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Monday, July 02, 2001



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Building programmes

Menka Shivdasani

As the head of Jog Group, one of India's premier construction companies, Madhav Jog has found himself constantly dealing with government agencies. ``Ninety per cent of one's business involves dealing with the government,'' he says. It has clearly not alw ays been a pleasant experience.

Now, Madhav Jog is moving in other directions. In addition to his construction business, he has set up Jog Multimedia Ltd., and has ambitious plans to eventually launch a television channel that will target rural audiences, and help provide inform ation to farmers. ``The prices of all commodities vary in the extreme,'' says Madhav Jog, ``and that's because the farmers lack information. By providing them with this, I hope to help them stabilize prices and get a better income.'' H e also hopes to be able to provide them with knowledge of food processing, pointing out that only two per cent of India's produce is processed, while a great deal ends up being wasted. ``Did you know that you can make 132 products just out of pean uts?'' he asks. Through Jog Multimedia, Madhav Jog also hopes to reach out to students, provide them with science education.

All this will take a little while -- approximately two years. Meanwhile, however, his company has been commissioned to produce over 1,500 hours of software for six different channels, representing an investment of over Rs 50 crore. The flagship show, a 104-part Hindi mega-historical, Chhatrapati Shivrai, has been on air since June 3 on DD National (Sundays, 11 a.m.). The other shows are Apradhi Kon and Ek Aavashyak Band (both weekly on ETV Marathi), Score (a science education show, six days a week on DD satellite channels), Devachiye Dwari (daily on Alpha Marathi) and a Hindi soap, Kajal, currently under negotiation.

While these shows span the gamut of crime stories, science education, the literature of Marathi saints and pure entertainment, the one closest to Madhav Jog's heart is clearly Chhatrapati Shivrai, conceptualised, produced and dir ected by noted actor-director Vinay Apte whose company Ad-Lib is the co-producer of the serial, with Dr. Chandraprakash (`Chanakya') Dwivedi as dialogue writer, Bhaskar Chandavarkar as music composer and Nitin Desai as art director.

``I'm a student of Shivaji,'' says Madahav Jog. ``There are many facts about Shivaji that are not recognised. Most people look on him only as a warrior, but he was so multi-faceted -- an economist and financial wizard par excellence. His plan ning was so good that though Aurangzeb ransacked his kingdom after his death, the state was not required to borrow a single penny even 29 years later. And when the British and Portuguese were dumping salt, he levied huge duties, which actually he lped the local salt producers to survive. He also never imported equipment; he engaged British and Dutch people as employees instead. He used his authority to better people's lives.''

Chhatrapati Shivrai is a massive production, being shot by a 250-strong crew on locations across seven districts in Maharashtra. It is also peopled by 450 sword fighters, 50 archers and 150 mountaineers. ``There are 800 horses and that means 800 r iders -- they don't come cheap,'' Madhav Jog points out. ``Plus, there are 500 major characters, 300 of whom are of great significance.'' Anything historical is always very expensive, he points out. ``For instance, location is very important. We wanted a typical Maharashtrian wada, which we eventually found in Satara, but just to get it refurbished took lakhs.''

In an industry that is already extremely competitive, Madhav Jog knows it won't be easy going. ``But for people who come from the construction industry, television is not so competitive,'' he smiles. Though the field is so new to him, he is also aware of the vast possibilities. ``The market is enormous,'' he points out, ``but a lot depends on the quality and speed with which you can address it.'' He gives the analogy of swimming in deep waters. ``So long as you know how to float, w hat does it matter how deep the water is?'' he asks.

There are perspectives he has gained from being in the construction industry that he will find very useful in television. ``As a construction person, you look at every project afresh,'' he explains. ``Just because you have built a r oad from A to B, it doesn't mean that you can build a road from X to Y in the same way. Each territory is different and you have to do things in different ways each time.''

His experience in the construction line has also taught him the importance of the right technology. ``If you take the US as a benchmark, then we are five years behind time when it comes to construction,'' he says. ``I believe in film production we are 15 years behind time, and if we can bring about an improvement in this, it will make all the difference.'' He hopes to do this as he goes along, and he says the impact will be felt hopefully in a year's time.

His approach is a cautious one; the views are always punctuated with the words, `I'm still studying it and I should be allowed to change my mind.' ``His concepts,'' he adds, ``however, are very clear. I know where I want to go,'' he smiles. ``Now I have to work out the route!''

Pic.: A still from the serial Chhatrapati Shivaji

(The author can be contacted at

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