Kawardha: Bringing "Jamunia" to the small screen was not easy for producers Yash Patnaik and Ajit Andhare. From finding the right artists to shooting in a real village to battling mosquitoes, they had their hands full.
"Before us, nobody dared to come and shoot here," said Andhare. Kawardha is 120 km from state capital Raipur.
The series, about the trials and tribulations of orphaned girl Jamunia, played by Bhavana Khatri, is going live on NDTV Imagine on Women`s Day March 8 and producers have moved here with a team of about 125 people for the shoot.
The owner of Kawardha Palace, where the serial is being shot, has rented out the ground floor to the unit of "Jamunia".
"I did a recce of 1,100 km here. We needed a palace and a beautiful village and this place suited our purpose. We met the (erstwhile) maharaja and maharani of Kawardha and requested them to allow us to shoot here. Initially, they refused, but later gave permission," Patnaik said.
"I chose the real location because it gives impact and detailing and I have also unbound writers by bringing them to a real location. There are logistical problems, but I have control. I can shoot any time," he added.
Shooting on location has affected their budget.
"In Mumbai, when you make a serial, the per day expense of shooting comes to somewhere between Rs 300,000 to Rs 400,000. But as we are shooting on real location, our budget has gone up 30 to 35 percent. One needs a budget of Rs 250-300 million to make a serial like this," said Patnaik.
The cast and crew, who left the comfort of their homes to shoot, had adjustment problems. The "Jamunia" cast is a mixed bag - from newcomers to locals to veterans like Mohan Joshi and Suhasini Mule.
"Initially, I had problems, but now I`m comfortable. Earlier, shooting while sitting on the floor didn`t come naturally to me, but now I have got used to it," said Bhavana.
Preeta Jain, who plays Jamunia`s cousin Chatori in the serial, said: "Now we feel at home. All the female artists stay in the campus."
Usually 22 episodes are aired in a month and actors have to shoot 12 hours a day. And "Jamunia" is no different.
"There are breaks. Artists keep coming and going. We don`t keep an artist here if he or she is not required. Unlike a film schedule, serials are a long-term thing. After a certain period it becomes like a family. Right now we have about 30 episodes in the bank," said Andhare.
Organising the shooting here was a humongous task for Amit Bangia, production controller of the serial. "It is a mammoth task to shoot in this area. Locations are pretty far. If we have a 7 am shooting shift, we start preparing from 2 in the morning. And there is no time to eat or sleep.
"Shooting a crowd scene is the toughest job. In Mumbai, it is very easy to gather people to shoot a crowd scene, but not here. There were two more people with me here, but once they went back to Mumbai, they didn`t come back. But I am doing it because it`s a challenge to shoot in Kawardha," said Bangia who worked as a production assistant on serials like "Kkusum", "Kasturi" and "Maika".
Apart from other things, mosquitoes are a real problem after sunset, but the team has learnt to cope.
Shooting the serial here has made local businessmen happy.
"I run a travel agency here and I have six vehicles. But I am not able to meet up with the demand of the unit. I have to arrange for vehicles from other places to fulfil the production unit`s demand," said Kaushal Singh who runs Jai Mata Di Travels here.
"We charge about Rs.700 for eight hours. After spending time with Amit, I have also learnt a lot about shooting. I know they will need horses and elephants to shoot a wedding, so I have already spoken to the people concerned," he added.
Hotels in the area are also doing good business. There are four hotels here and the "Jamunia" production team has hired them for the crew members.
Andhare says at the moment they are not worried about the TRPs, their main concern being the initial buildup of the story.