Zee dumps Sawaal, Manisha gets the boot

Zee TV, finally deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, has decided to discontinue for the present its much criticised game show Sawaal Dus Crore Ka. In the process Manisha Koirala, co-host along with Anupam Kher, has joined him on the casualty list.

However, Manisha's parting of ways doesn't appear to have the bitterness which surrounded the sacking of Kher last week from the programme. Kher went to town badmouthing Zee for the manner in which he was taken off the show.

Initially touted as Zee's answer to the runaway success of Star TV's Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), Sawaal had acceptance problems from the beginning. The two anchors didn't come off well in comparison with KBC's Amitabh Bachchan and the programme itself was seen as an unwieldy and poor imitation of Star's product. This was reflected in the TRP ratings Sawaal generated. It could only manage a rating of four against KBC's 14.

According to a press release Zee put out on Sunday, the channel is in the process of chalking out a new version of the game show with a new theme, new composition and a new anchor and, possibly, revised prize money. It is slated to go on air from the first week of January. The question that begs an answer is whether a month will give Zee enough time to come up with a worthwhile challenge to KBC. Another hasty effort could really prove disastrous to Zee's fortunes. Especially since Sony's answer to KBC, Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke, will have taken off by then. Sony's programme has been under development since August. As Sameer Nair, Star TV's Head of Programming, put it: "It will be interesting to see what Zee comes up with. After all Zee's new show will have to contend not only with with KBC but Sony's Chappad Phaad Ke too." Nair did not take into account Doordarshan's Knockout which will be hosted by Kabir Bedi on Sundays and is set to launch next month. Neither did he mention Sabe TV's Jab Khelo Sab Khelo hosted by the irrepressible Shekhar Suman.

Sainath Aiyar, Zee's VP Corporate Communications, was noncommittal when quizzed for further details regarding the changes being incorporated in the new game show. He also denied that Ashutosh Rana had been finalised as an anchor to replace Kher and Manisha. An interesting possible name that the industry grapevine has thrown up is that of Abhishek Bachchan. Now that would be a really mouthwatering clash of personalities. Using the son to take on the father.

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