Sony hopes to lock up 8:30 band with double whammy - hospital drama and tale of twins

MUMBAI: Sony Entertainment's programming strategy is clear. Keep launching new shows at regular intervals and make sure the shows are consistently different.

The 9 to 10 pm slot is in the bag (at least that's what the channel claims) with the Balaji soaps Kkusum and Kutumb. And now the channel is targeting the 8:30 pm to 9 pm time band.

The Sony team led by CEO Kunal Dasgupta was out in strength yesterday to announce the launch of two new shows. Dhadkan marks the channel's foray into the hospital drama genre with a real feel while Hubahu is your regular soap with the plotline revolving around twins switching identities. The former starts on 4 February and will air Monday - Wednesday at 8:30 pm while the latter premieres 7 February and will air once a week on Thursdays at the same time.

Elaborating on the channel's plans, V-P programming and production Nachiket Pantvaidya said: "These shows are part of our strategy to consolidate our position in the 8:30 - 9 pm slot four nights a week Mondays to Thursdays. With Dhadkan and Hubahuwe hope to add half an hour to our hold on the 9-10 pm slot which is one of our strengths." 

The channel also claimed that since October when the launch of Kutumb was announced, channel share has gone up 30 per cent. The channel also said that from now on, whenever a new show is launched it will be positioned differently from what rivals have to give. They will mix emotion with gripping edge of the seat entertainment.

Pantvaidya said as part of new programming initiatives the channel was looking at, February would see a new show launched in the afternoon slot. In March three launches have been scheduled, all in prime time slots and all different genrewise - comedy, thriller and drama. April will see two more shows launched Pantvaidya said.

When questioned as to why Sony was doing a hospital show when rivals already had one on air with the similar theme (Star Plus launched Sanjivani on 16 January), Dasgupta pointed out that Dhadkan was in the making for seven months. Rival channels simply wanted to beat the air time the moment they got a whiff of what Sony was up to, he said.

DHADKAN: The marketing strategy for Dhadkan spans the media like print and outdoors. Region specific marketing has also been undertaken in Delhi and Mumbai. In Mumbai the railways have been roped in while in Delhi DTC busbacks are being used.

Dhadkan is an effort on the part of the channel to take the experience of being in a hospital further by taking viewers right into the heart of the Operating Theatre by simulating reality, the channel avers.

The setting is Seth Deen Dayal Hospital. When Seth who started the hospital dies his son takes over but his vision is different. He is only interested in the word profit. The show also examines the personal lives of doctors and their daily struggle to cope with job pressures. It goes beneath the deceptively calm suface and reveals the edgy atmosphere and turmoil prevailing. It has been produced by Aqua pictures and directed by Umesh Padalkar.

Padalkar said the show took the help of six doctors. Hospital layouts were studied and design principles were taken into account when utilising the 9-10,000 square space. The Operating Theater Floor was elaborate and for this modular sets were designed probably for the first time in India. This allows walls to be added or subtracted. Even lighting could be changed. An associate director took care of the background activity. The actors underwent extensive drills on how to use instruments like a stethoscope and for scrubbing and even basic procedure like how a doctor enters the OT Theater. 

The doctors present praised the channel for taking the initiative to consult them. They were critical of the ridiculous manner in which the profession is depicted in Bollywood films and teleserials. The equipment seen on the show has apparently been procured form dealers who supply hospitals. The idea was to basically explore life in its fullest with inspiration from shows like ER and Chicago Hope.

The main problem for Sony is that Star got some lead time with the launch of Sanjivani on 16 Jan and so no matter how authentic Sony's show may be, it has some catching up to do.

HUBAHU: In contrast to the hospital drama, Hubahu is about twin sisters who are as different from each other as chalk from cheese. Sandhya Mridul plays both the roles. Aditi lives in India and her life is rather conservative. Ananya is smart, sophisticated and lives in Bangkok. The story revolves around them switching identities and the comedy and tragedy that follows. 

Speaking on this Anupama Mandloi, director on air programming, said: "The basic concept of this show is 'If I were you'. Two people discover that the grass is not always greener on the other side." It has been produced by E-motion Pictures. This represents the first collaboration between them and the channel. Milind Soman and Parvati Balagopalan are the producers. Milind Soman said that the concept has been done before in films like The Parent Trap and on the stage. However on the small screen there is scope to explore and play with every possible incident which leads to heightened drama.

Whether the show can sustain audience interest for 52 episodes on an identity switch proposition remains to be seen though.

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