There is no denying the fact that 2004 has been a rather busy year for mass entertainment channels.
They have been involved with new launches, new shows, and new properties. In other words, a general level of hyperactivity has characterised this genre this year.
Not that 2003 was devoid of activity altogether. There was Sony's Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, which broke new ground in terms of its overall marketing. STAR launched its Parivaar Awards, which was an unique initiative. Even channels such as Sahara Manoranjan (now SaharaOne) tried to woo audiences with star-studded offerings such as Karishma - The Miracles of Destiny. But the overall status-quo remained with the top three general entertainment channels chugging along with their basic line-up of shows.
Cut to the present, and the scenario is vastly different. SaharaOne along with STAR, Sony and ZEE - the leading players in the space - seem to be launching new shows with a rather monotonous regularity.
As Shailja Kejriwal, creative director, STAR Plus, says, "Well, we are practically launching a new show every month." The channel started the trend with K Street Pali Hill on September 27 in the 11.30 pm slot, followed by Hello Dollie on October 25 in the 7.30 pm slot. While Saarrathi, a new afternoon show, will debut on November 8 in the 2.30 pm slot, November 19 will see the premiere of two new shows - a reworked Khulja Sim Sim, featuring actor Hussain (of Kumkum fame) as the new anchor, at 9.30 pm and Kaalchakra, a weekly starring Nausheen Ali Sardar (of Kkusum fame) at 10.30 pm.
STAR has two more shows on the anvil - Balaji's Kul and Vinta Nanda's Millie - that are yet to be slotted at this point in time. However, Kejriwal does indicate that the 9.00 pm weekly show Kehta Hai Dil, which is telecast every Tuesday is "coming to a close". "One-hour dramas tend to be heavily plot-driven and cannot go on for a very long period of time. They are finite, which means that an end is at hand," she says.
The fate of the other three weekly dramas Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand (telecast on Mondays at 9.00 pm), Sanjivani (on Wednesdays at 9.00 pm) and Saara Akash (on Thursdays at 9.00 pm), though, remains unclear at the moment.
"We are phasing out the current storyline in Sanjivani. But the brand, as in the title of the show, is so strong that we may retain the hospital identity and introduce a new bunch of interns," says Kejriwal. Des and Saara Akash, on the other hand, will go for now, she clarifies.
Even as STAR Plus continues to bank on 'human dramas', rivals Sony and ZEE believe that a mix of reality, music and fiction will aggregate enough eyeballs. Sony, in fact, is leaving no stone unturned to promote its recently-launched property Indian Idol, and ZEE has just kicked-off a horror series Rooh on November 6 in the 8.00 pm slot. The series replaces the popular Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai that was anchored by Farookh Sheikh.
Ashvini Yardi, vice-president, programming, ZEE TV, says that there no plans to revive Jeena… at this point in time. The show, which was launched in 2002, was pulled off-air last year, but came back with renewed vigour in the second half of the year. This time, however, the show seems to be wound up for good, and ZEE, in fact, is keen on promoting its horror band in the 8.00 pm slot on Saturdays.
The new series, incidentally, is not the first of the horror shows on the channel. There was X-Zone and ZEE Horror Show in the '90s, but as Yardi maintains, Rooh is unlike its predecessors in terms of its treatment. "The horror is of a subtle kind and not as in-your-face as ZEE Horror Show was."
Besides, the channel will premiere blockbuster Yuva on November 28 at 8.00 pm, while the grand finale of its popular talent hunt India's Best - Cinestars Ki Khoj will happen on December 4.
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