STRIKES BACK: ZEE WAGERS ALL ON REALITY SHOW 'PRISONER OF WAR'
AND A SLEW OF NEW SERIALS
(Posted on 9 March, 1:30 pm)
group chairman Subhash Chandra has proved time and again that
he is a man who plays for high stakes and he was true to form
on Monday, 5 February. Though he was conspicuously absent from
the proceedings at the press conference during the day, that he
had written the script was much in evidence. The sheer scale of
what Zee is attempting has to be admired. Fortune favours the
brave it is said. If they can carry it through that is.
what looks like an all or nothing gamble, Zee TV laid down the
gauntlet to its rivals on Monday and announced the commissioning
of India's first ever reality TV show and the rollout of over
17 new programmes over the course of the next two months.
the motor which Zee hopes will drive the engine of its revival
is clearly its reality show POW (Prisoner of War). Prisoner
of War is based on the UK Channel 5 game show called Jailbreak
which ran last year. There's some patriotic masala thrown in with
the prisoners having to escape from behind enemy lines.
in his effort to find something new and different to hook audiences,
is hoping that POW will do what gameshow Sawaal Dus Crore Ka
singularly failed to do. Later in the evening Chandra held a party
for advertisers and ad agencies which he personally attended,
something he has not done for several years now. He met up with
the major advertisers, spoke to them at length. It clearly indicates
he himself is getting his hands dirty and gearing for battle in
a bid to get Zee TV back on track.
Pratim Sinha, senior vice-president marketing, Zee TV, admitted
as much while announcing the show's launch at the Taj Hotel in
south Mumbai: "POW and reality television are the spearhead of
a brand new programming initiative being developed by Zee TV.
The reality TV concept has caught the imagination of viewers across
the world, irrespective of age, sex and social background. We
are today presenting the future of Indian television."
if viewers are not ready for "the future of Indian television",
Zee has a number of new serials in the pipeline which it will
be unveiling over the next two months. The programmes cover the
whole gamut from a mega serial like Sansaar which spans
five continents, to family soaps, comedies, courtroom dramas,
women-oriented stories. The whole lot it would seem. Zee is basically
trying to cover all bases in its new programming effort.
to POW, it will be shot on location at a specially constructed
set at the ZEE group's EsselWorld theme park in Mumbai. The set
is being constructed on an area of about 40,000 sq. feet, the
biggest set for a television show in India.
set will closely recreate the conditions typically found at a
POW camp. An advisory committee comprising experts from various
fields, including combat and technical experts has been formed
which will oversee all aspects of the show, from set design to
programme content. According to Sainath Iyer, president-corporate
communications, the contestants are being chosen on the basis
of a talent search which will commence in the next ten days. There
will be nine per show and evaluations are being conducted on various
parameters, from the physical and the mental aspect to the emotional
and social aspects.
head of programming and Zee TV president Madhavi Mutatkar refuses
to put a figure on Zee's financial stake in the programme, she
says it is an in-house production and no expense is being spared
in terms of investments. That applies to the other shows as well,
says the show will have a twice weekly telecast plus daily update
capsules. An interesting feature of the programme will be that
it will be supported by an interactive website providing streaming
content on developments at the show. "Audience interaction will
play a key role in the development of the show," says Mutatkar.
"The website, by virtue of being live, will enable viewers to
get an update on the show as often as they want."
far so good. Looks like the Zee team is putting together a worthwhile
package which if due attention is paid to production values should
put Zee back in business in what it did best till Star's Kaun
Banega Crorepati sent the whole works into a tizzy. Good programming
is what its all about.
are some worries though.
it is that of production values. Old time thriller director Vivek
Agnihotri has been roped in to direct the show. Zee has promised
that production will be of the highest order but it is also looking
at a very quick rollout of the programme. Let's hope that the
two contradictory pulls don't make for a mish-mash. The SDCK debacle
will hopefully have made them the wiser for it.
the major concern remains that of how Indian audiences will take
to this genre of entertainment. The West has witnessed a blitz
of reality shows like 'Survivor' and 'Jailbreak'
but it has to be noted that in these countries there is a real
culture of celebrating the physical. Man against the elements
is something that westerners immediately relate to. For the average
Indian "Sirius, Altius, Fortius", is just so much poppycock. As
the popular Govinda ad goes: Yeh arraam ka mamla hai (its
all about comfort). Your Indian Joe wants to escape from reality.
He's not looking for more of it.
another practical problem involved. Where will you get the participants
who will measure up. One lot who can be discounted from the outset
would be our cricketers. Barring a few notable exceptions, fitness
has never been high on their agenda. Jokes apart, there are logistics
involved at the screening level as well. In the original 'Jailbreak',
the selection of candidates was a major exercise in itself because
thousands of candidates were evaluated before a final ten were
that as it may, there's a whole lot riding on Zee's new initiatives
and its success or otherwise will likely set forth what shape
the Indian television landscape takes.