The 'Kahaani...' thickens...After 20 years

If the formula works, then indulge it. That seems to be Star India?s motto regarding programming strategies for this quarter. And the name of the game continues to be reinvention.

Recently, Balaji Telefilms? Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi did a fast forward by 20 years and the ploy worked. Encouraged by its success, the channel and producer Ekta Kapoor decided to do an encore for Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii as well.

Kahaani? is set in the Aggarwal household, which cherishes traditions and wears values up its sleeve, but even this serial had to follow the herd to revitalize itself.

Tina Parakh as Shruti

So on September 8, Kahaani? took an almost two-decade leap - 18 years to be precise.

A whole new bunch of ?generation next? characters were brought in. Tina Parakh (of Kahani Teri Merii fame) was introduced as Shruti, Puneet Vashisht (of Kohi Apna Sa and Kahin Toh Milenge) as Viraj and Ali Hasan (of Kya Hadsa Kya Haqeeqat) as Aryan besides debutants like Sachin Sharma as Krishna, Manasi Verma as Monalika and Karishma as Sonu. Its main characters Parvati (Saakshi Tanwar), Pallavi (Shweta Kawatra), Om (Kiran Karmarkar) and Kamal (Ali Asgar) now had to contend with high drama from this new generation of characters.

Kahaani...?s new turn of events gave rise to many questions - Will Pallavi still be scheming and plotting against the Aggarwal family? And will Parvati remain all-sacrificing? How long will Dadi (Lily Patel) and Babuji (Dipak Kazir) be in the picture?

In the fast forwarded Kahaani?, Om and Parvati?s daughter Shruti, who has always been the blue-eyed girl of the Aggarwal household, occupies centrestage. In college, she makes friends with Monalika, the daughter of Avantika and Ajay. Then there is Aryan, Sanjay?s and Ambica?s offspring Krishna, Kammal?s son and a protective cousin to Shruti. The story goes that Shruti is greatly influenced by Monalika. She admires Monalika?s confidence but the plot thickens when Pallavi, Ambica and their siblings begin to scheme to ruin the Aggarwal household.

However, one big question demanded immediate response: Isn?t Ekta taking a big chance? Would so many youngsters be able to sustain the TRPs - which have occupied a position among the top three, almost regularly?

This month?s TAM top-ten ratings suggest that Ekta can heave a sigh of relief. Shown below is a comparison of TAM ratings of the week before the serial took the leap (on top) and the week after (below):

1 September
2 September
3 September
4 September
8 September
9 September
10 September
11 September

The table shows that the audience interest in the serial was waning in the first weeks of September, but once the spotlight shifted to the younger generation (with the elder generation getting slightly pushed into the backdrop), interest picked up promptly and considerably.

The show which could climb only to the fourth position till the revamp has now made it to the first and the second positions.

Why fast forward?

Manasi Verma as Monalika

Ekta says, "We wanted to move the story ahead and also wanted to introduce a host of new characters in Kahaani..., and this was a good way. We have succeeded in creating more interest. We have started with the focus on Shruti, and I believe it?s one of the most interesting tracks ever."

Parakh, who plays Shruti in the serial explains, "I think bringing in youngsters has increased the viewership. Earlier, the serial was watched by mostly middle-aged and elderly people. Today, their children and grandchildren have joined too." A closer introspection reveals that Ekta has hit upon the right casting. The young actors identify with their character.

Parakh, a B Com graduate, says, "I am 24 and haven?t forgotten the days when I wanted to go to a discotheque and my mummy used to hit the ceiling. I am very close to my character. Show me one teenager who does not want to go to a discotheque?"

Vashisht, who plays Viraj, is a 26-year-old graduate in Economics and the son of comedian Brahmachari.

He says sheepishly, "My real character is such that I fall in love with every girl I see. Just like my reel-life character, I was bonkers about many girls in college. Actually, I had quite a few girlfriends in college, but nothing lasted very long."

Ali Hasan as Aryan

He says sheepishly, "My real character is such that I fall in love with every girl I see. Just like my reel-life character, I was bonkers about many girls in college. Actually, I had quite a few girlfriends in college, but nothing lasted very long."

Monalika, who leads Shruti up the wrong path in the serial, says she is different, but just a trifle bit.

She says, "I am just 18, and was a bit sceptical whether I should flag off my acting career with such a negative portrayal. But Balaji convinced me and I realised that the role had immense scope to grow. The advantage about the role was that from the exterior, I had to be just myself. Just like my character I also like going to discotheques and dancing."

Is Karishma (who plays Sonu) really the reticent and preachy type? "No I?m not preachy in day-to-day life," she laughs. This 21-year-old girl doesn?t wear any make-up whatsoever in real life. She is honest enough to reveal, "My dad is in the army and he is not too happy that I got into this line; but I could not resist.

Karishma aka Sonu

She says, "Back home in Chandigarh, I participated in a local beauty pageant (sponsored by Monte Carlo sweaters). After that, heaps of modeling and acting assignments came my way. This is not my first brush with acting. I have also done an experimental English flick titled Ants in the recent past."

Young v/s old

Certainly these young talents have to face the challenge of carving their own niche against stalwarts like Kazir (Babuji) Karmarkar (Om) and Tanwar (Parvati).

While the young stars agree that it?s hard to make an impact, they are ready to prove their worth. For some actors like Vashisht, TV roles are not new at all. He has played myriad roles like that of Veeru in Kumkum, Kabir in Koi Apna Sa, Akshay in Kkusum. He has done quite a few films as well - like Aflatoon, Josh, Bas Itna Khwab Hai, Kya Kehna, Taal and Style to name a few.

Vashisht says he is aware of the nuances of this profession and besides acting runs in his blood. "I was looking for the right break in TV and what can be better than a famous Balaji serial? To be an integral part of the Gen-X in Kahaani... is something special," he says excitedly.

Puneet Vashisht as Viraj

Sharma who plays Krishna, the overtly protective cousin to Shruti, also claims acting comes quite naturally to him. He says, "I was an anchor and reporter with the Zee News and Sahara for quite some time. So, facing the camera is no big deal really."

He agrees that acting and anchoring are two different ball games, but says he?s not camera shy. Sharma too has done a bit of theatre before stepping into TV.

Ali Hasan (Aryan) is, to say the least, confidence personified. He says, "Everything has fallen in place so far and I am a part of Ekta?s forthcoming film Kimberley Cottage."

He has also been roped in for two forthcoming Balaji serials, Kayamat and Koi Aa Raha Hai Waqt Badalne.

Sachin Sharma as Krishna

As for Parakh, she says she gets her confidence from senior actors. "I automatically get the right expression if seniors are in the same frame. I might err, otherwise," she explains. Ask them whether this 18-year leap was necessary and they all exclaim, "It has come like a whiff of fresh air!"

Tarun Katial (Star Plus, senior vice president - content and communication) had recently told that they?d rather rework the storylines of shows on air. His policy, and of course Ekta?s creativity, seems to have worked. As for Kahaani??s Generation Next, they deserve a pat on the back.

Incidentally, Star?s afternoon soap Shagun was also forwarded by 20 years last week. This serial is now seen through the eyes of Aradhana?s and Karan?s daughter Poonam. The girl will reveal the mysteries surrounding her mother?s life, her father?s selfless sacrifices and her tryst with life and destiny. It has to be seen whether Shagun?s TRPs also leap up far enough to complement the leap the story took.

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