Star World on a route to decode men

MUMBAI: With the rising number of feminists and groups supporting the female issues, the issues concerning men in India have almost never been paid much heed to. Not just at the level of making laws, but the concerns of men have been neglected even on entertainment channels with almost no show aimed at them. But fret not! Here’s something to change that.

Following its success of distinguished celebrity chat shows like Koffee With Karan and the Front Row with Anupama Chopra, English entertainment channel Star World is experimenting with a new show centered around men. Gentlemen’s Code, a six-episode series being hosted by author-journalist Aatish Taseer, which launches this Sunday at 8 pm, attempts to break the code that is the new-age man and delve into the very essence of what it takes to be a modern man.

For a channel that is always open to new content, this show is an opportunity to reach out to new viewers. Star English channels business head Kevin Vaz says that since this is one of its kind shows it makes it even more interesting for the viewers. “We look for content that brings a fantastic television experience to our viewers.”

From hunter-gatherers to stay-at-home fathers, men have refashioned and redefined their roles over centuries. Even as the balance of economic, political and social power remains firmly entrenched in their favour, collectively, men have perhaps never faced as much scrutiny, pressure and competition as they do today. The show is an effort to get men to tell what makes them tick and to showcase what they really want. “The content is new, fresh and extremely dynamic and we think that it will be very well received by audiences,” says Vaz as he adds that the choice of someone as unconventional as Aatish Taseer as a host comes out of the fact that he is extremely well-spoken and is the quintessential gentleman.

Aatish on his part, says that while there are many competing views as to what the show is about, his feeling is that it is a show about Indian masculinity at a time when that notion is more fluid—more in flux—than ever before. “The aim of the Gentlemen’s Code is to take a hard look at the psyche of the urban Indian man, but with sympathy, acknowledging that as much as Indian masculinity seems to be going through a kind of crisis, it is as, with all crises, also a time of hope and change,” he says.

And though Aatish, who has authored books like Stranger to History: a Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands’ (2009); the highly acclaimed translation - Manto: Selected Stories’ (2008); and the novel, The Temple-Goers’ (2010) that was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa First Novel Award, is a self confessed “hopeless TV viewer”.

“I don’t watch much TV at all, save for the news. But I like to think of this as a kind of advantage. I like to believe that it brings a certain freshness to my style and perspective. The production process for someone who has worked in solitude for many years is hard. But there is also something exciting about the energy of other people, something exciting about collaboration,” he remarks.

The most fascinating aspect for Aatish has been the attention that he had to pay to a certain external reality. “After years of concentrating on my interior life, I’ve suddenly been forced to project my personality, to find some kind of balance between how one is and how one comes across. Not easy,” he says.

And since he talks about collaborating with other people, it’s interesting to note that the show is going to have a host of different personalities from various professions including a few celebs like Priyanka Chopra, Anoushka Shankar, John Abraham and R Balki to name a few, there will also be prominent names like Barkha Dutt and Chetan Bhagat on the show.

Every week, Aatish will conduct an interview with an iconic Indian woman, so as to have the scrutiny of the female gaze on men. “A greater range of men will appear on the show too, everyone from little-known family men to big stars like Karan Johar and John Abraham. The aim is to find a shared experience, I suppose, of the themes we cover. Which range from work to sex to style and luxury,” says Aatish.

When quizzed about if there been a pressure on the production unit to make the show appealing to the masses at large by bringing in well-known people, “Our sponsors as well as the channel has been pretty generous: they’ve given us, for the most part, a free hand. But there’s no doubt, TV is a cruel medium, and there is always the pressure to crowd the show with beautiful and famous people. There is also, of course, the pressure to keep things light. But I think that’s good. That lightness of touch—that ability to deal with serious things in an appealing way—is part of television’s tremendous reach, and it should always be kept in mind. It would be a terrible waste if we did a show that no one saw,” Aatish points out.

“The target viewers of the show are the English audience, who is always looking at fresh differentiated content,” says Star India English cluster VP, marketing head, Pallavi Tibrewal. And despite of many differentiated content being aired on many competitor channels, she thinks this show is going to do well. “There is always an audience for everything, I am sure this show will do well too,” she says.

This magazine series that has Chivas as the title sponsor touches on themes including relationships, money, status symbols, style and friendships, amongst others. The show is being promoted on network’s English channels. “We have released one promo and we will be releasing a new episodic promo every week,” informs Tibrewal.

The new age men have something to really look forward to, while women can watch the show to decode the men in their life!

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