Zee TV sounds war cry with Jhansi Ki Rani

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | August 17, 2009
Zee TV's historical Ek Veer Stree Ki Kahaani Jhansi Ki Rani will be aired from Tuesday to Friday at 8 pm. The show is pitted against Balika Vadhu on Colors and Aap Ki Kachehri on STAR Plus

Zee TV has finally raised the curtain from its much awaited and talked about mega show, Ek Veer Stree Ki Kahaani - Jhansi Ki Rani.

The historical show portrays the life and times of one of the most revered figures in Indian history and freedom struggle - Rani Laxmi Bai. The show is produced by Contiloe films and will debut on the small screen on August 18.

& #BANNER1 & #Talking to afaqs! at the sidelines of the press meet at Chomu Palace announcing the launch of the show, Nitin Vaidya, chief operating officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) and business head, Zee TV, said, "We made public our intention to mount a project on the inspirational figure of Jhansi Ki Rani in 2007. Rani Laxmi Bai is a strong personality whose stories of valour and defiance shared through the generations undoubtedly holds promise to inspire and energise people even today.

"The idea for a creative project had its origin in popular celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of India's first fight for independence - the war of 1857 two years ago. Last year also turned out to be 150th death anniversary of the brave Rani Laxmi Bai."

The script of the project has been in the making for almost 10 years, with scriptwriter Miraz Zaidi striving to see his dream of bringing alive the persona and aura of Rani Laxmi Bai on the small screen. The writer's wish came true when he found an equally enthusiastic association in Zee, which shared his passion and vision to mount the grand saga of a woman protagonist whose name is etched in golden letters in Indian history.

Bringing out the relevance and connect of the historical for today's audience, Zaidi remarks, "Rani Laxmi Bai, fondly called Manu, was a symbol of defiance and woman empowerment in the 1880s when suppression and subjugation of women was the accepted order of the day. Moreover, she was the only woman figure who rose against the British policy of taking over Indian states on flimsy pretexts, when all powerful kings around her were meekly submitting to the brute force."

Zaidi adds, "The idea is to connect with all suppressed souls through inspirational portrayal of Manu's strong will power and physical force as tools of adamant defiance against all injustices and odds."

The scriptwriter claims that effort has been geared towards being true to the facts. For the project, he extensively referred to historical writings by both Indian and western historians. Creative liberties have been taken only in the portrayal of the characters' mannerisms and presentation of particular happenings, without losing touch with the facts and well established truths associated with Rani Laxmi Bai and her times.

Ajay Bhalwankar, programming head, Zee TV stressed that historical shows are always difficult to produce. He added, "A daily soap is far easier to put together as compared to a historical show that calls for intensive research and a lot of detailing. Shows of the scale and grandeur of Jhansi Ki Rani are pure hard work and they are no production miracles."

According to Abhimanyu Singh, founder, Contiloe Films, sets for the shoots were recreated at three different locations. In Aamgaon in Mumbai, along with using 8,000 square feet of studio space, the producers also took up 6 acres of land for creating the sets. A major portion of the historical has been filmed in a place called Maheswar in Indore and the Chomu Palace in Rajasthan.

Jhansi Ki Rani is one of the most ambitious projects by Zee TV. The show will be aired from Tuesday to Friday at 8 pm. The production is pitted against Balika Vadhu on Colors and Aap Ki Kachehri on STAR Plus.

Is Zee poised to take the competition head on? Vaidya dismissed any such strategy and said, "Look around and you will realise competition is present everywhere. In the past few months, we had four new launches. Our show Pavitra Rishta and Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo are in the same slot as STAR Plus's Bidaai and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, airing at 9 pm and 9:30 pm respectively - and both our shows are doing well."

He added that Zee found that the 8 pm slot connects equally across metros as well as small towns. Also, the slot is capable of cutting across age groups. "Something that connects and cuts across at the same time is surely going to prove successful," he added.

Interestingly, since the show airs from Tuesday to Friday, Zee TV has decided to have one hour episodes of its popular show, Chhoti Bahu, on Mondays from 7:30-8:30 pm.

The widely accepted notion in the general entertainment space is that mega projects related to mythology or historical figures find a resonance with the audience as people are familiar with the plots and the characters of these stories.

Recently, NDTV Imagine tasted success with Ramayana. However, Rani Padmini on Sony has not really done wonders for the channel. So what are the risk factors associated with mounting a show on such a huge scale as Jhansi Ki Rani?

Priya Mishra, creative head, Zee TV, drew attention to the fact that Zee TV, being No. 3, does not have much to lose. It can afford to be introspective and take its risks. As far as the creative and marketing aspects of the show are concerned, half the battle is won as one does not have to imagine or create a story. Brand, too, is strongly established as one really does not have to take pains to tell people who actually Jhansi Ki Rani is.

The only burden or fear of failure steps in when the presentation of the show fails to meet the imagery conjured up by audiences of historical or well known characters.

Since the show is being counted upon as one of driver properties of the channel, it is being heavily promoted within the Zee Network. Vaidya asserted that media such as print or outdoor reach only a small portion of the audience. In contrast, the Zee Network delivers far greater reach through channels such as Zee Cinema, Zee News and regional language offerings, and is the best marketing platform that one could ask for.

Having said that, the show does have its share of hoardings across the country and its promos are running on leading news channels such as Aaj Tak, India TV and STAR News.

Sources close to the organisation also revealed that within a month of the launch of Jhansi Ki Rani, Zee TV will be coming up with another big property, titled 12/24 Karol Bagh.

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