From IPL to BCL, Sony continues its love for cricket

MUMBAI: Cricket is nothing less than a religion in India and when mixed with a high-dose of glamour and drama, it serves as the ultimate form of entertainment.

So, what happens when reality television meets the passion of the nation, cricket?

Giving viewers the combination of both, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) is all set to launch India’s first ever sports reality show - Box Cricket League (BCL).

However, this is not the first time that Sony is associating itself with cricket. Who can forget the launch of Indian Premier League (IPL), which saw entertainment and cricket getting hitched? However, the host Mandira Bedi’s noodle-strapped sari blouses made more headlines than the pre and post match show.

“Everyone criticised us and we did not receive good responses for the same. I was there at Sony at that point in time and today after 14 years, we are back at it but with a twist,” says SET SVP and business head Nachiket Pantvaidya.

For Pantvaidya, the show conceptualised by Marinating Films and produced by Balaji Telefilms, is like coming back full circle. When he heard the concept, he immediately locked it. “Cricket toh sirf bahana hai (cricket is just an excuse), there is a lot more than just cricket,” he says.

BCL consists of eight teams, comprising of 120 popular television celebrities, who will compete against each other, playing a total of 19 matches of 14 overs each. The teams would be divided into two groups, A and B.

For Ekta Kapoor, who will make her debut in reality with BCL, sports has alienated itself from women, so with this she wants to get all the bahus and girls get into the game and play with the boys. “I have never touched reality shows. So today I am doing a combination of both. Kudiyon ka zamana hai, cricket toh sirf ek bahana hai,” laughs Kapoor.

Marinating Films director Sunny Arora aims to deliver a very good product. In the month of April, it had conducted a trial season with more than 100 actors and received a good response.  He believes that cricket is seen for entertainment and played for entertainment.

“We had organised a trial to understand how the format will work. Men and women playing together, what are the now we have come up with a concrete plan. We have just increased the scale,” says Arora.

He further believes that the major reason why it worked in the trial was because of the presence of female players.

Matches will commence with a face-off between the two playing teams, where they will perform signature moves on their team anthem. Giving the mundane coin toss a skip, BCL has introduced a ‘filmy toss’ with options like 'Jai or Veeru', 'Basanti or Dhanno'. Upping the glam quotient will be two BCL titlis, Noorin Shah and Vrushika Mehta, who will perform acts during time outs and the ball change.

Making the game more entertaining, viewers will also get to see behind the scenes action, locker room gossips and some extremely creative awards like Gentleman of the Match and Most Stylish Player of the Match amongst others.

While the spirit of cricket remains intact, the introduction of new twists in the game is sure to keep the audience entertained. To step up the excitement, during the sixth and tenth overs, the batting captain will challenge the bowling captain to hit a certain number of runs in a single over with a particular bowler.

If they manage to hit the number of runs they have challenged them for, then they earn double the runs. If not, they will lose the number of runs they challenged the bowling team. The seventh over will also see a ball change procedure where the players can strategise their next game plan.

Balaji Telefilms group CEO Sameer Nair shares the genesis behind the entire concept of the show. “When Ekta first heard about it was through a friend of her who owns a team and Marinating Films, she wanted to buy a team with the marinating team boys. Then she thought, why to buy a team when we can invest in the league.”

Balaji Telefilms has a joint venture with Marinating Films and have invested in the company. “Cricket is India’s most popular sport. Daily soaps are most popular form of television entertainment and the marriage of these two promises to be quite electric and exciting,” believes Nair.

The shoot for the series will start from 20 November and will take place in Filmcity, Reliance Studios.

So how does one qualify to be a BCL player? “Out of 11, nine have to be actors. How do you qualify as an actor? There is a bible to it. For example, depending on the number of shows he/she has done. And if one is a non-actor, he/she has to be either a director or a producer. The selection is done by the individual team captains and the owners. They should have experience,” answers Arora.

Apart from the formal announcement, the channel has not started any marketing activities yet. According to SET SVP marketing head Gaurav Seth, eight teams have created their own anthems and he plans to pitch it in a different way. “The series is six weeks away. We have some interesting ideas in our heads and will soon execute them when the right time comes. In this country, you can never be short of celebrities. Fans will come to see the fights, victories, high and low moments.”

Digital will be a special focus for Seth considering the amount of fan clubs each of the celebs own on the digital platforms. “One star will tweet, others will pick it up. There will be war, fights but at the end it’s all about entertaining viewers,” he says.

Initially the project was pitched to Sony Six, but Sony realised the power of the concept and thought it will be apt for a GEC channel. “The moment we came to know it would be aired on a GEC channel, we had to change the entire look and feel to ensure that it’s up to the mark,” states Arora.

The promos of the series will go on-air from end November. Though the date is not finalised yet, it will run for four weeks and be a weekly property.

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