Nikhil Taneja, Carey Fukunaga, and Gideon Raff at the MAMI Mumba

At OneSmallWindow we watch/read/listen to a lot of material and when you consume so many books, films, shows, podcasts and music what happens is interesting – the medium disappears, the message remains. Last night’s episode of Black Mirror (Season 3, Episode 3) sits up there with the horror of the last Scandinavian crime novel I finished as my brain tries to make sense of the kind of humanity it represents. The songs I hear each week form a playlist that talks of lives lived, loves lost and lessons learned. Conversations from great podcasts join dialogues from movies and lines from books and all of it comes together as an expression of creativity. Life expressed by people living it, running from it, raging against it, embracing it, laughing at it. The form it takes (TV, film, books, music, art) is secondary. This is why I am wary of pitting mediums against each other. And of generalisations. Is TV better than film? Some of it is. Are films bigger in scale than TV shows? Some of them are. Are women more nurturing than men? Some are and some aren’t. (That has nothing to do with mediums, I just had to throw that in there because let’s stop with the sweeping generalisations already!)

At the JioMAMI Mumbai Film Festival this week there was an opportunity to attend a panel discussion about the evolution of storytelling in television and we decided to go because we enjoyed the work of two of the speakers on the panel. Cary Fukunaga’s True Detective and Gideon Raff’s Homeland and Tyrant have provided many hours of entertainment and we wanted to hear what they had to say about the creative process and how they approach it.

Here’s what we learned:
– Raff thinks TV these days offers up more opportunities for adult storytelling as opposed to film. He also said the structure of TV offers more opportunities to explore a character in depth. He’s an excellent panelist by the way – quick, funny, sarcastic, and a pleasure to listen to.
– Fukunaga talked about his approach to adapting a novel for film. According to him, the best way to do it is to try and bring to life the book the way you see it in your head while reading it. That seems like a sound approach.

In my opinion, the conversation went off the rails when it began to explore why TV is considered film’s poorer sibling and never really moved away from the perceived difference of status and the various justifications for why it was or wasn’t the truth. So we had everything from “TV reaches more people in India than a film every could” to “Film actors are seen as stars while TV actors less so and this is not right”. I get it. There are chips on shoulders and points to be made but in a limited time frame, maybe exploring how the structure of a TV show shapes the storytelling would have made more sense to an audience full of filmmakers/people interested in the art of storytelling.

I checked out eventually because it was all lip service really. You can shout from the rooftops about how TV is more powerful in its reach than film or how film offers a different playground but all that doesn’t really matter to the average viewer does it? What stays with people are the stories and in their heads and sometimes they sit alongside each other, no matter if they first played in a darkened cinema hall or streamed off a bright laptop screen.

So thank you MAMI for bringing together Raff, Fukunaga, Nikhil Advani and Star TV’s Gaurav Banerjee for a discussion. Maybe for round two we can hear them talk about what goes into the making of a great story uniquely crafted for the medium of TV.