MUMBAI: It may not have been the first television station to go functional in the country, but Doordarshan's Mumbai kendra can, as it turns 31 today, lay claim to being the best of the clutch of government owned stations running in India at present.
The TV Tower and Sahyadri, which houses DDK Mumbai's offices
It rarely gets the opportunity to blow its trumpet or extol the virtues of behind the scenes executives who mastermind some of the most popular shows on TV. But figures speak for themselves. While newly come rivals Alpha and ETV throw around hefty TRPs and reach figures, the humble DD Sahyadri is often the leader, unacknowleded, of many programming initiatives and ground events.
Burdened as it is with the onerous task of marrying entertainment with mass appeal to social messaging, Sahyadri has nevertheless succeeded in making a hit out of genres that most others did not know existed.
Sabira Merchant - 'What's the Good Word?' was one of the most popular indoor sports in the 70s
Scratch the profiles of some of the most well known television professionals today, and a connection with DDK Mumbai surfaces. Well know producer director Vinay Apte is a DD alumnus, as is former Zee TV president and now independent producer Madhavi Mutatkar. Sabira Merchant with her What's the Good Word, Tabassum with her Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan and Kamleshwar with his Chakravyuh all cut their professional teeth while at DD Mumbai in the 70s, while newsreaders Dolly Thakur, Harish Bhimani, Bhakti Barve, Smita Patil all became known faces thanks to the channel.
It wasn't exactly lack of competition that allowed DD Mumbai to rule the minds and time schedules of Bombayites in the '70s and '80s when DD National spawned the technicolour Metro as a rival. Shows like Gajra, Marathi plays, even series like Chimanrao and Shwetambara were the stuff that classy shows are made of today. Mutatkar, who joined DD as a rookie back in the 70s and climbed through the ranks, says celebrity talk shows like Rooperi which she initiated on DD Mumbai, and variety entertainment programme Gajra were later replicated by several other channels. "Stalwarts like Vijaya Dhumale whom I worked under, taught us the importance of groundwork required to mount a good programme," she says.
Mutatkar also worked with Meena Vaishnavi, who came from a NFDC background, and who was responsible for launching Shwetambara, the first drama series ever to be telecast on DD. "These were the teachings that came in handy when I later mounted the Alpha channels for Zee," she says.
This table shows percentage cumulative reach of Marathi channels in Maharashtra (for week 14 Sept to 20 Sept 2003)-
CHANNELS MUMBAI MAHARASHTRA
TV Households Cable Households TV Households Cable Households
Sahyadri 44.7 37.7 72.2 53.9
Alpha-Marathi 23.0 30.0 19.6 43.3
Eenadu-Marathi 22.4 29.2 23.5 51.8
While satellite rivals have managed to steal a considerable part of the thunder from the programming that was DDK Mumbai's hallmark, the channel that was re-christened Sahyadri three years ago to give it a fresh image and identity, continues to soldier on with innovative content ideas. While its interactive phone in talk show Hello Sakhi inspired a near cult following in the state, spawning similar shows on rival channels, the latest from DD Sahyadri is Jokes Apart, a five minute vignette show with a social message built in.
This table shows weekly time spent in watching (minutes) (for week 14 Sept to 20 Sept 2003)-
CHANNELS MUMBAI MAHARASHTRA
Sahyadri 64 141
Alpha-Marathi 25 12
Eenadu-Marathi 20 22
"Every joke that we will tell on the programme will have a deeper message in it about issues like AIDS, education, drinking and driving, use of mobile phones while driving etc. So in a rather light hearted manner we will be spreading a lot of awareness," says station director Mukesh Sharma, known for changing the look and image of the channel among advertisers in the three years he has taken over.
This table shows percentage weekly channel shares (for week 14 Sept to 20 Sept 2003)-
CHANNELS MUMBAI MAHARASHTRA
Sahyadri 7 14
Alpha-Marathi 3 1
Eenadu-Marathi 3 3
Speaking on DDK Mumbai's 31st anniversary, Sharma spoke at length about the channel's initiatives, strategies, role and acheivements in the past years. "There are a lot of new initiatives and plans lined up. Changes are always there. It is a constant process but it takes time. If we want to bring about a change in our strategy, it will take time to implement it," Sharma says.
Talking about their programming strategy Sharma said, "We are focussed as a public broadcaster and our programming is very relevant. We have education awareness programmes and programmes with a message. It is easy to make a saas bhi kabhi bahu thi type serial but programming with the aim of spreading awareness among the public is not easy. To cater to all this, Shayadri has a very important role to play."
Award winning shows of DD Mumbai over the years-
PROGRAMME PRODUCER YEAR
Gift of Love Smt.Shukla Das 1976
Alap Smt.Shukla Das 1978
Chimanrao Smt.Vijaya Joglekar-Dhumale 1978
Dardmaya Shri Vinay Dhumale 1979
Shwetambara Smt.Meena Vaishnavi 1984
Smruti Chitre Shri Vinayak Chaskar 1984
Educational Prog Smt.Neena Raut 1984/85
Ashrit (Play) Shri Vinayak Chaskar 1985
From darkness to light(Educational prog) Shri B.K.Giri 1985
Green Gold Shri Shivaji Fulsunder 1989
Ranjai Smt.Meena Gokhale 1990
Tak Dhina Dhin Smt.Neena Raut 2001
Saapshidi (Sindhi) Shri Kishan Meghani 2001
Option (Skit) Shri Sharan Birajdar 2001
Hello Sakhi Smt Shailaja Pandya 2002
Hello Sakhi Smt Sheela Junnarkar 2002
While the 30th anniversary of DD Sahyadri was a quiet affair, marked by a low key launch of its website (first DD kendra to do so, after DD Jaipur), the 31st birthday is to be marked in some style. The third edition of the DD Awards are to be held in Mumbai on 22 November. The channel has also lined up a new year special programme. The packaging and marketing of the newly launched Friday films slot will be done by DDK Mumbai. "We have also bagged a lush package of R.K Films worth 20 million rupees. To add to this DD Metro is also coming up with a news channel. So there are a lot of things lined up for DD and we have our hands full," says an enthused Sharma.
DDK Mumbai station director Mukesh Sharma
He has reason to be. DD Mumbai has always been pro active when it came to bringing in changes in the pubcaster's functioning. Mumbai was the first Kendra in India to go digital, to start regional networking by linking all the transmitters in Maharastra with Mumbai thus fulfilling the public demand of programmes in its own language. When afternoon transmission was started on 26 January 1989, it was DDK Mumbai which provided the software. Similiarly, the movie channel started in 1995 was managed from Mumbai.
After the influx of satellite television, DD Mumbai began life anew as DD-10, a regional language satellite service that started broadcast from 1 October 1993, providing programmes in Marathi to C&S TV homes all over the country. The duration of telecast was increased to 17 hours per day from 1 January 2000. From 5 April 2000, DD-10 was renamed DD Sahyadri and started round the clock transmission.
Talking about DD's USP, Sharma says the reach itself is the USP of the channel. "It can go to places where no other channel can. We are primarily a social programming channel. We cater to the citizens of the country and not to the commercial lot of shareholders," said Sharma.
Talking about sources of revenue for the terrestrial channel, Sharma said, "Like any other market player we sell our time slot. The packaging and presenting has to be as glamourous and attractive as it can be. We sell our time slots directly and we also have other people marketing for us. We don't have the single window system in marketing like most others do."
Last year, DD Mumbai managed to get Rs 180 million worth of business for the channel. "When we did business for the National network last year, we spent Rs 1.5 million and earned Rs eight million in return," says Sharma. On the DD Awards last year, DD Mumbai which played host, spent Rs four million and cashed in eight million rupees from it. Chitrahaar and Rangoli, the weekly film music shows, marketed by DD Mumbai, continue to be the cash cows for DD, earning over 90 million rupees.
About the difference between DD National and DDK Mumbai, Sharma says, "DD Delhi caters to the nation and does not specifically cater to the regional audience, whereas DDK Mumbai specifically caters to the Marathi speaking audience." While DD Delhi does it own programming, DDK outsources too.