring Tasnuva Tisha in the lead role. It is based on true events. In a candid chat with The Daily Star, the creator opens up about the problems in the industry and the popularity of web-based content in Bangladesh.
August 14 was widely appreciated by the audience and critics alike upon its release, for bringing a brave story to the forefront. Particularly, Tasnuva Tisha was lauded for her bold and brilliant performance. However, along with this series, some other productions streaming online have received legal notices, for their controversial content. "We have prepared the project with sincerity, staying true to all facts," explains Shihab. "I think the allegations made were absolutely baseless. I have reflected upon the plot points that were needed to build and understand the psychology of the lead character. I can confidently say there are no irrelevant scenes in August 14." Nonetheless, the director believes that everyone has the right to express their opinions and he is willing to respond to any questions accordingly.
According to Shihab, low budgets are a major obstacle for television productions. "Corruption is at the root of the television industry's downfall," he adds. "Some other obstacles include the lack of research and training. No one will go the extra mile if they aren't valued on the basis of their talent. Earning and survival are also necessary for artistes."
He further stressed that the huge number of productions that are usually made round the year are unnecessary. "I don't think a high-quality production can be made with a limited budget. Of course, there are exceptions, but those cannot be examples," he says. "There is no need to produce thousands of tele-fictions in a year. Rather, producing a few tele-fictions and increasing the budgets for each one can result in excellent content." He also stated that the television channels are too business-oriented these days.
The objective of the television industry to provide entertainment and information, along with advertisement, was disrupted when corporates started dominating the sector. This monopoly feeds more advertisements and less entertainment. As a result, people are losing interest in the stories on television and are now leaning towards streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hoichoi, Binge and others. "Some directors have also moved to OTT platforms, where the budgets are higher and artistes have more scope to explore their talent," asserts Shihab. "The television industry needs to reform in order to compete with web platforms." Amid such conflicts, the quality of television projects is getting compromised. "When personal interests get in the way of a professional project, everything from the budget of the production to the selection of the cast, is hampered. The television industry has lost its grip over the content," adds Shihab. The director believes that the production culture can be changed by boycotting dishonest individuals and associations from the industry, who are only concerned about the revenues and not about how to draw the audience back to television through good content. He stressed that it is high time for sincere artistes and creators to join hands and overcome these challenges, otherwise the industry might lose its way in the long run.