Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi, an ENT surgeon, is making his digital debut with web series 'Starting Troubles'. He says that it was surreal working with stalwarts Renuka Sahane, Parikshit Sahni and Kurush Deboo.
1. What made you come up with Starting Troubles – India's first-ever medical-comedy web series?
The idea behind Starting Troubles sprouted from discussions on my book 'Inventing Medical Devices - A perspective from India', with Dr Shweta Malick, who is a USA based Radiologist who ventured into film making. There was interest to take some key elements from the book on entrepreneurship, innovations and Doctor struggles (when trying to fight the system), into a more entertaining format in order to reach a wider base of youngsters, who may not be very keen to read a technical book on innovations.
Thereafter, Abhinav Kamal, who heads a production house called Ten Motion Arts was keen to make this into a web-series along with Dr. Malick who eventually wrote the script, adapting it from the book and from my anecdotes.
As things fell into place the project kick-started and the casting team felt, given my theatre background and experience in acting, it would be interesting for me to play my character myself. This is how Starting Troubles happened. It's a humorous narration of real life incidences of a medical student who starts troubles when he tries to balance his work and passion while solving a healthcare need through an innovative idea.
2. It is your first time in acting, we are aware you are an ENT surgeon. How was it to be a doctor in the reel world?
I've been acting on stage as a theatre actor since the age of seven. However, to have acted in a professional web-series was an unique and fun experience with a lot of learnings. Playing myself was challenging as on stage I usually play a character, here I learnt a lot about how I am from a third person perspective, to see myself as a character and re-enact some real life situations that actually took place.
Though the re-experiencing was overwhelming, I also realised how difficult it is to maintain consistency of the character in front of the camera, as unlike theatre, scenes don't happen sequentially and the same scene is often shot in multiple angles and same delivery is expected. When these shoots take place over weeks, I wonder how actors make it seem all natural and sequential when all scenes are eventually stitched together.
3. The series has prominent actors like Renuka Sahane, Parikshit Sahni, Kurush Deboo, how was it working with them?
It was surreal working with such stalwarts. I've watched movies with Renuka ma'am like Hum Aapke Hein Kaun, Parikshit sir in 3 idiots and Deboo sir in Munna Bhai MBBS, and never thought I would be sharing screen with them someday. I wasn't at all expecting them to agree to work with someone from outside the industry who is trying a new format for the first time.
I believe it's their professionalism and love for a good story that got them interested to consider being a part of this project and really took the series to a remarkable level. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the screen with them and was amazed with how effortlessly they get in and out of a character and understand the technicalities of the camera angle, blocking, continuity and eye-line etc.
All of them added their special touches to the scenes and to the script. The most memorable moment was with Renuka ma'am, when she was to deliver a firing series of medically heavy lines to me in a scene. I was very unsure of whether she would get the pronunciations or delivery correctly but she pulled it off in a single take with precise pronunciations and delivery. The scene received a roaring round of applause after the scene was complete.
It goes to show what an amazingly talented actress she is. With Parikshit sir, the elegance was sheer brilliance. Sometimes he would say the line so naturally that I would wonder if it was even written to sound like that but felt so right. Deboo sir has amazing comedy timing and there were so many funny elements added by him just on the sets. He also significantly improved the script with his expert inputs and experience. I am very thankful for having the opportunity to work with all of them.
4. How do you manage time and balance your personal and professional life?
My secret to the right balance, is working with teams. I have a team that manages my ENT work. A team for my events and performances. A PR team and legal team for communications. An editing team for books/writing work. A start-up company for every product I am involved as a co-inventor.
Each team member has a professional & commercial engagement bound by contract/agreement. They benefit exponentially from my progress. To multitask, it's not possible to give a 100% to everything. So I focus on smaller areas of expertise to deliver the best.
I therefore triage effort accordingly. 1st priority is patient care and surgeries. But I cannot give 100% to all procedures in ENT. So I specialise and focus to provide 100% quality and care for a smaller area of expertise that I am most passionate about and have the most experience/training in, which is nose, sinus and eustachian tube procedures (minimally-Invasive). I ensure there is 100% quality, effort and accuracy to provide care in this area. Logistics and coordination is borne by teams.
Second priority is inventing affordable medical devices but I cannot give my 100% to all aspects of the invention process. So I focus to give 100% to only clinical aspects of needs identification, validation, ideation, testing and training aspects of the inventions. Rest is shared with teams.
For comedy & book writing, I don't spend a lot of time, so I target 70% efficacy which is quick execution and satisfactory quality. I am not able to give this a 100% as it will impact the 1st two in priority which I cannot compromise on. But I am satisfied with the 70% effort as it takes less time when managed by good teams.
5. Could you tell us about Starting Troubles – Season 2? When is it expected to be released?
Well, we have 5 seasons of starting troubles penned down already, and were hoping to start production some time now. Unfortunately the pandemic has set us back significantly as it is unsafe at the moment to travel, shoot within hospitals and gather a large crew. We hope that in a few months if things settle down and we are out of this pandemic, we aim to start production for season 2 and aim for a release by early next year.
6. You are a doctor, an actor, a stand-up comedian, an author and also an innovator, tell us what keeps inspiring you to do new things and manage everything so well?
I like trying out many new things. If I feel like it, I try it and if I enjoy it, I pursue it more. If I fail, which I do a LOT whenever I try something new, I try to improve. If it's not working out, I understand that it's probably not my thing and I move on. I am constantly curious and that keeps me motivated.
There is maybe 1 in 15 things that I try, which clicks. I have tried everything, I was into bodybuilding, I was a part of the rock band, I'm learning to play the ukulele, I've tried rapping, I've been a drummer, I now play the Cajon, I have tried cooking, singing, numerous sports, and it goes on.
I'm a curious person who's constantly looking for new things to learn. It helps me know what I am capable of and what I am not. This helps me plan out the activities I choose to pursue and to what extent I can do them. I think the biggest factor that gives me an edge is my willingness to accept my failures and I see it as a part of the process and not an eventual outcome.
7. How different will the stand-up shows take place after the lockdown, if there is permission granted keeping social distancing in mind?
Well, Stand-up comedy shows are already happening online. It's not the same thing but it works. I found it hard to perform online the first few times because it's difficult to set the tone when everyone is in their own homes, and it's hard to get real time feedback sometimes because audiences are on mute or turn off their cameras. But now after having done 50 of these, I am beginning to get the hang of it and have figured out ways to provide a better experience.
Live shows may still not happen for a few more months. There is no official guideline on live performances but I believe they will be out once the spread of COVID-19 reduces and it's safer to step out. But I imagine it will not be possible to see jam packed auditoriums and rooms for a long time. Social distancing and safety protocols will greatly deter one from stepping out for entertainment. Small rooms with 15-20 people or protocols similar to weddings may be the first things to happen for live stand-up comedy to resume its place.