Television

'Karishma' pivot for Sahara's big league push

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Tent-pole programming -- where one or two blockbuster shows are used to hook the viewers and ensure that they stay loyal to the channel just for those one or more programmes.

An oft-used term nowadays but one which certainly applies to the sheer weight of expectations that Sahara TV?s Rs 600-million blockbuster daily soap Karishma - The Miracles Of



New CEO Sushanto Roy with Karisma - will the actor be Sahara?s lucky mascot?

Destiny carries with it. Launching on the channel next Monday (25 August) in the 9.30 pm slot, Karishma will lead the charge of a crop of big-ticket items that will launch over the next six to eight months.

And if comments by the heir to the Sahara throne and recently-turned CEO Sushanto Roy are taken at face value, then mid-2004 could well see the biggest blockbuster soap of them all with superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the lead, taking its bow on Sahara TV.

MARKETING BLITZ

But Bachchan is a way off and might or might not happen. In the here and now is Karishma. A huge marketing blitz that industry sources say will cost Sahara an additional Rs 150 million is being planned for the show?s coming out party around and beyond 25 August.

Fireworks will light up the night sky at select locations across nine key cities, reveals Sahara TV president Satish Menon. If these cities are what used to be earlier termed the Hindi "TRP" cities then it would be Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Ludhiana, and Jaipur.



Will the mega scale promos be justified by the performance of the ?mega series ever??

Then there are the tie-ups with retail outlets like Shoppers Stop, Ebony, Food World and D Mart to go with the painted trains and hoardings. After the initial burst of promo activity, the channel will start Karishma Clubs to build loyalty with the show. There will be mementos, coffee table books on Karishma and her lineage, says Menon.

"We are moving away from being a mere FCT provider to being a total solutions provider," claims Menon. There will be ground level activities specific to geographical areas advertisers want to concentrate on, apart from tie-ups and other promotions.

NUMBER OF BIG-TICKET SHOWS LAUNCHING

Karishma, meanwhile, is not going to be one of those on-and-on-without-an-end serials but will have a finite duration. It will not exceed 262 episodes, channel officials have said. An added attraction is that the soap will feature 52 songs composed by Anu Malik.



Sridevi - Will the former superstar raise the comedy bar on Sahara?

And while it will be Karishma that leads the charge, there are more big-ticket programmes that will be launching on Sahara in the coming months, some with a "filmi" link and some without.

The second big upcoming attraction (with a filmi connection) is Hamari Bahu Malini Iyer featuring former Bollywood Queen bee Sridevi.

This sitcom, which goes on air by mid-October, will be telecast Mondays to Thursdays at prime time, in conjunction with Karishma and is planned for a finite 208-episode telecast. The comedy series, directed by Satish Kaushik and produced by husband Boney Kapoor, has reportedly been extensively re-shot.

Launching before the Sridevi show however, is Sagar Productions? Arzoo Hai Tu. The daily soap involves a love

triangle with Mohnish Behl, Aman Varma and Mrinal Kulkarni playing the lead characters. Arzoo..., which was initially slated for launch on 11 August, will now premiere on 1 September (a week after Karishma?s first relaunch episode). The idea is that all new shows coming on Sahara should benefit from the pull that Karishma is expected to provide.



Mohnish Behl in Aarzoo Hai Tu

Soap factory Balaji Telefilms is also launching a soap on Sahara. It will be titled Kuch Kehna Hai Mujhe.

And if the queen of the daily soap Ekta Kapoor is on Sahara, so too must the current queen of the weekly soap Aruna Irani. Irani is currently building a bank of episodes for a daily

soap that has been titled Zameen Se Aasman Tak. A minimum of 60 episodes will be built up before the show goes on air, according to channel sources.



Aruna Irani - building on the success of ?Des Mein....?

That is not all. There is also the global song and dance championship titled Grooves (anchored by Jaaved Jaffrey) and a comedy show by ace comedian Johnny Lever that are ready and waiting for the green signal from the channel.

Coming back to the "filmi chakkar", Bollywood sex-symbol turned serious actress Raveena Tandon joins the party by February-March in a period tele-serial Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, based on Bimal Mitra?s novel of the same title. Shooting for the weekly soap is scheduled to begin by mid-October.

The serial, which will be shot in Kolkata to lend an authentic ambience, is being directed by Rituparno Ghosh. Executive producer Pallavi Chatterjee, who has bought the telecast rights of the novel, has cast Joy Sengupta to play the Bhootnath character, while Ayub Khan will play the role of Chhoti Bahu?s debauched, aristocratic husband, reports Mid Day.

Another A list actor who is coming aboard the Sahara programming express is Rani Mukerji, but as a producer, not in front of the camera. Mukerji and brother Raja Mukerji?s first TV production is set to start rolling for the channel on 1 September. The family drama is titled Pratima and donning the director?s hat is Ashok Gaikwad, currently wielding the baton for producer-actress Aroona Irani?s Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand.



Raveena Tandon - following in Karisma?s footsteps

The series also stars big screen and television actors Anang Desai, Vivek Mushran and Kunika amongst others. If all goes according to plan, it should go on air in the first week of November.

AIM IS TO MATCH SONY BY YEAR-END AND THEN...

"Though our current GRP (gross rating point for television channels) is between 115-120, we should be able to cross Zee?s GRP of 135 and match Sony?s GRP of 190 by the end of the year,? Sushanto Roy asserts.

Roy says the marketing blitz around Karishma would kick into motion Sahara TV?s serious drive into the big league. The positive spill-off from this would also benefit the news channels, he adds.

A penetration target of 66 countries across the world and in 30 million households in India is what Sahara is looking to achieve in the next year or so.

Sahara?s new tag line is "Manoranjan" (entertainment). The next few months should determine whether the channel can lay claim to the line "Manoranjan matlab Sahara" (entertainment means Sahara) -- doffing a cap here to Aamir Khan?s celebrated ad "Thanda Matlab Coca Cola" (cold means Coca Cola).

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