This week, we caught up with Shirish Vallicha, 30, who’s a senior manager in programming and strategy at WB, South Asia.
How did an aircraft maintenance engineer land up in Turner programming?
I trained to be an aircraft maintenance engineer from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in Mumbai, but I’ve always been much more inclined towards a more creative line. So I got into music journalism and started writing for publications like The Indian Express, The Times of India and Jam magazine, and my first job was with Sony Music in 2001. I had a fair idea of digital distribution and marketing, so I helped them set up an online presence in India. Then, when I shifted to MTV in 2003, I was working in Talent and Artist Relations and, at some point, was introduced to a programmer called Prakash Rai. I was very intrigued by this guy who was just sitting like a zombie in front of the computer and he just went on frantically typing away on the keyboard. Later, I found out he was scheduling the entire channel. Once I understood the power of programming for a TV channel, I took it up as well, and, later, even moved into on-air presentation (show packaging, what kind of communication you have in tune-ins and promos and so on). I joined Turner in January 2009 for WB, a new movie channel they were planning to launch then, got to work in Hong Kong for six months and moved base with them back to India now.
What excites you about your current job profile?
The English entertainment genre in India accounts for not more than 2 per cent of the TV viewing audience, and having to fight for that space across a cluster of channels is by itself a challenge. There were at least 5 movie channels back in early 2009, and two entertainment channels that play movies like AXN. Being part of a start-up really excited me and I got to work in Hong Kong for six months with some of the best creative talent. English movie programming is very different, it’s about engaging a viewer for two-and-a-half hours, versus five minutes for a song, like it would be for a music channel. Also, English movie programming is male-skewed in India with action/thriller being the most popular genre and humour coming after that. The fun part of movie programming is that if you give your audience something they like, they’ll stick around and watch it.
Who’re the three most memorable people you’ve met?
I met a lot of classical artists through my work at Sony like Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt, so he’s definitely one of them. Then, Kailash Kher and Paul Oakenfold who I worked very closely with at the label.
Who’s the one person you would like to have dinner with?
I’m very intrigued by art house films at the moment, so I would have to say Anurag Kashyap. I have interacted with him a little bit when he released his movie Metro, but after Dev D, I’d love to work with him in any way.
What’s one thing you like about your job?
I do get a little impatient and tend to get a little bored, but all my profiles so far have given me the liberty to be myself. And I get to have a fresh challenge on a week-on-week basis, if not a daily one.
What’s one thing you don’t like? Like maybe awful work hours?
Work hours have been fantastic, so I don’t think I have anything much to complain about. Turner is very indifferent to time, which is something I quite like. You’re given a lot of authority and power and responsibility, and when all of that is served on a platter, you actually need to do everything to be on the ball, but you can organise yourself the way you want to. In fact, they have a Wii, Xbox and pool table, so it’s a lot of fun too.
Three favourite films of all time?
I’m a fan of horror: my favourite is 24 Weeks Later. Then, probably 300, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy.
Your favourite TV shows?
I heard VH1 was going to bring down Comedy Central; I’m a big fan of their bank of comedies. Also How I Met Your Mother, The US version of The Office and The Coupling.
What else do you do outside of work?
I have been composing music for the past seven years. I have a home studio, where I primarily work with Q-Base SX. My sound is a mix of fusion, down-tempo, Indian-influenced, electronic, easy listening music. I’ve done the background stage music for MTV Style Awards, and am currently producing music for a Yashraj brand packaging that is still under wraps. My myspace ID is Icecoldlassi.
What’s the toughest interview question you’ve ever faced?
At Big Music, they asked me if I’d be willing to get a haircut. I told them I’d just got a haircut and wasn’t interested in getting it cut any shorter. I don’t think we called each other after that.