Star Plus' nine-month long tryst with 'Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum'

The show focused on an urban upper-class family with a lot of humour.

MUMBAI: Production of shows across TV and OTT has halted due to the lockdown. While there is no way to predict when normal functioning will resume, GECs are filling airtime with re-runs of popular shows from the past. One show that just concluded before Covid-19 became a pandemic in India and deserves a re-run is Star Plus’ Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum (KHKT). The 9 pm primetime show, which had its last airing on 14 March, was a refreshing change from the monotonous saas-bahu drama that is a standard across channels, national or regional.

In June 2019, KHKT replaced Krishna Chali London, which ran for a little over a year. Before Krishna Chali London, Naamkaran ran for about 463 episodes. Now KHKT has given way to a new show Anupama, an adaptation from Star Jalsha’s Sreemoyee about the struggles of a homemaker. The -pm slot has turned into an experimental one for the channel ever since it ended one of its popular shows Diya Aur Baati Hum which had a successful run from 2011 to 2016.

However, KHKT was a track apart from all these shows. While primetime shows tend to depict traditional families, Sol Productions took bold strides with KHKT. Says Sol Productions’ founder and managing director Fazila Allana, “For KHKT, our effort was to be more reflective of today’s society. Women are becoming stronger and standing on their feet. We did show a wealthier society in the show and we got a great response for it with a huge cult audience too.”

The premise of the show itself was novel: a love story between a TV actress and a surgeon in predominantly upper-class urban Mumbai. The other stereotype it broke was that every primetime show must make you cry or feel sad. KHKT introduced a lot of humour in its first few months, which was like a breath of fresh air.

“My heroine wasn’t the ‘roti dhoti abla naari’. She was a confident girl. The romance was also different. They [the lead pair] spoke of things like let’s take a shower together,” says producer Sandiip Sikcand. Indeed, the show attempted to break several taboo topics whether it was sex education between the mother and daughter, the husband and wife discussing their first night together or even something as challenging as suicide.

Even as the show focused on Sonakshi Rastogi, portrayed by Dipika Kakar Ibrahim, Allana points out the difference in KHKT’s male protagonist Rohit Sippy, played by Karan V Grover. “More than a strong woman, whom you see in multiple shows now, the biggest thing here was the man supporting the woman in having her independent identity whether it was her life, career or having a name of her own,” she says. This track was mildly attempted in Diya Aur Baati Hum where the lead Sandhya Rathi had a semi-supportive husband in her dream of becoming an IPS officer.

There is a reason why women swooned over the character of Rohit Sippy. While crafting Rohit’s character, Sikcand says, “He is the kind of guy everyone should be like. In my shows, I like men and women to be as real people. They need to be the way I feel they should be. Every human needs to be humble and supportive. A man is not a benchmark for a woman and the woman is not the weaker sex. You are a human first and man/woman later.”

Even as the love between Rohit and Sonakshi was blossoming from courtship into marriage, trouble seemed to be brewing not just in their marital life but also on the channel and production front. After a few months, the show had to introduce drastic dramatic changes to rake up the TRPs. “They [Star] had maintained from the start that they want to break the 2 GRP barrier for the 9 pm slot. It is a tough slot and is up against the number 1 show. We came close but we couldn’t cross it. The channel probably had their own research and decided that they want to experiment with a different kind of story. Even KHKT was an experiment and it worked up to a point,” shares Allana.

Sikcand says that the team got the call to pack up on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. When probed about what the channel gave as a reason for winding it up within nine months, Sikcand is tight-lipped stating that the conversation between a broadcaster and a producer is like one that takes place between a husband and wife in the bedroom. “I don’t know what prompted this decision but ratings is what we [the industry] judge by,” he mentions.

Allana, giving more insight, says that the show only appealed to a certain audience mindset and that is what led to the decision to end the show. “The audience that watched KHKT is more evolved and that number isn't a lot in the country. Which is why in the UK it was the top show,” she says.

If a conservative audience is what is being catered to by Hindi GEC primetime, is there no hope then for shows like KHKT that want to take the road less travelled? “Given a chance, I’ll make the show the same way again. I will not stop experimenting. KHKT was different and maybe, different takes a little more time. I will continue saying stories which will compel the thinking to change,” says Sikcand boldly.

On the other hand, Allana says that the change in the show type can only happen when audiences change. “Star is catering to the audience. If the audience prefers to watch drama and woman constantly being beaten up and rising like a phoenix they will be forced to create such shows,” she points out.

Is TRP a limitation on creativity? Sikcand agrees but adds metaphorically, “You cannot go to the temple and not acknowledge the god. In TV, content isn’t king, TRP is. It’s up to you if you want to dance for that god or not. I will still dance because I need him to wake up, turn around and say don’t take me as a god.” Interestingly, the show got called off a few months after it changed tracks to cater to TRP-led viewership.

Sikcand’s idea is not to ruffle feathers by introducing extremely off-beat thought-provoking ideas in his storylines. It is to keep introducing them little by little. In his own words, it is by adding a little baingan in your daily bhindi and keep increasing the amount of that baingan little by little.

Ending at one episode short of 200, KHKT was unable to get a revised timeslot due to lack of vacancy while OTT was a challenge monetarily.

While Allana feels the show might have been a little early for Indian mindsets, she hopes it still touched a lot of lives.

For Sikcand, this is only temporary. He will continue to work with Star and is already buzzing with ideas not just for TV but also for OTT. “When you want to win the race, take a step back and sprint. Maybe this is that,” he concludes.

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