MUMBAI: Niche channel Discovery is upping the ante on India-specific programming under its Discover India block.
Discover India, a one-hour series focusing on various facades of the country, airs every Saturday at 9 pm.
A still from 'Aakash Yodha'
It was with an aim to highlight its Discover India band that the channel premiered Aakash Yodha, a documentary film on military aviation, its technology and mystiques, at a special screening at the NCPA, Mumbai, today. The show which celebrates Indian Air Force Day (IAF) which falls tomorrow (8 october), will be aired on 11 October. The IAF formally came into existence on 8 October 1932.
Range of shows
Discovery Communication India's marketing director Aditya Tripathi says, "We have planned a number of shows on India for the Discover India series. We believe that some of them are very interesting and are bound to get the attention of viewers."
The shows lined up for the series include one on Sikhism and the Sikh deity Gurunanak (around the time of his birth anniversary, 8 November), a show on the Buddha and one on the Patiala necklace and its legacy. Besides there are some other cultural shows on the anvil, Tripathi says.
Discovery's show on celebrations with light
Surprisingly, the channel has planned nothing for Diwali (which falls on 25 October). "But we do have a show on 'celebration with light' around the world. This show will focus on celebrations and fireworks in US, China and India among other countries." The show will be featured in their Festival Special on 24 October.
According to Tripathi, Nefertiti, their last big show proved to be very successful among viewers worldwide. "We know this from the feedback we got, the viewership figures and fan mails. There have been requests from viewers to rerun Nefertiti."
Coming up next on the lines of Nefertiti is a show on 14 December, marking 100 years of flight since the Wright Brothers invented their first aircraft, Kitty Hawk. The show is called A Celebration of Flight.
Tripathi says, time and again, media research done in India has been putting Discovery's India-specific shows on the most watched slot among English channels. "Our Discover India series has now remained the most watched shows for almost the past two to three weeks," he explains, continuing, "Right now we have it as a weekly block. But if we keep getting such encouraging responses we could probably make it a daily half-hour block." However, he says there is no concrete plan on that yet.
About gathering more viewership around the world, he says, "We are constantly thinking of ideas, programming and marketing strategies to keep up our popularity. Obviously, specific blocks like the Women's Hour, Healthy Living and Late Night Discovery are working too."
He says, "We are in the process of purchasing the rights of various films in India. Aakash Yodha was bought similarly from (husband-wife director duo Kunal) Verma and (Dipti) Bhalla." He explains that Discovery had called on Indian directors to send in applications for selling their films and received over 2,000 responses. "We pick the cream after careful viewing of various films," he says.
An unusual approach
Aakash Yodha is a 48-minute film that captures the diverse roles played by the air force during war and peace - including warfare, transportation of troops, medical supplies, defence operations, training activities and testing infrastructures. Shot in the Kargil, Siachen and the southern most corner of Nicobar Island (the Indira Point) after the war, the show explains military details and strategies during combat.
But it treats the subject a trifle unusually - instead of recounting the actual operation during war, Aakash Yodha takes us on a journey featuring the various aircrafts used in operations - like the Russian built AN-32 and IL-76 and the MIG 21 among others. Everything from the usefulness of a certain aircraft for a specific function, to the science behind the metal and shape given for various aircrafts is discussed in the feature.
According to director Bhalla, "This film takes a wider canvas while describing the military activities. It has a panoramic approach to give a complete feel. We have done everything to communicate exactly what we experienced during the filming."
Partner Verma says, it took six months "and a little more" to shoot Aakash Yodha. Recounting the experience of staying with IAF for so long, and fixing cameras on the underbelly of Jaguars to get aerial footage, Verma says, "We hardly faced any difficulty during the shooting. Working with IAF was so exhilarating that while there were some niggling problems, there was none that seemed important."