Arre’s Official Chukyagiri second episode had just released when a friend of mine texted, “Dude did you check out Chukyagiri? Bohot fun series lag rahi hai.”
And it was. A break from the regular melodrama, the series brought fun and fresh content for an audience like me — the ones in their 20s, the ones who struggle with bai negotiations, people sharing flats or are first jobbers. The struggles, the language, the triumphs in the series — are real. Like bagging a pre-placement interview.
“A lot of the show’s content is as close to reality as possible. Like in almost every story, our intention too was to make Official Chukyagiri relatable to every person who had to painstakingly work their way up”, says Sizil Srivastava, the director of the web series.
A boy from Lucknow, Sizil has spent a tireless ten years to make his mark in the TV and advertising industry. Despite some successful ad films in his kitty, it doesn’t sound like he has had enough. In fact, while promoting the series, Sizil was seen very actively engaging with their audience, taking feedback even personally, over chats and calls.
If you look around, with the help of Google, you’ll find some of the better, socially relevant television films and commercials under his name. I’ve included one here that I remember went viral during beef ban.
“Like any other college going kid, I struggled to find my calling. I kept looking for something I would love to keep going back to. I think that’s how we choose a profession or rather, that’s how we should choose a profession”
Sizil topped his Communication Design batch at NIFT, and when it was time to decide on his career path, the event management industry seemed like a great platform to practice his creative pursuits.
“The stint lasted for 3 years, and I was able to achieve a lot of creative satisfaction through my work, but something was amiss. I wondered if there was anything more to discover, and if there was a way to make my creative voice reach a larger audience. Eventually, one of my clients gave me the opportunity to work with MTV and that’s where my desire to make films kickstarted. It was an experience that paved a way to where I stand now.”
But all wasn’t sunshine and roses at first. His first challenge came in the shape of his unfamiliarity.
“In my first two months at MTV, I was only trying to ‘figure out’ what everyone was up to. There were talented artists, musicians, VJs, movie stars walking in and out of dazzling shoots – I simply wondered if I would ever fit in.”
At this point, it isn’t difficult to draw a parallel between Spandan and Sizil. Hungry to pursue this new profession with passion and to prove himself in unfamiliar waters, he grabbed every opportunity that came his way and left no stone unturned.
“The moment you step out into a big media house like MTV and start from scratch, the first challenge is to make people trust in your potential. Since it’s a rather fast-moving industry, the onus lies completely on you to learn and grow as quickly as you can. I decided to become my own teacher through trial and error. And thus started a 10-month long journey of writing everyday. I had put myself in a challenging place, but I loved it. ”
Eventually, he did find his own place in the madness.
“At first, I was intimidated with the amount of talent the people there had. But I decided to take it all in a positive stride and began forming creative partnerships. It was not all that easy, but at the same time, MTV India was shifting its vision to becoming a primarily Hindi channel back then. Writing in Hindi and Urdu was a big change and everyone took time to warm up to. My ‘supposed’ weakness soon turned to strength and I brought a certain social relevance to the message in my scripts and eventually, my seniors started believing in my writing.”
Since then, Sizil has won multiple awards for his campaigns for Durex, Nescafe, Gaana and MTV Indies. When he was approached by Amrit Pal Bindra and Anand Tiwari at Still and Still Moving pictures for Arre’s for Official Chukyagiri, so much about the show was relatable to his past work experiences, that he instantly decided to do it.
“Isn’t it overwhelming, now that you get so much attention, suddenly?”, I ask.
Sizil decides to answer this with a small story from the past.
“Years back, during my first shoot at MTV Roadies, Raghu asked to arrange some food for him. It perplexed me; all my years of education and work experience…for this? But, I decided to be professional about it and told myself that no job is too small. At that moment, I could’ve either resorted to negativity or worked hard to render myself indispensible to the creative team. And today, when I look at all the trophies, I’m glad that I chose the latter.”
And yet again, Sizil needed to break out of the comfort zone and that triggered him to move out of MTV India and venture into advertising.
“This is when I stepped into the world of advertising, a natural progression of my career. I directed a few prominent ad films and I definitely want to work on a feature film. But it is easier said than done! On the path of moving closer to a feature and to keep honing my skills, ad films and web series feels like the right place to be.”
However now he feels the bigger canvas is not too far away.
The real journey of our lives begin when we believe we are truly free, and we are in a happy-anxious ‘Don’t Settle’ state to find what we love.
“Have you felt that?”, I ask him.
“I experienced that when I had come to Mumbai for the first time. I had to see off my parents at the station and go to college. I stood there till the train left. That moment when there was no one I could recognize in the crowd – that gave me a realization of the excitement, of possibilities, of being lost and the chance to find myself all over again.”
There are words that keep us true to our paths and give meaning to our actions. And Sizil found them in the speech by Charlie Chaplin from Dictator, we know all too well.
“The kingdom of God is within man. Not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men, in you, you the people.”
“Watching that movie, that speech, is when I realized that I am privileged just like anyone around me. However small or big, I don’t want to lose out on any chance to tell my stories.”
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