Max looking to mix Bollywood and cricket with new shows, signs deal with NDTV and TWI

MUMBAI: Cricket with personality, fun and plenty of doses of masala! That is the treat MAX the film and cricket channel from the Sony stable has lined up for cricket and non-cricket fans.

Last night at a press conference in Mumbai the channel announced the launch of two new shows 'Kapil Dil Se' hosted by Sony's brand ambassador Kapil Dev and 'Cricket Masala' hosted by Ruby Bhatia. In addition the channel also announced that it has signed on NDTV and TWI to produce the programmes in a manner that is "stylish and invigorating."

On hand to explain the strategy were the two hosts as well as Executive VP and Business Head MAX Rajat Jain who said: "When we acquired the exclusive C&S rights for the ICC tournaments we saw the franchise as an opportunity to expand the viewer base to include women and children. The shows are the first in a slew of programming which will aim at making the ICC a fusion of sports and entertainment without diluting the passion which cricket arouses. We are aiming to go beyond the die hard cricket fan."

We are well aware of the fact that innovation is the name of the game and so these two shows fit in well with our profile. The vignettes that TWI will make on 'Cricket Masala' will be stylish and snappy. NDTV is producing 'Kapil Dil Se' for us." 

However there have been misleading reports that suggest that MAX is moving towards becoming a sports channel. That is not our aim. We see ourselves as a movies and events channel and in India cricket is the single biggest event. MAX is and will continue to be a two in one hybrid channel like Channel Nine in Australia." 'Kapil Dil Se' will start mid-August and will air every Friday at 8:30 pm. The show will see the former all-rounder making his television debut. He will visit neighbourhoods of cricketers where they grew up and got their start. In this first section 'Gullies of Fame' viewers can see Ajay Jadeja's school, meet Yuvraj Singhs coach etc. Then the show spends time in the company of Bollywood stars Like Aamir Khan, Anil Kapoor. Kapil will try to uncover why they succeed in their professions and what qualities they have that others lack.

Finally Kapil and a cricketer talk about interesting stories from the field like why former explosive opener Krish Srikanth would rather forget his test match debut.

Speaking on the initiative Kapil said: "Max and I have been talking for six months. I see the alliance as a new innings for myself and a chance to give back to the game all the fame and rewards it has brought me over the years. Although I do not consider myself to be a very good speaker the concept of the show appealed to me from the start. I knew that I would enjoy myself doing this and for me that is most important. If you do not enjoy what you are doing then you will not be able to explore your full potential." 

Different people have different roles to perform. Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar have fluent speaking skills and so they became commentators. Venkatraghavan has a stern demeanour and so he has taken on the official role of umpiring." 

Talking about the increasing awareness about the game Kapil said, "The main reason for this is the amount of sports kids can watch on television. Ten years ago all you had was a sports block on Doordarshan. Since then there has been a huge boom in the broadcasting arena. We however, still have some way to go before cricket can be considered a profession in the country. Sports is till by the way. Most Indians are merely good spectators. However I have noticed a gradual shift in approach in the attitude of parents towards cricket. They do not mind it so much if their kids want to emulate Sachin Tendulkar. In Nagpur when I went to play gully cricket there were 12,000 fans wanting to play. This Sunday I am travelling to Pune. When I was young the opportunity to play with a cricketer was not there."

The other show 'Cricket Masala' hosted by Ruby Bhatia will start on 18 August and will air every Sunday at 8:30 pm. The show will feature news and gossip both on and off the field. The show has different segments like 'Garam Masala' where the show delves behind the hot topic of the week. ' Cricket Se Aage' showcases cricketers of the past and trace their career to the present. The highlight of the show is 'Kya Thanda Kya Garam' which gives viewers all the gossip and buzz surrounding cricketing stars.

The initiative marks a new innings for Ruby Bhatia as well who has been seen on the tube as a VJ. She said: " When the concept was brought up initially I was bowled over. Since I was brought up in Canada I missed out on the childhood excitement associated with the sport. Coming to India I discovered that cricket is not just a mere passion. It is an obsession. Cricketers are ambassadors of the country and so we are intrigued by different aspects of their personal and professional lives. My aim in the show will be to ignite passion among the uninitiated. Cricket is catchy, racy, invigorating, captivating exciting and tumultuous. This is an excellent example of innovative programming and being in touch with what the viewer wants."

"The show will present the content in an informal manner so that viewers can relax and chill. However, all information will be well researched by our team so that it is not left hanging in the air," she said. 

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