Television

Kher files suit, Zee's cup of woes overflows

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The dust just refuses to settle for Zee Telefilms after its decision last week to suspend its much maligned game show Sawaal Dus Crore Ka (SDCK).

Following sacked anchor Anupam Kher's filing an arbitration petition on Tuesday in the Mumbai High Court, it remains to be seen whether co-host Manisha Koirala will follow suit. Manisha has also received her marching orders.

If that were not enough , the channel's decision to drop 16 serials, as reported in The Times of India, can only vitiate the climate further.

Kher's suit urges the court to restrain Zee from discontinuing SDCKwithout him as one of the hosts on the ground that the company had committed breach of contract, according to Press Trust of India.

On 7 December, the actor's petition raised an apprehension on the basis of press reports that he would be removed from anchoring the show. On 9 December, Zee Telefilms Ltd informed him officially that his services were being discontinued.

Kher then urged the high court on Tuesday to allow him to amend the petition since he had already been removed from the show, and got permission from Justice KK Baam.

Kher might file an amended petition by December 21 because Zee has declared that it has already shot six episodes that would last until then.

The actor contends that Zee cannot terminate his services without a 60-day notice one of the conditions of the agreement entered into between the two on October 13.

It all started ten days ago when Gajendra Singh, Zee TV's star producer (Antakshari, Sa Re Ga Ma) paid Anupam Kher a visit. SDCK just wasn't working, said Singh. Zee was bleeding to the tune of Rs48 lakh an episode, and something had to be done.

"I got the feeling that he was trying to tell me to leave the show. So I asked him: do both Manisha and I quit?" Kher told The Hindustan Times' website. Singh said yes. The two, according to Kher, parted after an emotional hug.

But a few days later newspapers informed Kher that Zee had dropped him from the show because of his poor performance and the fact that he and Koirala weren't gelling.

Zee's spokesman Sainath Aiyar says the network has never tried to run Kher down. "The two of them didn't get along and it reflected in the show," says Aiyar.

Kher, however, says that between Manisha and him, there was no doubt about who the better half of the show was. "I had to constantly cover up for her during shoots," says Kher.

Manisha has not commented yet publicly on her rapport with Kher on the sets of SDCK but she stresses the point that since Zee has decided to go in for a complete revamp of the show clearly indicates that the SDCK format was a failure. Blaming the anchors or their lack of chemistry on the sets was simply because Zee refused to own up responsibility for the lack of planning which went into the creation of SDCK.

She makes a valid point there. SDCK suffered enormously when its production values were compared with Star TV's super-slick Kaun Banega Crorepati. The lack of rehearsals was also brought quite clearly as the shows went on air.

The reported lack of chemistry between the two anchors only added to the inherent problems with which the show suffered from the start.

The media feeding frenzy that has surrounded SDCK's unending woes has only served to highlight another potential public relations disaster for Zee TV's executives. There are rumblings in the industry over its decision to drop 16 serials which has heightened the feelings of insecurity all round.

How this finally unravels remains to be seen.

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