Will Jassi turn the prime time tide for Sony?

MUMBAI: Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin is not just Sony's hope for the latter half of 2003. The Indianised version of the Hispanic show Yo Soy Betty La Fea is timed to help the channel consolidate its position in the number two position.

Jassi?, a drama on life in the fashion world, will be unveiled at the end of the Lakme India Fashion Week programming on the channel. SET is leaving nothing to chance here as it aims to push its programming envelope further.

SET India executive vice president Sunil Lulla claims that the last quarter saw Sony climbing 36 per cent in viewership in the 25-34 age group, SEC A, B and C, both male and female. An overall 20 per cent growth in viewership, a lead in the 8 pm band on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and a consequent hold on weekend programming have buoyed morale at the channel, says Lulla.

Parmeet Sethi

Jassi, the story of a plain Jane with extraordinary good sense and a sense of humour who learns to deal with and triumph over the glitzy world of fashion is targeted at the Indian woman. The Indian woman, according to Sony's research, needs a character to relate to, accompanied by fanciful settings. The Indian woman is also looking for an alternative to shows with kitchen politics and Jassi works towards strengths of this woman and fulfils her needs. Jasmeet 'Jassi' Walia's strong values will appeal to the middle class while her career goals will draw the modern Indian woman, believes Lulla. The setting of the fashion house where Jassi lands a job, will provide the requisite glamour and glitz so essential to the present day television soap

Apurva Agnihotri

Taking its association with the Fashion Week a mite further, Sony has roped in designers Satya Paul and Pria Kataria Puri to design the wardrobes of the artistes, provide consultancy for the show and help in the window dressing. Paul does the dresses for Mallika (Rakshanda Khan), the ambitious part owner of the fashion house, while Puri has helped with the other elements. While online programming head Anupama Mandloi says it is indeed a form of product placement, Lulla insists it is a mutually beneficial platform for both the designers and the channel. In the next few months, a few more well known designers will make their presence felt on the show, says Singh. 

Rakshanda Khan

The serial is scheduled to run for over 300 episodes, but will have a finite run of within a year and a half as it is confined to a pre-determined script, says producer Tony Singh. Unwilling to reveal the show's cost, he only says that the fashion house set has been constructed on 9000 square feet of land within a studio in Powai. The original Betty had a conventional finale when it wound up its run in mid 2002, showing the plain Jane Betty to have been converted into a conventional pretty girl to suit society's modes. Will Jassi? take the same course? Singh says that since he cannot tamper much with the original script, the show will run along the same lines as Betty La Fea. Film actor Apurva Agnihotri faces television cameras for the first time as the lead in Jassi?, while veteran Parmeet Sethi and Rakshanda Khan add their screen presence.

While the late evening programming has thus been changed, the afternoon band, when Jassi will be re-telecast the following day, is also to be rejigged shortly, say officials. The marketing approach of Jassi? too is radical, according to Lulla. Designed to intrigue and invoke curiosity about the still under wraps artiste who portrays Jassi, it has been differently packaged with a multi media campaign that teases the viewer with Jassi's attributes.

The original Betty La Fea (Picture courtesy

A special one hour preview show has been scheduled for 31 August, and a one hour inaugural episode on 1 September, which is when viewers will finally realise that Jassi is none other than model and MTV veejay Nafisa Joseph (or so believes). But the catch here of course is is that if the original is anything to go by, Nafisa will be sporting thick glasses and braces.

But before anyone gets the idea that this is a radical new twist to the way soaps are treated where the lead heroines have to be way up there on the looks department, think again. As the Jassi story develops, she will shed her ugly duckling image and transform herself into a beautiful executive.

A reworked Cinderella tale is what Jassi will ultimately be. But treated in a unique manner not seen before in India.

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