Avika Gor, whose portrayal of Anandi in the programme, Balika Vadhu on Colors instantly struck a chord with viewers across the country, will soon end her innings. Balika Vadhu, which topped the charts once upon a time, is slated to take a five year leap.
From a 13 year old, the protagonist Anandi will now be 18 years. The character of Anandi's husband, Jagya, will also be replaced. Ormax Media study ranks Anandi as the most loved character on television today, consecutively for the third time. Letting go of such a popular character, the channel says, is part of the narrative.
"Balika Vadhu always was meant to portray the story of a girl from childhood to womanhood. Hence, the age leap is a natural progression of the current story. The child bride will be seen blossoming into a mature woman now," says Ashvini Yardi, programming head, Colors.
The storyline after the leap, which will happen sometime in July, will see her look at life as an adult and the implications that child marriage has in the grown up years. Yardi is sure that viewers will appreciate the change in storyline and the new actors.
For the past few weeks, Balika Vadhu has been unable to retain the kind of viewership it once commanded (see chart). In March, Anandi was shot in the show and Colors had launched a campaign urging viewers to pray for her well being. The episode had a 45 per cent rise in viewership as per aMap data (C&S, NWE).
The channel plans to communicate the change in an interesting way. A campaign has been launched allowing viewers to choose the actor who will play the older Anandi. The channel unveiled the three shortlisted faces during the premiere of the movie Kites on Sunday, June 27. Viewers can SMS their preference to a number and based on the poll, the channel will make a decision.
"Balika Vadhu is our flagship show and has become a part of people's lives. It is the appreciation and the loyalty of viewers that made Balika Vadhu the success that it is today," Yardi says about letting viewers choose the new face of Balika Vadhu.
Will the absence of the little girl make a big impact on the viewership of the show? We will have to wait and watch.