Madhuri and the business of match making

MUMBAI: A gamble more than two years in the making is about to be played out on Sony from Monday. 

At stake are not only the futures of a score of young girls who are out to choose a life partner on the show, but also the reputation of a film star fighting to retain her star value after matrimony and that of a television channel which is making a pitch for the number one position by risking its prime time on a novel reality show never before tried on television.

All the ingredients of success have been carefully measured out and weighed in the making of Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai, or K3H as the channel prefers to call it. Madhuri Dixit supplies not only the glamour attraction but also the credibility that a star who opted for a conventional arranged marriage could offer. That it will touch the lives of ordinary girls with the combined romance of a Dil To Pagal Hai and the traditional touch of a Hum Aapke Hain Kaun adds to the voyeuristic pleasure viewers can derive from this unique reality show. 

It might just be a mite more than coincidence that the channel is telecasting Dil To Pagal Hai tonight with the line Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai running consistently through the promos for the film. 

UTV, the producers of the show, have obviously not spared any efforts in the match making. According to Zarina Mehta, each family that appears on the show is researched thoroughly as regards their background, claims and promises. The three prospective bridegrooms who make it to the shortlist of every girl, have to undergo medical tests as well. Madhuri, she says, spends several hours with every family to put them at ease and relieve any tension that might manifest on screen. Nevertheless, while a confident Madhui waltzes effortlessly through the scenes where she introduces the families and gets them to interact (helped along by a well written script by Sutapa Sikdar), the participating families' camera consciousness does bring a stilted edge to the otherwise smooth flow.

Shooting a four days a week reality show on this scale has not been easy either, says director Leena Yadav. An entire day's interaction between the families and Madhuri, shot on an intricately designed set (Nitin Desai's handiwork) within a hotel is encapsulated into a half hour episode. Eight cameras capture the goings on as Madhuri chats, smiles and cajoles the participants into lively conversation. 44 episodes, covering 11 selected girls have already been canned and Yadav says she plans to include more "behind the scenes" coverage and improvise as the show gathers momentum. Already, with the promos beaming on Sony, the phone has not stopped ringing at UTV's office, where a team of nearly 250 is engaged in sorting, selecting and matching prospective couples. A few of the girls who have appeared on the show have already tied the knot, but UTV is not telling more.

Sikdar, who says she was initially wary of taking on this kind of a show, says she often has to improvise on the sets as "it is very difficult to envisage how Madhuri will react to a certain situation. It is not about mothers and mothers in law who are well-dressed and simpering, but very real," she adds.

The team has had its taxing moments too, when elements like dowry and horoscope edge in. "First, there was the traditional matchmaker, then classified ads, then ads on the Internet. We are simply pushing the envelope in matchmaking," says Mehta. 

The show is being promoted conventionally - hoardings, radio spots, on air promos, print ads and ads on cable channels. "With a show which has Madhuri in it, we didn't really have to anything special to promote it," says a SET official.

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