MUMBAI: National Geographic Channel (NGC) unveiled its final big programming of the year 2003 today (Thursday).
The channel has announced the premiere of Secrets Unveiled, a 52-minute, eight-episode series starting 2 November (Sunday) - which promises to take viewers to some of the most restricted places in the world.
NGC's veteran photographer, Reza Deghati, was in the city to promote the series. Reza has been involved in conceptualising, photographing and packaging two shows in the series - Inside Mecca and In the Forbidden Zone. The other episodes include Inside the Vatican, Inside the White House, Inside Air Force One, Inside the Pentagon, Inside Soviet Circus and Inside NFL Films.
Inside Mecca will take viewers on the annual pilgrimage to Islam's holiest city through the lens of Reza.
Nat Geo takes us Inside Mecca in Secrets Unveiled
Reza says the entire experience of travelling through Mecca as well as the forbidden areas of Afghanistan was spectacular. "At Mecca, it is a whole new experience to see faith in such magnitude. Year after year, millions of devout Hajjis come to this place and follow a passionate and spiritual journey of faith and prayer. At this point, it does not matter whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Jews or Christians. What touches you is the conviction - their belief."
Nat Geo's photojournalist Reza follows the pilgrims of Mecca through his lens
The episode - which will precede the rest- will focus on the personal stories of three Hajjis making the journey to engage in the rituals of Hajj.
Forbidden Zone documents Reza's journey through Afghanistan in the months of November and December 2000, to meet up with his friend, commander Masood.
Besides these two episodes, Reza is fascinated by Inside the Vatican. "The episode explores the Vatican and shows viewers that it is more than just the Pope."
Reza - who has been working with the National Geographic Society for 13 years - has tracked war-torn regions like Afghanistan, Rwanda and Egypt in the past. He says, "I am attracted by freedom and justice. I want to convey to the people that the notion of war goes against the notions of freedom and humanity. I go around these countries, photographing the pathos, because I want people to register how mundane war is. And I think photography has the power to change people's perspectives." His best photos are his searing images of oppressed and helpless children.
Inside the Vatican explores the unknown world of the Vatican
About his experience with Nat Geo he says, "With them, I have had the opportunity to explore the unexplored and go into places that no one has been before." Reza sees all his assignments as the best. "That's how I capture the best scenes in my lens," he explains.
Secrets Unveiled, he says, does not just bring the world's restricted areas to the spotlight but also goes beyond what is talked about. "Usually, when a pilgrimage site is discussed, it's just about people thronging to the places of worship. But Nat Geo pushes its focus right into the real scene - the frenzy, the faith. The entire story is told to the people."
Reza believes that National Geo's aim is to "increase and diffuse knowledge" literally (The Society's credo is 'for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge'). "It's an institution with values and that's what I am defending," he adds.
NGC's assistant V-P (marketing) Puneet Johar says about Secrets Unveiled, "The series is an example of our compelling programming. We want to bring to the viewers a credible and entertaining programme." The series' on air promos goes, 'Eight restricted places, only Nat Geo can take you there'. Johar ensures that the channel will keep its promise.
About NGC's other initiatives in India, Johar says, "We recently had Kapil Dev promoting the Science of Sports show. We want to illustrate the scientific aspect of every sport including cricket. The spin bowling, batting, fielding - all have a science behind it. By getting Dev to promote the show, we got credibility for the show."
To promote their major programming in 2004 Mission Mars, NGC plans to rope in some local talents, Johar says, but refuses to divulge further at present.
"Besides NGC has Indyeah!, a two-hour block on Thursdays from 8-10 pm which shows various aspects of the country - the people, wildlife, the tribes and so on," Johar informs.
As for Reza, he states that while India does interest him, he is still hoping to find a story, a subject to delve into, here.