The two countries were divided, thousands were left homeless, and since then many wars have been fought between the two nations as well. But there still remains that minute thread which continues to join the chords amongst us all.
Border, Veer-Zaara or the latest Google ad plays on those emotions. We might be divided by a line but culturally we still share the same nuances. And taking a cue from this media powerhouse, Zee, which goes by the corporate philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – The world is my family’, recently launched a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC), Zindagi.
The channel’s proposition ‘Jodey Dilon Ko’ is based on the fact that even if the people from various parts of the world are culturally different, the stories of their lives are universal. Maybe that is why all women want a husband like Zaroon and men looked for a perfect wife in Zara.
The channel showcases four shows every night from 8 pm narrating stories of various characters torn between relationships, duties and work. The stories are set in natural locations giving a true-to-life portrayal to not just the characters but also storyline.
However, one element common between all these shows is that they have strong women characters dealing with issues. Be it a woman hesitant to trust a man after her father left her mother for another woman or two estranged sisters vying for a man’s attention. The portrayals are relatable and tell a story of woman’s struggle.
Remember Shanti, Rajani or Udaan? The popular shows on Doordrashan in the eighties and nineties before the heavily-makeup saas-bahus took over the entertainment space. The characters in the shows on Zindagi remind of that era where life happened beyond the four walls of a set.
The channel’s business head Priyanka Datta recalls the strenuous hours spent scrutinising content and then selectively handpicking drama with a lot of care, such that they were relatable to the viewer's emotions and fulfilled the channel’s proposition.
She points out that there was no conscious effort in choosing woman-centric shows, but since Pakistani television industry is known to highlight social issues amongst others that are prevalent in their society which are mostly woman centric, it happened naturally.
Through the pragmatic content, the channel aims to cater to the new-age woman, for whom the primary concern is work-life balance and not solely entertainment. “She is the woman with a progressive mindset. The women in the dramas on Zindagi are regular ordinary women like you and me. Their emotions, feelings and day-to-day issues that they deal with are very similar to what women in our society go through. Unlike serials on other GECs, women on Zindagi’s shows do not wake up in the morning loaded with make-up and jewellery. Their lives do no revolve around conspiring against each other. There are many more relationships explored besides just saas-bahu on Zindagi,” elaborates Datta on the differentiating programming lineup.
The content on Zindagi which includes storylines, script, language, natural acting, fashion, apart from just the good looks of the actors have become the most talked about in India. The social media is buzzing with millions of impressions online.
The reason why it is creating a buzz especially among urbanites is the fact that there is a certain section in viewers who desire for something different, something better that could enhance their television-watching experience. Datta points out that through the various researches the network did before launching the channel, it found out that the attention span of viewers has only decreased over the time with the use of multiple screens and it has become a bigger challenge than ever to excite the audience and keep them glued. “We knew that we had to break the monotony-and so attempted to bring - content with depth and reliability. The saas-bahu sagas have been there since years and will continue to coexist parallel. While such shows cater to viewers with traditional mindsets, the likes of dramas that are on Zindagi will cater to viewers with progressive mindsets,” she says.
If that wasn’t enough, there is stark difference between the longevity of shows as well. In the era when shows are competing with each other to cross 1000 plus episodes, the series on Zindagi lasts only for 20-25 episodes. The dramas aired have finite plots written by reputed authors and literary stalwarts. The numerous researches show that the viewers want to move away from long running shows that air for years at stretch. “However, the early adopters will be the people with progressive mindset followed by others. Viewers will surely take some time to adapt to this kind of format,” believes optimist Datta.
When asked how are male audiences reacting to the channel? Datta answers, “The content on Zindagi seems to be going down well with the men. Celebrities like Subhash Ghai, Kunal Kohli, Jaaved Jaafferi are amongst the few from the industry who have been very appreciative of the content and it’s encouraging that our dramas are not restricted to any gender in specific. We understood that we had to break the monotony and showcase quality of content that was not similar to that associated to the Hindi GEC industry. The saas-bahu sagas have reigned for years and are mainly targeted towards female audiences. Content is king and all shows that have been shown on Zindagi since its launch have appealed to audiences (males and females) of all ages.”
Media observers too agree with the fact that though the channel may not have got the ratings it expected, but has surely created enough noise in the market because of its content. “Kitni Girhain Baqi Hain is very popular amongst women in my office as well as outside,” says a woman media planner.
The strong content has even got insight teams of competition talking. “The washroom talks rotate around the shows and the handsome men,” laughs an insights manager from a top-ranked GEC.
Most of the shows airing on the GEC were previously broadcast on Hum channel which is run by a woman, Sultana Siddiqui. And what’s interesting to note is that the channel, which is a window to see how life is at the other side of border, creative and business heads too are women. “It’s just a mere coincidence,” laughs Datta.