STAR Plus is setting out to encapsulate the commitment and determination of today's youth in fulfilling their parents' dream in a reality show called Mahayatra.
January 18 will see the debut of the channel's ambitious reality show, Mahayatra - Rishton Ka Anokha Safar, which will see 12 youngsters brave odds in their quest to fulfill their parents' dream of a pilgrimage to the four 'dhaams' (places of religious significance), including Kedarnath-Badrinath, Rameshwaram, Puri and Dwarka.
Talking about the inspiration and the concept of the show, Monika Shergill, senior creative director, STAR Plus, says, "The show captures the emotional bond between child and parent. Religion only serves as the backdrop of the show as the show focuses on commitment, determination and will exhibited by the participants in realising their parents' dream of a pilgrimage to the four dhaams."
The groups are pitted against each other in performing various tasks and the team that loses nominates one family amongst themselves to the danger zone, identifying it as the weak link and thus being responsible for the team's loss.
The team nominated in the danger zone finds its fortune hanging in balance, entirely dependent on luck and chance. Each elimination is arrived at by using the 'Bhagyachakra' (wheel of fate), which decides whether a family will continue in the quest.
Different rounds have been designed to test the children and the families, both as a unit and as individuals. Commenting on the appeal and relevance of the show, Shergill shares, "The reality show is inspired by the mythological figure of Shravan Kumar, who took a vow to take his blind parents on a pilgrimage braving odds. The six week reality offering is also about how far today's youth can go to fulfil their parents' wish. Mahayatra is connected and resonates with the Indian ethos, culture and is all about emotions and family relationships."
Mahayatra has been mounted by the production house Miditech, which in the recent past produced another reality show, Perfect Bride, for the channel. It is an indigenous concept with the format of the show being owned by STAR Plus. The show has been shot across Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Uttarakhand.
In a period of three months, the entire Mahayatra team, including the channel representatives, the production team and the contestants, travelled more than 12,000 kilometres. The shoot for the show was completed in 89 days. Mahayatra started off from Benaras and finished in Badrinath, covering several other religious destinations as part of the show.
The contestants for the reality show were selected through 'close auditions', in which a few individuals were directly approached by the channel to come and be a part of the show. The channel reportedly approached 500 probable contestants before finally selecting the 36 participants. To ensure a varied mix of people representing diverse regions and cultures, the participants were chosen from places such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Dehradun and Una (Himachal Pradesh).
Alva is confident that the show will do well. He says, "It has the intensity of a survivor, the complex relationship play outs of a Roadies, the dynamism and pace of an amazing race, the unpredictability of the soap, locations as diverse as the most travelled show in India and yet offers a deeper journey within if you want to embark on it as an individual or contestant."
An hour long daily show, Mahayatra will be aired at 7 pm. Bhagyavidhata (Colors) is the top show at 7 pm, delivering a TVR of 3.2 (as per TAM, C&S 4+ December 1- 26, 2009 data). It will have competition in Zee TV's offering, Chhoti Bahu, at 7:30 pm. According to the same data, Chhoti Bahu was the top performing show, delivering a TVR of 4.8.
Currently, STAR Plus has Shradha and Mitwa Phool Kamal Ke on the 7 pm and 7:30 pm slots respectively. Jha adds that in a way, the fiction show Shradha is also about a girl's devotion towards her parent and has a strong overtone of religion. However, Mahayatra is a different proposition altogether and given the strength of the platform, STAR Plus could succeed in attracting the much needed eyeballs once the audience takes to the show.
Arumugam, however, does not attach much importance to the choice of the anchor. Rather, she believes that it is the content that holds the pull to get in viewers. On the other hand, Jha believes that the name does not bring instant recall and the channel could have done better by roping in a more familiar celebrity name with more star power, further aiding the cause of the show.
STAR Plus is promoting the show aggressively. In December 2009, it started off with a teaser campaign to create buzz around the show. The campaign aimed to establish that the expectations of parents are not being met by modern youth, prodding the viewer to think if there is "anybody who can understand the feelings of the parents and do something about it?"
In the first week of January 2010, it revealed the 12 participants of the show, who would attempt to take their parents on the journey. As part of the on-ground activity, STAR Plus performed a 'Mahayagna' at Birla Mandir, Delhi, from which the jyot (sacred fire of the Mahayagna) will be carried to Haridwaar during the auspicious occasion of Mahakumbh.
In addition to using media platforms such as radio and TV, Vasudev of STAR Plus gives details of the additional promotional activities which will support the reality show, saying, "In the digital space, we are carrying out a banner campaign highlighting the four dhaams on websites such as yatra.com and indianrailways.com. As a part of the licensing and merchandising initiatives, we have come out with a snake and ladder game based on the journey. With the launch of the show on January 18, STAR Plus will begin a multiple city hunt for 'Sheher ka Shravan Kumar' through a radio and print campaign."