"Audiences will make time for Govinda's show" : Rekha Nigam-Sony programming head

Friday the 26th! The first episode of Sony Entertainment Television?s long awaited gameshow "Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke" (JCPK) will go on air and the clock is furiously ticking away. JCPK, which marks film star host Govinda?s television debut, will be telecast three days a week (Friday through to Sunday) targeting weekend watchers. There?s a hive of activity at Sony?s corporate offices in Mumbai?s western suburb of Andheri. After all a lot is riding on a show which Sony hopes will set the stage for the channel to make a play for the number one position currently held by Star Television. And at the centre of it all is Rekha Nigam, senior vice-president, programming and production. She?s here, there and everywhere trying make sure that all is perfect for D-Day. managed to get her at a free moment for a chat on what JCPK and the show?s one man laugh riot Govinda have to offer.

"Audiences will make time to stay glued to Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke"

How has Govinda come across as a host? And how has his interaction with the audience been?

He?s very down to earth and totally transparent which is reflected in his relationship with the audience. I?m sure this will come across quite clearly in the shows themselves. He?s also very uninhibited in his interaction with the public, which was a problem for us as far as the security detail was concerned. In fact in Film City (in the western Mumbai suburb of Goregaon where the shootings were held) he was quite happy to sit in a chair outside instead of in the enclosure set out for him. We had our work cut out keeping the crowds at bay.

So how has it been working with Govinda?

It?s been quite amazing all in all. You never know what to expect with him and his spontaneity and sheer energy is to be seen to be believed. He?s a brilliant mimic so there?s never been a dull moment when he?s around.


What of his Late Latif ways? There are all these reports of how his chronic inability to keep to schedules is causing havoc with your budgets.

I?d like to state here that there?s been too much made of this issue. Govinda has his own rythm of working and he has given enough of his time to the show. If the point is that he came late on the sets it should also be noted that at times he was willing to work way into the night to a point where we were all pooped out but he was charged up enough to continue. He has only once held up a shoot and that was due to very valid personal reasons, which need not be discussed here.

So have you managed to keep to your budgets or not? See, when we take on someone like Govinda we know what the score is so all these problems as you call it are factored in. If we were to sign a contract with someone like Amitabh Bachchan we would approach the whole thing differently. Everybody has different ways of working. One has to be clued into it and handle it accordingly.

What about dates? The top actors are often accused of committing to too many projects thereby sending schedules for a toss.

Govinda committed a full month of shootings for JCPK, which was something that had clearly been established at the time of signing him on. From mid-December to mid-January, JCPK was the only project he was involved with and we canned 15 episodes in that period.

When have you scheduled the next set of shoots?

They will be from the 12th to 26th of February.

The show was supposed to go on air on 5 January if I?m not mistaken. Why the 20-day delay?

That is incorrect. The only other date we had discussed was 12 January. But we finally settled for 26 January (India?s Republic Day) as the most opportune.

Speaking of budgets, the show is said to cost Sony Rs 700 million a year. What kind of TRPs (television rating points) will you need on an average to make it all worth your while?

Don?t ask me about TRPs and such. My brief was to make a great show, which the public will love and I think I have done that.

Okay, I?ll rephrase that. What sort of TRPs do you think will make your advertisers happy?

They?re already happy. (Sony has five sponsors - Electrolux, Coca Cola, Godrej, Hindustan Lever, Proctor & Gamble and Videocon - lined up at present who have paid between Rs 250,000 to Rs 275,000 for every 10 seconds of air time)

Let?s move on. You have slotted JCPK in the weekend slot, which seems a good strategy in that you avoid a head-to-head with Kaun Banega Crorepati (Star TV?s blockbuster gameshow which has set the benchmark for the genre in India). Have you any contingency for increasing the screening span if the show takes off as you hope?

I can?t say that it is completely ruled out because you can never be totally certain in this business. But JCPK has been conceptualised and designed as a weekend viewing programme and that?s how we?re looking at it.

Star TV and Zee are certainly not going to be sitting back while you JCPK readies for take-off. We can expect a whole slew of blockbuster films from their stables, which might just take the sheen of your show. Your own weekend movie slots have been moved up to the 9:00 pm slot. Have you thought of working other programmes around JCPK to strengthen its position?

Nothing of the sort. We believe in the show and expect it to survive on its own merits. We have no plans to build programming around JCPK as some kind of buffer against whatever our rivals may come up with.

The distinct advantage that Kaun Banega Crorepati had was in the timing. It allowed most office goers time to get back home with the whole family together. The weekends are much more difficult to pin down as far as audiences go. People go out, see movies, whatever. What do you have to say for that?

As I said JCPK is a great show and we believe the audiences will make the time to stay glued.

Talking of great shows. The team behind it certainly couldn?t be better. You have Nitin Desai who?s designed the sets, quizmaster Derek O?Brien, dance choreographer Ganesh Acharya, music by Leslie Lewis and Ajay Kapoor in the director?s chair and of course yourself. With such a great set of creative minds involved, the expectations are sky-high. It?s gonna be a long drop down if you guys should fail to bring them in.

I guess the buck will have to stop with me on that score. We?ve given it our best shot. Now it?s for the audience to decide.

Looking ahead. The Balaji Films-produced Kusum is the next big project on your plate. Will it adhere to the blueprint successfully standardised with the super success of the film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun? Stories built around upper middle class, upper caste Hindu extended families and their internal politics.

I don?t know what you critics have against Hum Aapke Hain Kaun? That a film released way back in 1994 can still have such an impact says something. Anyway, coming to Kusum, as the name implies the story revolves around and is about one woman. It will of course have the sub-plots involving the characters linked to her story.

When will it go on air?

I can?t give you an exact date on that one. (Ekta Kapoor, the producer of Kusum, has said in an interview to the Times of India that she?s looking at a March release)

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