Obituary: Gautam Adhikari, a tough task master
New Delhi: What he started as a small family-owned partnership in 1985 is today a media and entertainment conglomerate valued at close to Rs2,000 crore under Shri Adhikari Brothers Group (SAB Group). And Gautam Adhikari, co-founder of SAB TV, the country’s first Hindi comedy channel, oversaw almost all of it. He was the chairman and whole-time director of SAB Television Network Ltd.
The leading television producer passed away at his Mumbai residence this morning following a massive heart attack. He was 67 and is survived by his wife and two children.
“He was a tough task master and a very strong personality, when it came to work,” said Parthsarthi Iyer, Adhikari’s nephew and creative and business head at Katalyst Creates, the creative arm of SAB Group. “He was very kind and generous, he forgave very easily. It’s a huge loss for us. It is very difficult to imagine the SAB group without his vision and leadership.”
Adhikari launched Hindi entertainment channel SAB TV in 2000 along with brother Markand Adhikari which was later sold to broadcaster Sony Entertainment Television (now Sony Pictures Networks) in the mid-2000s. SAB went on to become the first publicly-listed television production company in India when it was listed on BSE in 1995. The brothers initially produced TV serials in Marathi, but soon ventured into film distribution and production business. For the same reason, Adhikari is also considered a pioneer in the Marathi industry.
SAB TV has been specializing in comedy shows and light-hearted soap operas. Long-running shows such as Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah and Sajan Re Phir Jhoot Mat Bolo figure among its most popular offerings.
Over the years, Adhikari, a diploma holder in commercial art, also took to the director’s chair and helmed many serials, including Hello Inspector, Commander, Marshall, Silsila and Waqt ki Raftar. His name was listed in the Limca Books of Records in 1999 for “directing maximum episodes”.
“He came in during the earliest days of television in India and understood the unadulterated, pure quality of the medium then,” said Asit Kumarr Modi of Neela Tele Films Pvt. Ltd, producers of Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. “His work was marked by simplicity and he’s primarily remembered for thrillers and social dramas.”
After selling of SAB TV, the group launched several entertainment channels under TV Vision Ltd. Currently it operates the country’s most widely viewed Hindi music channel Mastiii.
The other channels in its bouquet are Dabangg, a Hindi entertainment channel targeted at Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, Dhamaal Gujarat for youth in the state, film channel Dillagi and Marathi channel Maiboli. The company also publishes an English language fortnightly magazine titled Governance Now that deals with governance issues and policy matters.
Harveen Ahluwalia contributed to the story.