- Dinkar Sharma
- 08 May 2020
“It feels great when doctors say that the show made them nostalgic.”
Pravin Yadav talks to SWA
Operation MBBS which aired on YouTube has become a hit with the younger audience of web shows. The first season of the show has 5 episodes, each of those has over 70 lakhs views while the pilot episode has more than 1.4 Crores views and counting! With 32 Lakh subscribers base on YouTube, the production company Dice Media has its biggest hit till now in Operation MBBS which is India's first web show on medical fraternity.
The viewers have praises its authentic portrayal and detailing of a Medical College. The show picked after a good word of mouth on social media where it inspired review of factual accuracy. Some claim that it might be a game-changer for independent YouTube channels and will be followed by other shows with specialised background/set-up
Today, doctors and medical professionals are being hailed all across as frontline warriors against the COVID-19 pandemic. In such a scenario, it is interesting to note that one of the main writers of the show Operation MBBS is a young screenwriter by the name Pravin Yadav who’s in fact a real doctor and currently, gearing to join a hospital in Mumbai to help with the pandemic.
It seems like a dramatic screenplay in which a doctor finds himself having to choose between his call for duty and passion, which is screenwriting. Yadav’s story also humanises doctors as common people with artistic aspirations, with a great degree of commitment to the job for which they can even put their own lives at risk to save others.
We talked to Pravin Yadav for an SWA exclusive interview. Here are the excerpts:
Would you call yourself ‘a doctor-who-writes' or a 'screenwriter-who's-also-a-doctor'?
As of now, call me a screenwriter who is also a doctor.
What inspired you to become a screenwriter?
Extremely bad Indian films! Just kidding. While doing MBBS, I got exposed to great cinema from all over the world. That inspired me to be a screenwriter. Screenwriters like Guillermo Arriaga and Charlie Kaufman made huge impact on me. David Fincher is my 'Cinema-God'.
I don't think it is any different from people from other fields getting into this world yet you will find fewer doctors here than engineers/IITians.
How did you train yourself as a writer?
When I decided to become a screenwriter, there weren't much resources available. I read every possible book on screenwriting I could find. Later, I made a list of 50-60 Academy Award winning screenplays over the years and got them printed. I studied and analysed them in order to enrich my screenwriting skills.
Your first screenplay was selected for 'New Voices Fellowship for Screenwriters' organised by Asia society and Time Warner and was also in talks for a film. What happened to the project and what has been your experience of dealing with professional screenwriting till now?
At the script lab, I learnt the craft of screenwriting under the mentorship of people like Sriram Raghavan, Anjum Rajabali and Ashwini Malik. The script which I wrote during the fellowship got huge appreciation from everyone. It almost immediately got acquired by a major production house but things have been going very slow since then, unfortunately. The project got a very big name attached to it recently and hopefully, post lockdown things will roll faster. Fingers crossed!
It is very tough for aspiring screenwriters to survive here as there is no certainty and industry still is largely unorganised whatever may be the claim about it. One should have lot of patience and a strong support system apart from the talent and the street-smartness it requires.
How did you join the writing team of Operation MBBS?
That's an interesting story! Creative Director at Dice media, Kartik Krishnan had posted on Facebook that they were looking for a 'doctor turned screenwriter'. One of my friends tagged me in that post and I applied for it.
They asked for my writing sample which they found 'dark' and 'not in their zone'. I was asked to write character sketches and a basic story of three first year MBBS students and their adventures during the first academic year, for an assessment.
The very thing I wrote as an assessment got green-lit and became foundation of the show which we are seeing today.
How was the process of writing the show along with other writers of the show (Puneet Batra, Ayesha Nair)? What was your biggest contribution to it?
Oh, that was most fun part of the journey. Both, Puneet and Ayesha, are supremely talented and devoid of any kind of insecurities known to human kind. They brought all their talent and experience to make the show what it is.
As I said earlier, I had developed the characters and a basic storyline and later when I sat with Puneet and Ayesha, we took it forward. I, being 'the writer from medical background', had a huge responsibility to keep the show authentic yet digestible to regular viewers.
Now, it feels great when doctors say that the show made them nostalgic but I become ecstatic when I find common people enjoying it equally.
Did you think of it to be so successful? What is your biggest learning from it, as a screenwriter?
Let me tell you very honestly that I don't have any idea about the benchmark for success but the amount of love the show is getting from every quarter, is unbelievable. Honestly, I didn't expect this kind of response.
For this show, we all worked around very tight deadlines and thus, I learnt importance of discipline.
From the show, which is your favourite and why?
- Scene or moment
Oh Man! That is a tough one. I am in love with everything associated with the show but let me try to answer this.
- Huma's character is closer to me because of its Character Arc.
- Third episode is my favourite as it is ruthlessly impactful. It’s kind of my thing.
- There are innumerable beautiful moments in the show but if asked to pick only one, it will be the one in which Nishant (Ayush Mehra) opens the book written by his father for the first time in his life and discovers that it has been dedicated to him.
Being an aspiring screenwriter from Nashik, you must have looked at Mumbai as the city of movies. Today you are one phone call away from joining a COVID19 medical unit, most probably in Mumbai! In fact, your wife is also a doctor who's on duty. How do you look at the entire situation?
My wife is a brave person and she has always been doing her duty perfectly. Though the entire world is going through the toughest of times but I am very optimistic about the future. We will overcome this. Yes, I am on standby, will join the fight whenever called for.
How are you keeping yourself motivated during this global crisis? Are you writing anything these days?
Writing is helping me remain sane as it brings a lot of optimism. I am using the time during lockdown to complete my speculative scripts and recently finished writing the Bible for a series on which I have been working for last few years.
Where from here - practice and some writing OR full-time screenwriter?
A full time screenwriter eventually becoming a full-time filmmaker.
Dinkar Sharma is a freelance writer-director and script consultant. He studied screenwriting at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Formerly, he worked with Whistling Woods International as a faculty for Screenwriting. He's a guest script-mentor at FTII and WWI, and guest faculty for recently started FTII short-term script writing courses.