Zee Marathi struggles to replace accident victims Abhyankar and Pendse

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | January 02, 2013
Marathi serial Mala Sasu Havi lost two of its main actors in a road accident on the Mumbai-Pune highway last week. How will channel deal with the double blow?

Anand Abhyankar

Akshay Pendse

Is it the plot or the acting that determines the fate of a serial? While there are other factors too, of course, the question is a particularly poignant one for Zee Marathi and everyone involved in the serial, Mala Sasu Havi ('I want a mother-in-law')

Anand Abhyankar (50) and the much-lauded Akshay Pendse (33) were the central characters of the show and the channel is struggling to cope with the tragedy.

"Mala Sasu Havi is currently on air; and, given the structure of the story, which is about a father and a son that was until now being played by Abhyankar and Pendse respectively, the characters cannot be done away with" says Nikhil Sane, senior vice-president, Zee Marathi. "Hence, we have to find the right replacements," Mala Sasu Havi airs from Monday through Saturday and averages around 3.5 TVRs (C&S, 4+, Maharashtra).

Sane says the channel has already begun talking to senior actors but the names are yet to be finalised. "Replacing Abhyankar will be especially very tough because frankly, he was in a superlative league," he says.

Will the change in faces affect the viewership for the show?

Nikhil Sane

Sane thinks that it might well be minimal. "In television, we have seen cases where people have been replaced in normal circumstances and there has been no impact; also, there is no historical data to prove that such moves have had an impact on ratings. Therefore, I do not think the impact will be much since we will try to bring on board actors who are at par with Abhyankar and Pendse," says Sane, adding, "After all, the show must go on."

Ironically, in 2008, when popular veteran actor Vihang Nayak (58) died in a similar car accident on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, it was Abhyankar who was called upon to replace him in Avghaachi Sansaar - another popular serial on Zee Marathi. With Abhyankar's going, the wheel has come full circle.

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