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'Some tried roast format well; I don't know how the society will accept it' : Anooj Kapoor

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The comedy genre on Indian television has witnessed considerable growth over the last few years. While Sony Pictures Networks India’s comedy channel Sab TV has carved a niche for itself in the space, others like Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL) also saw the potential in it and launched Big Magic. What’s more, even Hindi general entertainment channels dish out their fair share of comedy week on week.

Sab TV, which has pioneered the daily comedy format in the industry, has given many iconic shows over the last 15 years. 

From dramedies to stand-up comedy to roast comedy, shows are sprouting left, right and centre across channels. In a competitive scenario, it’s definitely no laughing matter to constantly innovate and dish out content that will tickle the funny bone. And Sab TV senior executive vice president & business head Anooj Kapoor probably has the toughest job of making sure that the channel’s shows are consistently making the audience laugh.

In conversation with Indiantelevision.com, Kapoor talks about the comedy genre and its growth.

Excerpts:

How was 2015 for the comedy genre - fiction & non-fiction - on Indian Television? 

It’s interesting to see channels beyond Sab trying to emulate our model of daily comedy. It’s a tribute to Sab, which is a pioneer in daily comedy.

More and more channels are introducing comedy shows and we also have a comedy channel in Big Magic. Do you think that the comedy space is growing or is it just a strategic move? 

There’s no doubt that the genre has grown and it is poised to grow more sooner or later. Sab has carved out a successful business model for itself since the last seven - eight years of how daily comedy can attract viewers and advertisers. Fortunately, some players in the market have also realised the same and it can only be good for the genre overall.

Stand-up comedy, family drama comedy or historical comedy, which do you think has more potential?

Only good content has the potential to make shows successful or unsuccessful. To give you a parallel of comedy in Hindi cinema, there are different kinds of comedy created by different people. The kind of comedy that Hrishikesh Mukherjee created is different from that by David Dhawan or Priyadarshan but at the same time they were all successful, which proves that whenever you create quality content in comedy or in any other genre, it will attract viewers.

Sab launched a first of its kind reality show called Comedy Superstar. What was the response and what’s the scope of a reality show like that?

The response was not very good but our intention to launch the show was good. We tried to create a platform for budding stand-up comedians but fortunately or unfortunately the audience are now used to some top level people from the field, who are veterans in the industry now. The audience is used to their peculiar style of humour and obviously new comers would not match up to their standard, so they didn’t do well. But as a format, we would certainly try it again as it gives the industry fresh talent.

In the fiction and non-fiction space, many international shows have been brought to India. Is there scope of bringing international comedy show formats to India?

In 2012, Sab TV launched the Indian adaptation of the American sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, which was called Jeannie Aur Juju. Between the 1990s to 2000, many successful sitcom were launched in the west, a lot of which have the scope of being brought to India. 

Fortunately, at present, we don’t have a shortage of home grown content, which is also more cost effective. However, if a striking show in the comedy genre comes up and if we have a suitable budget, we are open to acquiring it.

When it comes to ratings, Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chasma is the only high rated show on Sab TV. However, the others have not really delivered remarkable ratings. What is holding them back?

All channels have a flagship show, whether it is Star Plus’ Diya Aur Baati Hum or Sony Entertainment Television.com’s CID. In fact, CID has been Sony’s flagship show for a very long time. So just because channels have a flagship show, it doesn’t mean that their other shows are not successful. On our channel, we had Lapataganj and F.I.R, which ran for 1500 episodes. Now we have shows like Chidya Ghar, which has done more 1000 episodes and Balveer that has completed 800 episodes and are still going strong. These are delivering a threshold for the channel and making it a profitable proposition for us.

When the channel has four strong running shows, which are doing so well in a difficult daily comedy format, then they are successful. Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma, which is based on the famous weekly Gujarati series Duniya Na Undha Chasma written by renowned writer Tarak Mehta, who is already a household name in Gujarat, enjoys other benefits that other shows on the channel do not have.

What growth are you expecting from comedy genre in the coming year?

It’s difficult to say how the comedy genre will grow. It will depend on what everyone in the market is doing to raise the bar. If they are able to grow themselves, then obviously the overall genre will expand but if not, then I don’t see a market growth.

Comedy as a genre is spreading its wing to others platform as well. Do you think it as a danger sign for television? 

Not at all because it simultaneously existed in the west for decades and now it is available on multiple platforms. Everyone has survived and sustained in the market, so I don’t see it as a danger.

What do you think were the landmarks in the comedy space in 2015 - on-air and off-air?

Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chasma became the world’s longest running show and was named in the Guinness Book of World Record. That is a big landmark on-air. When it comes to off-air, we launched Chai Pe Chutkule where stand-up comedians travelled to various cities in India and Sab viewers were provided with free entertainment by top ten comedians over a cup of tea.

Colors is now trying the roast format with Comedy Nights Bachao. With the Indian Censor board’s hawk eye on “propah” content, what is the scope of brining the international roast format to India? We saw what happened earlier this year with the Ranveer Singh - Arjun Kapoor roast.

Some people have tried it successfully but I don’t know to what extend the format will be accepted by our society. We will have to wait and watch for its sustainability.

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