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Star set to unleash fresh programming blitzkrieg

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NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: Star India has readied a new line of programming missiles from its arsenal that it expects will have the competition running for cover. The centrepiece of the new initiative is Indian Superstar, a talent hunt billed as the biggest and most expensive project Star has ever handled.

A blockbuster talent hunt, a stock-in-trade soap with that inimitable Balaji-Star "chappa", a weekend thriller, a romantic comedy, and a magazine show on the television world... These are just some of the coming attractions that Star India COO Sameer Nair and his content team headed by Deepak Segal have put together for Star Plus viewers.

 

 Then there a new lot of "smart buy" films (meaning the real blockbusters are either on Sony, Sahara or Zee) that Star has made. Among the titles it has in its kitty, probably only Khakee can classify in the big movie bracket. The other films are Bhoot, Jajantaram Mamamtaram, Chameli, Kaante, Teen Deeware, Mumbai Matinee, Dum and Kucch To Hai.

Additionally, having tasted success with the Star Parivar Awards last year, the 2004 edition is being taken to an international stage - Dubai. It will be interesting to see how India's lead broadcaster presents the Star Parivar Awards 2004. The Middle Eastern shopper's paradise was witness to an event that will have probably set the benchmark for all award shows to follow in the Zee Cine Awards 2004 held on Thursday (telecast yesterday). And beating that will take more than some doing.

Nair and Segal were on hand to explain the initiatives to the media yesterday at a briefing in the capital announcing the launch of a new weekend thriller Koie Jane Na. Also present were Anurradha Prasad, managing director of B.A.G. Films Ltd, which is producing the show, and Star India creative director Shailaja Kejriwal.

'Koie Jane Na'... weekend chill thrill

The first item that Star is serving up from its new programming menu is Koie Jane Na, a supernatural thriller which launches tomorrow, in the Sunday, 9 pm slot.

Koie Jane Na marks the first serious attempt by Star to take on Sony in the weekend programming slot that the Number 2 network has managed to develop with some success. Koie Jane Na will be coming up against Balaji Telefilms' youth-centric soap KKoi Dil Mein Hai.

In Koie Jane Na, Star is traversing terrain already explored by Sony, which was the first to launch a weekend supernatural thriller - Kya Haadsaa Kya Haqeeqat from the Balaji Telefilms stable.

Produced by Anurradha Prasad's B.A.G. Films, Koie Jane Na stars Shishir Sharma (Kailash and Rudra), Vivek Mushran (Yash), Sanjit Bedi (Krish), Shilpa Kadam (Divya), Aditi Bhagwat (Nisha), Prabha Sinha, Jitendra Trahan and others.

A regular good versus evil saga, the plot revolves around the prosperous Rajvansh family, under the spell of an unknown curse for several years. The good force is young "bahu" and central protagonist Divya.

Anurradha Prasad said that this was B.A.G.'s first entry into the supernatural realm and marks a shift for the production house from mainstream drama.

Three other shows launching

The are three other shows that will be launching in the coming months.

Shanno Ki Shaadi - a romantic comedy loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The UTV production is a story of a Punjabi 'halwai' family with Kulbhusan Kharbanda as the patriarch 'Shadi Singh Halwai'. Complete with a nagging wife and three daughters, two of which are yet to be married.

The story centers around the second daughter Shanoo played by Divya Dutt, a master chef at their roadside Dhaba. Shanoo is a 'different' sister caught between two perfect and beautiful siblings. Enter Aman Verma, the eligible bachelor who eventually gets married to Shanoo.

Karvachauth - a weekly soap from Balaji. While the show will see some regular Balaji faces, the female protagonist is a newcomer. Creative director Ekta Kapoor had first announced (this was last July) that the soap would be coming on the Zee Network.

Tele-Duniya - A magazine show that will have interviews, behind the scenes action and glamour, all from the world of television. Bollywood gossip will be a strict no-no here.

India's biggest ever talent search for superstars

Dwarfing all its other initiatives in terms of sheer size and scale, however, is Indian Superstar. The talent hunt to beat all talent hunts is Segal's brain-child, something he conceived a couple of years ago.

After the two toy band talent searches on Channel [V] that launched Viva and Aasma, Indian Superstar is pitched as a unique talent hunt that tests acting, singing, dancing, comedy and villiany. It is unique because it starts from the point where the other talent hunts stop, says Segal. The "lucky six will get a break in the movies with a dream-director in a film that Star will produce itself.

"An elaborate talent search for one lead male, one female and four supporting stars," is what is envisioned says Segal.

* The hunt starts sometime in mid-April and the movie is scheduled for a January 2005 release.

*A jury to decide the finalists consisting of eminent film personalities.

*Online application when the ads come on TV.

*The finalists to sign contract with Star.

*Initially to take talents from eight cities.

*One movie will be made annually through this project.

This will mark Star's very different initiative into Bollywood and according to Segal, is an even bigger show than Kaun Banega Crorepati if the cost of producing a film a year is also taken into consideration.

Nair confessed that Star is probably the biggest consumer of Bollywood and said that India has got two main religions which unifies the country - cricket and Bollywood while talking about the talent search. Nair said this is the biggest and most expensive project Star has ever handled.

Talking about how Star was constantly setting the benchmarks that others followed, Nair said Star Plus has been revolutionary, as it had extended prime time to mid-night by putting some of its best programmes late in the night (Kahiin To Hoga at 11 pm and Kahiin Kissi Roz at 11:30 pm).

While talking about the films, Nair also referred to Star Gold's phenomenal success of when it telecast the dubbed version of Titanic on 14 February. The film received the highest ever ratings for a movie channel, Nair said. Star plans to dub more Hollywood movies into Hindi. especially the kung-fu action types, Nair said.

The night was not just about the plans for Star Plus though. English sibling Star World also got a look-in. Anita Kaul Basu, whose other half, ace quizmaster Siddhartha Basu will later this year anchor India's Child Genius on Star World, were present to offer an update on the progress of the talent hunt for India's brainiest kid.

The nationwide search for India's young genius in the age group of 10-13 got 17,000 applications out of which 321 had been short-listed, Basu said. Following the Fox format of America's Child Genius, the show is to be aired in May. The Basu couple said they had plans to do an Asia special of the quiz competition as well.

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