“‘Lohar bano to Tata, mochi bano to Bata’… nothing is small. You should be the best at whatever you do. These are the life learnings I got from my mom.” – Yash A Patnaik, Producer, Inspire Films

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They say, you always save the best for the last. That’s exactly what I did with Yash A Patnaik’s interview. I savoured for some time the essence of what he said, mulled over the sincerity of his words and mused over his focused journey replete with hard work. The story he told was inspirational and I was entranced by the way he chartered his journey and realised his dreams with undeterred focus.

…Meet Yash A Patnaik, one of India’s most well-known producers who has produced good content on TV and OTT platforms. He founded Beyond Dreams Entertainment with his equally talented writer wife Mamta in 2007 and indeed, from then on, they have never looked back. Today, Beyond Dreams Entertainment has been branded as Inspire Films.

…With his dashing looks, Yash could have been an actor but tell him that and he says rather simply, “I never wanted to be an actor. Not even for a minute. I knew it was not my calling. I’m a very practical person. I always felt it’s very important to evaluate yourself and understand your strengths and limitations.” …And that’s exactly what this man did.

He relentlessly focused only on one goal which was “just to tell stories” and stories he told…of every genre and even multi-lingual. Among the blockbuster TV shows produced by him was Ek Veer Ki Ardaas…Veera, Sadda Haq, Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi, Ishq Mein Marjawan to name a few.

Read on as Yash A Patnaik tells you how a boy from Orissa conquered the entertainment world to become one of India’s most successful TV and OTT producers… and yes, went from ‘beyond dreams’ to ‘Inspire’Films.

You are a political science graduate and started out as a journalist, how did you end up in the entertainment industry?
I always wanted to tell stories. But I didn’t have any connection with the film and entertainment industry. So the best way for me was to join the media. It was too early then… I’m talking about the early ‘90s… I graduated in 1994. Mass communication was a new field then and that was the time Zee TV, India’s first private channel was born too. So journalism was the most natural and only possible entry point for me.

I didn’t have anybody in Mumbai at that time. So I went to Pune and joined Symbiosis Institute of journalism and Communications. I was always very focused. During the day, I was studying (my college timings were 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and at night (7 p.m. to 2 a.m.), I was working for a newspaper called Maharashtra Herald. At that time, I was earning Rs 1500 but it was fun.

In fact, if you ask me, I’d say, I cherish those days more because you meet a lot of good people and you are always hungry to learn more. So those were the foundation years for me. I made some great friends. I learned a lot. And any opportunity I got, I would grab it… with both hands.

Yash A Patnaik
Yash A Patnaik

I’m sorry I have to interrupt, you look good enough to be one of the leads in your serial, did you ever want to become an actor?
Never! I never wanted to be an actor. Not even for a minute. I knew it was not my calling. I’m a very practical person. I always felt it’s very important to evaluate yourself and understand your strengths and limitations. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to be a producer. I wanted to be a director.

So what did you do next?

After my Mass Communication, I went to Delhi for a short while, I worked with UNI. Then I came to Mumbai and joined a production house and worked under Manju Singh. She was making a show called ‘Swaraj’ and it was about the unsung heroes of the Indian freedom struggle. I come from a family of freedom fighters and educationists.

I had studied the Indian freedom struggle not as a subject but as a topic of interest so I was given the responsibility of doing the research for all the episodes. I ended up going to Mani Bhavan in Mumbai sitting exactly opposite where Gandhiji would sit and I would read a lot and the more I read, I realized that stories and history excited me a lot. I ended up going to Mani Bhavan for six months and I enjoyed every minute of it.

After I left that company, I joined Hinduja’s media company ‘In Mumbai’ as a correspondent. The 18 hours I worked during my Mass Communication days helped me a lot. I was always a workaholic and enjoyed working extensively without taking a break at times. I would never party or go out. I knew that if I would lose these years, I would not be able to catch up. So I was completely focused. My hard work reaped dividend and in a period of 16 months, I became the Programming Head.

After ‘In Mumbai’, I joined Zee ED as a Producer-director. here, I started producing, directing and editing educational programs. This is where I met Mamta who became my wife later on. Anyways after some time at Zee ED, there was a new company coming up helmed by Reena and Ashok Wadhwa called Karmic Communication – there I was the Executive Producer for two years. After which, I joined Fireworks Productions as EP.

There was a show in In Mumbai which was called Panchnama… it was the first serious crime investigation show on Indian Television. I directed it. I remember I used to go to the crime spots and do a lot of research. My journalism background too helped me. So when CID started, I joined as an Executive Producer and this show was a natural inclination for me since I had done Panchnama. I loved Fireworks and I made some great friends from Shivaji Satam, Daya to so many.

After that, I did a lot of thrillers. But then I realised I was getting stuck doing just thrillers and then came the realisation that I couldn’t do this forever. I needed to keep experimenting. I couldn’t do the same thing over and over again. I love taking calculative risks. So around 2006 end – by the time Mamta was an established writer – I decided to quit.

Do you know something interesting? For five years I didn’t ask for a raise. What happens is that you are so much into work and coming from a small town, I felt it was too demeaning to ask for a raise. Besides, I never got that window to even ask for a raise. My bosses didn’t sense that I wanted a raise. But having said this, I was very happy there. If they had given me more money, I would have been too comfortable. So I guess whatever happens, happens for good.

You decided to quit

Yes! I decided to quit. At that time, I got so many offers from production and broadcasting offices. But I said no. I decided I wanted to start something on my own. Mamta and I at that time had just 5 lakhs and we didn’t even own a house. But we had a dream and that’s how Beyond Dreams started.

Why the name Beyond Dreams?
Both Mamta and I are dreamers. Mamta, of course, says I’m a bigger dreamer. So we said, ‘Let’s go beyond our dreams so that’s how Beyond Dreams started. Our first show was for Pogo channel and it was a huge hit show. Then we did a daily called ‘Chehra’ and introduced Mohit Raina as an actor. After Chehra, there was no looking back. (From Cambala Investigation Agency, Monica Mogre, Rang Badalti Odhani, Jamunia, Junoon – Aisi Nafrat Toh Kaisa Ishq, Ek Veer Ki Ardaas…Veera, Main Naa Bhoolungi, Sadda Haq, Twistwala Love, Million Dollar Girl, Secret Diaries, Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi, Jaana Na Dil Se Door and Naagarjuna – Ek Yoddha.

Yash has also produced regional shows like Vachana Dile Tu Mala on Star Pravah and Neijare Megha Mote on Tarang TV. In 2017 he also produced the blockbuster show Ishq Mein Marjawan whose story was developed by his wife Mamta. Yash also produced a horror film Kaalo based on a centuries-old folktale about a desert witch. Kaalo is the only Indian horror film that has received Best Film in an international film festival (Best Film and Best Cinematography awards at South Africa Horrorfest 2010, Cape Town.)

Did you face any challenges or setbacks?
Beyond Dreams especially during the initial years was challenging. When I left Fireworks and started on my own, I still wasn’t sure whether people would appreciate my skills as an individual. I decided till I established myself as a producer I wouldn’t go to Sony TV on which CID was aired. Fireworks was home to Sony and I knew everyone there but I thought I’d first make a mark for myself. So I went everywhere from 9X to Star except Sony.

Later I got to know Sony was expecting me to approach them but I never did. It was simple. I didn’t want people to say that I was using my contacts or anything so it was a conscious decision. It would have been very easy for me to create something like CID but I didn’t. So I’m so happy when I look back at the content we created for the last 16 years, we have done all the genres. I have even done good shows in Marathi, Tamil and Surya TV. I have covered languages and genres except for sci-fis.

So what’s next?

We’ve done a show called Dear Ishq on Hotstar. It’s very experimental.

Do you want to direct shows yourself at some point?
The moment I get into direction, I won’t be able to focus on other things. Some day I will direct but when I do so, it will be worth my time and effort.

How do you feel that the boy from Bhubaneshwar who didn’t know a soul in the entertainment world, today is one of the biggest producers in India?
I don’t carry my position too seriously. I’m happy to just tell stories and work hard. I carry my own baggage. When I go to my sets, I put off my phone so I don’t get noticed. I don’t smoke in my own cabin. I didn’t want to be a producer who wanted to be very successful. I wanted to be a producer who could make my kind of content. Positions don’t matter to me. They are very temporary. I just wanted the power to tell stories. Indeed, my journey of 27 years has been great.

Is there anything that is ‘beyond dreams’ for you?
We are focusing on a lot of good things for TV. I want to tell local stories which would stand out in the commercial space. Eventually, some of them will be done by me as a director. So yes, that would be ‘beyond dreams’.

As a footnote, what would you like to tell TheGlitz readers…
When I was leaving my home, my mom told me two things… One she said, ‘We don’t have money, and you’re going to a city where people have money, what you can invest is your smile. It has the biggest dividend’. I always remember that so I smile all the time and try not to be rude with people.
The second thing she told me … it was the time I was starting out and didn’t have money. I was doing small jobs and would cook for my friends. She told me, ‘Lohar bano to Tata, mochi bano to Bata’. Nothing is small. You should be the best at whatever you do. These are the life learnings I got from her.

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