Television

Star Plus to its viewers: ‘What’s your Everest?’

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MUMBAI: It was in 2012 that Star Plus brought uncomfortable realities to television screens with Satyamev Jayate, then in 2013 the biggest mythological series with Mahabharat and keeping with the trend, the number one rated channel is back in 2014 with Everest.

Bringing to the viewers a great blend of drama, adventure and inspiration, Star Plus and celebrated filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker have come together to present this finite series. The show is produced under Ashutosh Gowariker Productions (AGPPL) banner and has music by A R Rahman.

“I wanted to tell a story on television, but films kept me busy,” says Gowariker who previously had made television shows like Fauji, Circus and Kachchi dhoop.  He further goes on to say that the journey with Star Plus began two years back when they first met and started ideating about the project.

According to Star Plus general manager Gaurav Banerjee the decision was critical to its strategy thought ‘Rishta Wahi Soch Nayi’. “For a channel like ours which is always working on getting new ideas onboard, it takes a lot of time to execute any idea to perfection. One really has to gear up the story telling environment and shape an idea into certain direction.”

Banerjee adds, “Youth focus is something that we are consciously working on from past one year and Everest was on our horizon.”

According to the channel’s SVP marketing Nikhil Madhok what appealed to them was Gowariker’s innovative unique ambition and the vision behind the concept. “Two years ago we were toying with the idea of what is going to be the next big thing for us, and then Gowariker came onboard.”

Madhok believes that this is a show that the youth will relate to and also find resonance in the large population of the country.

Why Gowariker decided to make television series and not a film? “There are many sides to this story, which I wanted to tell, as each character has its own tale,” he says while adding that if he had to make a film on the subject then it would end up being a 15-hour-long movie.

The story is about a 21-year old Anjali, who aspires to conquer her own personal Everest. She gets a rude shock when she discovers that her father, who is her hero, never really wanted a daughter. Faced with the biggest conflict of her life, she is forced to question her very own existence. To redeem herself and find a place in her father’s heart she decides to accomplish his unfulfilled dream.

A project of this magnitude and scale, which demands extreme physical and mental strength, required a world-class crew to do complete justice to the concept. The core team consists of Joh Jeeta Wahi Sikandar and Akele Hum Akele Tum fame directors Glenn Baretto and Ankush Mohla, screenplay for the series (writer) is done by Mitali Mahajan, who was also the assistant art director on films like Swades, Jodhaa Akbar, Munna Bhai MBBS and many more.

Episodic screenplay has been done by Bhavani Iyer (her first film as a screen writer was Black), dialogues penned by Preeti Mamgain, makeup design by Vikram Gaikwad who has won four national awards for movies like The Dirty Picture, DOP is by Mahesh Aney (he won the national award for best cinematography for Swades), Alphonse Roy (has worked with Oscar winner DOP, Conrad Hall Jr for an American film ‘Oka Amerikee’) and Piyush Shah (worked on films like Salaam-E-Ishq, China Gate and etc), stunt director Amar Shetty who has worked on movies like Om Shanti Om, art director Aparna Raina who has worked on films like Khosla Ka Ghosla , Namesake and etc and costume stylist Preeti Sharma who has done movies like Fashion, Bombay Talkies, Paying Guests and many more.

For cameramen, shooting was the most crucial part considering unfavourable climatic conditions. Aney says, “The weather was so unfavourable to shoot. We had to test the cameras every now and then. While shooting at the top of 12,000 and 15,000 ft, we had to fight a lot of hurdles like light, batteries draining out etc. However, safety was always a priority for us.”

“The cold really hampers the number of hours one can shoot. Everybody in the crew lost tons of weight. They have really climbed the Everest,” laughs Banerjee.

Gowariker further reveals that while shooting a lot of heavy technical equipments were used for the first time like GoPro cameras, 4K technology and a lot more.

Technology has been a big enabler for the makers. It was there to help and make it easier believes Banerjee. “The show has been masterfully crafted by Gowariker.”

Madhok further says that if you are able to take out 20 minutes of content in regular studio conditions, one will barely get one minute of content in the mountains considering its climatic conditions.

As per the nature, usually a show starts three months before the telecast but this is a show that came into being almost two years before. “A show like this requires a completely different financial model where you are committing to a large monetary resources not really knowing when the show will see the light of the day,” says Madhok.  

With the shoot almost on since last December, almost 90 per cent of the episodes have been canned in locations like Jodhpur, Mount Everest, NIM and Mumbai. For extremely dangerous sequences, the channel had created a set in Naigaon.

What was the reason behind not signing famous faces for the show? “We wanted to be very real in terms of casting. And we wanted our characters to be 21 years old because young faces brings a lot of energy,” reasons Gowariker.

Talking about the marketing part, the communication line of the marketing campaign is going to revolve around the thought “‘What’s your Everest’? ‘Hum Sabki life Mein Everest Hota Hai Jisse Hume Jitna Hota Hai’.”

“We feel that by doing that people will be able to connect with it and make them think, ‘even I have a challenge in life, so let me watch this girl’s story and how she overcomes it’,” states Madhok.

Though Star officials refused to divulge any financial details regarding the production cost per episode, sources from the industry believe that it ranges anywhere between 30-35 lakhs per episode.

“If we decide to shoot 90 episodes before the telecast, it is going to be expensive. The fact that we have shot in different locations, none of them is cheap. We have been careful that we have resourced it well,” concludes Banerjee.

Though the time slot has not been locked, the show is slated to hit the television screens two months down the line and is going to be a weekday property (Monday – Saturday) and will run for less than six months.

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