Zee's search for 'India's best' comes to 'city of dreams'

MUMBAI: "We have a thriving film industry, but of late there isn't any fresh talent coming in, this is our way of getting in some," offered Zee Telefilms CMD Subhash Chandra about his flagship channel's latest initiative - India's Best Cinestar Ki Khoj.

While magnanimously calling the event a "team" effort, Chandra also opined that the current film fraternity has been giving a lot of stock performances (Shahrukh Khan are you listening?) and being a film producer themselves, Zee TV's parent Essel Group needed to take stock of it.

On a surprise visit to the auditions location at SNDT grounds in Mumbai, Chandra was checking out the turnout and auditioning process. While speaking to, he did mention that he was happy with the turnout and some of the talent on show.

Though the talent hunt was aimed at discovering "personalities", the dearth of good lookers stuck out like a sore thumb. But there were quite a few exceptional talents that outshone the rest, which prompted the management to institute a couple of "brilliant" performance certificates. "If we get an Om Puri or a Nasserudin Shah caliber talent, we are not going to shove them aside just because they don't fare well in the looks department," offered one of the jury members Kishor Namit Kapoor.

As regards today's turnout, by the end of the day's proceedings 3,000 contestants had auditioned. The Zee team is expecting at least 5,000 tomorrow.

"Mera Number Kab Aayega": Participants waiting patiently for their turn

Said, Zee TV president Sunil Khanna, "The turnout is better than expected. Plus it is just the first day of the event. In fact, looking at the (quality of) talent we are planning to upscale the finalist numbers."

When quizzed about reports that Lucknow had far more to offer by way of talent, he said, "We knew what to expect in Mumbai, so there is not much of a surprise here. But our event is not about launching talent from big cities. It is about tapping the hidden talent in the far flung towns across the country." And it is not just for the movies that some of the chosen ones will be taken. "We will be looking at handpicking a few for our serials as well," said Khanna.

Queried as to how the whole thing would translate when telecast on TV, Khanna offered, "It is a good concept and it is not just about a reality or a talent hunt. So we are quite optimistic."

While the talent on show might not have impressed, the way the event was managed definitely deserved a thumbs up. Nowhere did the crowd seem unruly or restless.

The on-ground in-charge, Alpha Marathi Sr veep Nitin Vaidya offered, "I have been working hands on with the event. Everyone in the team has had their task explained well. Also we haven't really spared any cost."

Backed by a huge promotional blitz, the ambitious endeavour has many firsts to boast of --- like the simultaneous four-city auditions and the innovative promotions. Ultimately though, the real test will be whether television audiences give Cinestar Ki Khoj an "India's Best" TRP rating.

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