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IndustrySpeak: The mythology fever – Hindi GECs get busy ‘booking Gods’

14-February-2008
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IndustrySpeak: The mythology fever – Hindi GECs get busy ‘booking Gods’

It was nearly 22 years ago when ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ kept the entire nation indoors on Sunday mornings. Now 22 years later, NDTV Imagine raised quite a few eyebrows when, just prior to its launch, the channel announced its decision to launch ‘Ramayan’ in its weekday primetime. The move was seen as a gamble by many that could go either ways, but at least according to the first two weeks’ ratings of the channel, the gamble is paying off.

Industry sources now inform that soap queen Ekta Kapoor, too, has taken a detour towards mythology, with what she claims would be the biggest show on television – ‘Mahabharat’. The epic would be aired on 9X soon. Sources also informed that Bobby Bedi, too, was in the process of making the epic ‘Mahabharat’ for television and that Star Plus was in active talks for this show. However, STAR officials have clearly stated that this was untrue.

Nonetheless, Gods and mythological characters suddenly seem to be the heroes on key primetime bands rather than being slotted in the weekends. Television executives have different answers to give here. Some say that when any kind of content seems to be working, there is no harm in following the trend, while some say that this is not differentiated content, but differentiated copying.

Speaking on what she thinks might be working for NDTV Imagine’s ‘Ramayan’, Shailja Kejriwal, EVP, Content, NDTV Imagine Ltd, said, “‘Ramayan’ is known by all, but not necessarily seen by all. The show has good values and the positivism that it brings to the screen may be working in its favour. Also, the songs that we have used explain emotions so well that they would attract the viewers.” She explained that some nuances in mythology-creation today was to be true to the story, pay attention to the visual appeal, and at the same time be contemporary without moving away from the values.

STAR India’s Keertan Adyanthaya said, “Mythologies have been working for us for a long time – whether it is ‘Sai Baba’ or ‘Jai Ma Durga’ or ‘Prithviraj Chauhan’ for that matter. One this point of putting it on weekdays – experimentation is good, but it is not like we are seeing any innovative content from any other channel at present. Some channels have taken our weekday schedules and replicated that, while some channels have taken our weekend schedule and replicated that on weekdays!”

Ashwini Yardi, Head, Content and Creative, Viacom18, on the other hand, said, “Zee did ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’ in 2000, but it didn’t work then. Perhaps then it was too early for the shows. Today, there is a need for differentiation and these strategies are working. It is what ‘Naagin’ did for Zee TV. ‘Ramayan’ is an epic, but it is a soap at the end of the day. What happens with TV normally is that when something works, it is replicated very soon, but there is no harm in that.”

Kumud Chaudhary, Head of Fiction Programming, 9X, said here, “Mythology is making sense to the extent that it adds to the variety available. I believe it is dramas and soaps that rule the roost in prime time and are most important. They’ve been the staple for years now, and as we know, it’s the women-oriented shows that have consistently given the biggest ratings yet.”

With at least two more mythologies ready to compete for the audience eyeballs, it does appear that there are more siding this genre now than before NDTV Imagine’s launch. However, how does ‘Ramayan’ grow from here, and how the other mythologies fare is the bigger question. How long would the Gods-on-screen keep the Indian viewers hooked? Heaven knows!

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