Television

UTV hopes three new shows on Zee hit the mark

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It's not just Zee TV that has a lot riding on the new programming initiative that it instituted recently. Ronnie Screwvallah-promoted television production major United Television Ltd (UTV) has three of its shows in the Zee list and hopes they have the sort of impact that will take a bit of the spotlight away from Balaji Telefilms which presently has a lock on the hit lists.

All three new shows are key cogs in Zee's re-launch initiative and are already on air. Two shows in particular - Choti Maa Ek Anokha Bandhan (the remake of Chithi which smashed all TRP records on leading Tamil language channel Sun TV) and Sarhadein which has a storyline that is bound to raise conservative hackles (credit should go here to Sandeep Goyal, broadcasting CEO, Zee telefilms, who showed guts to accept and support the concept) - are very crucial to Zee as well as UTV. The third show Hip Hip Hurrray-II, sequel to the old hit series on Zee, will also be watched closely.

Choti Maa ....is being jointly produced by Radaan Mediaworks - producers of the original Chithi as well as Koteshwaran (a Kaun Banega Crorepati clone) which went off air recently and UTV. When asked about arrangement between the two, Radaan's M R Mohan Ratha says: 'We provide the creative inputs for the show, and they are looking after production.' The rights for the show however, will remain with Zee TV.





Elaborating on the creative aspects, Ratha says the story is the same. We have adapted it for a Hindi-speaking audience. Queried as to why the serial had a "look" similar to South Indian films Roja or Virasaat, he explains that we have taken care in all respects that the show is for North Indian audience, so in every respect the creative have been made suitable to suit the environment. "We are shooting in the village of Pandharpur in south Maharashtra." According to Ratha, the Roja like look is a result of the high quality production. "We are treating it like a film, there is no compromise on the quality."



The crew has already completed shooting for the first 30 episodes. As for the competition, the serial is pitted against Kkusum on Sony which has steadily been gaining ground on the ratings charts and the Amitabh Bachchan-hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati on Star Plus. While the enthusiasm for KBC has been flagging it is the Balaji-produced 'Kkusum' that stands in the way of Choti Maa' making a mark. "We are looking at TRPs of 5 within the next three months. That much time is required for the serial to make its impact," BS Radhakrishnan, director, Radaan, said.

Vaishnavi, who plays the lead role in Choti Maa says: "I am making all efforts from my side to make this role a memorable one." Vaishnavi has had notable roles in Chingari on Zee and made a name for herself in the lead role of the hit serial Shaktimaan on national broadcaster Doordarshan's main channel.

Sarhadein, set in Malaysia, is the story of an Indian girl who falls in love with a Pakistani boy. It is the story of hope and love and tries to draw on the essential similarities between the antagonistic neighbours. A radical plot line if one accepts the prevailing wisdom that the target audience of serials in India, is the upper middle class, upper caste north Indian housewife, 25-30 years old from the Hindi heartland. Though most programming heads would shy away from such a politically incorrect definition, that about sums up the core audience that is being addressed.

How Sarhadein will be received remains a question, especially at a time when jingoistic sentiments are at an all-time high and macho chest beating "patriotic" offerings like the Zee-produced Gaddar has smashed many a box office record.

Associate creative director Neeraj Naik is extremely positive that his show will work and says he deliberately chose a script off the beaten track. For the time slot it airs (11:00 pm) Sarhadein is doing very well thank you, he asserts. It is averaging 1.5 TRPs, he says and he firmly believes it will have an impact. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the 11:00 pm slot means it is 9:30 in the Gulf region, and 10:00 pm in Pakistan - prime time in those territories.



Provided that Naik can keep the story from falling between two stools in trying to cater to everybody, the success or otherwise of Sarhadein should prove interesting watching.

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