‘Buddha’: Zee’s Sunday treat for its viewers

MUMBAI: A lot has been written and spoken about ‘the enlightened one’ but this is the first time someone has attempted to capture his life on screen. ‘It was my vision to do a conceptualised show like this on Indian television’, says Spice Studios founder and chairman and also producer of the show Dr BK Modi.

Come 8 September, Sunday mornings are going to be much more informative and educational where the viewers will be taken to the life and journey of Buddha every Sunday at 11:00 am. The series will be an hour long and replacing Ramayan, which unfortunately has not been getting good ratings.

Bharat Kumar Ranga Ranga feels that the epic is not only meant for Indians or Indians living abroad, but it will also have an international appeal to it as well

Zeel and Essel group chairman Subhash Chandra exults: “We have been working with many researchers and experts on the subject. We are delighted to partner with Spice Studios to present a new series which is never-before-seen biopic on television on the life of Buddha.”

The channel feels that the show is going to create waves around the country since the life of the Buddha would be shown for the first time on Indian television. Told in 52 gripping episodes, the series will be an entertaining action drama that will showcase the unexplored life of Buddha as Siddhartha.

It was always Modi’s desire to showcase the life of Buddha. It is interesting to note that this was supposed to be made into a feature film. Modi had begun work on a film based on the same subject with filmmakers Shekhar Kapur and Ashutosh Gowariker helming the research and script development and was also in talks with Hollywood’s renowned scribe David Wault. But he has finally chosen the small screen to fulfill his wishful endeavour.

He clarifies: “There is a lot to show on this subject and it was not possible for it to wrap up in just three hours. The scope of television today is larger than films and we wanted Buddha’s story to unfold in all its splendour and reach out to the largest denominator of people possible. Only TV can give us that reach, especially Zee, with its international reach spanning over 169 countries.”

Asking whether this attempt to revive the morning slot for weekend work with the audiences, a top-placed media planner on the basis on anonymity answers: “Apart from the 90s when Ramayan and Mahabharat worked, nothing has really clicked in the Sunday morning slot. Star tried to relive it by getting Satyamev Jayate and it did work for it. Apart from that the slot is not very attractive.”

Dr BK Modi and Subhash Chandra want Buddha's story to unfold in all its splendour and reach out to the largest denominator of people possible

Further adding: “But since no one has tried with Budhdha earlier maybe it will attract some eyeballs. But overall it is the treatment which matters. Let’s wait and watch if it will be able to relive the slot.”

But on the other hand, Modi is quite confident that the historic epic will entertain the viewers. And the audience will get to learn a lot and the show will be the reference point for researchers.

Adds Modi: “Ramayan and Mahabharat gained huge success when it started, but audiences started losing interest from the time it was repeatedly made by different channels. If one show is made in a different way by different directors, it obviously loses its charm and uniqueness. The reason these shows are not working well today is because people have already had enough of it and have seen the same thing but in different avatars.”

The magnum opus has an international appeal with its grand scale, opulent sets at the Film City spread over a sprawling four acre plot. The promos which are already on-air are quite impressive with state-of-art 3D graphics being used to re-create the look and feel of a bygone era. Moreover, well-researched costumes have been bought out of Jodhpur and Jaipur. Customised jewellery has been sourced from Patna and will bring alive the majestic lifestyles of the royal family of that time.

It has been more than two months that the entire cast and crew has started shooting and approximately 15-20 episodes have been canned at the time of writing.

The channel has roped in Syska LED as the presenting sponsor and is powered by Crystal. On the promotions side, the promos are already on the television screens and one can see them focusing and promoting on the OOH platform as well.

To top it all, Zeel chief content and creative officer Bharat Kumar Ranga feels proud to come up with such a huge show. He says: “We have concentrated in capturing the life of Buddha and the transition from prince Siddhartha to Gautama Buddha. But the life itself provides such a great dramatic possibilities that we have realised there is one story which is untold in India and worldwide and many people do not know about it. Therefore this will capture the attention because there is a value in this particular proposition.”

The ensemble cast of Buddha

He further adds: “Many years of research work has gone behind this. We knew that internationally there will be a lot of misconceptions so therefore we thought of not focusing on Buddhism instead we focused only on the life of Buddha. A lot of investments has gone behind the extensive research.”

Zee and Spice are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to perfection and showing people the facts. They also wrote to Buddhists communities across the world largely in Asia pacific, asking for their valuable inputs. “The idea was to pre-inform them, so if at all somebody has some inputs they can provide it to us; otherwise we have done our research very thoroughly. Modi’s team has done a great job ensuring that every single thing is presented correctly as possible and factually as possible”, says Ranga.

Ranga also feels that it is not only meant for Indians or Indians living abroad, but it will have an international appeal to it as well.

Amongst the cast, veteran actor Kabir Bedi will be seen making a comeback to acting after a long hiatus. Others on the list are Samir Dharmadhikari, Nigaar Khan, Deepak Upadhyay, Gungun Uprari and Siddhartha Vasudev.

“It should set a benchmark for the people, a point of reference. Our expectations are that people should truly enjoy this. We believe that it will add a lot to people’s lives and it will be beyond those TVTs and viewerships”, Ranga signs off.

Though the channel has not yet thrown any light on who will portray the character of ‘the enlightened one’. We hope this Buddha brings a smile to the channel and its viewers

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