FIR takes the leap

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | March 06, 2013
The show will replace Kavita Kaushik, the lead character and the popularity driver of the show, by Chitrashi Rawat of Chak De fame, and take a 20-year leap.

SAB TV, the second GEC from MSM, has relied on the niche genre of family comedy entertainment and depended heavily on two of its oldest shows, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmaah and FIR, to drive audiences.

Sandeep Anand as Billu, Chitrashi Rawat as Jwalamukhi Chautala and Gopinath Gandola as Gopi Bhalla

Of these, FIR, launched in 2006, is ready to take a 20-year leap, replacing its lead character Chandramukhi Chautala (played by Kavita Kaushik), who gained popularity because of her Haryanvi accent on the show. FIR, currently a weekly show on the Saturday 9 pm slot, will now feature Chitrashi Rawat of Chak De fame, who will play Jwalamukhi Chautala, the daughter of Chandramukhi.

The cast of the show will also see change, including the two main constables, Gopi and Gulgule, whose children will be brought in to support the 'new inspector'.

Jwalamukhi's character will be a blend of vulnerability, docility and the toughness of Chandramukhi.

FIR, which till January occupied the 10:30 pm slot on Saturdays, was shifted to the 9 pm slot when the channel launched Tota Weds Maina featuring Kavita Kaushik as the lead at 10:30 pm. Despite the change, FIR has managed to average at 1-1.5 TVRs and has remained stable at the slot. With the leap and hence the new faces on the show, it remains to be seen if the show is able to maintain a similar stability in ratings.

Mona Jain

Ashish Bhasin

Anooj Kapoor

The channel expects Rawat's entry to increase sampling as she will draw her own set of fans, while Kaushik's followers may sample the new version out of curiosity.

However, industry experts agree that changing the lead faces of a character-driven show like FIR is a very big risk for any channel to take, although it is not an uncommon practice.

"FIR is known by the name of Kaushik and this might create trouble for the channel while serving the show with Rawat. Also, Tota Weds Maina's initial sampling is largely driven by Kaushik," the industry suggests.

But there are a few who think otherwise. Mona Jain, chief executive officer, Vivaki Exchange, citing the examples of Balika Vadhu (change in the lead character- Anandi) and Pavitra Rishta (the lead male protagonist was changed) states that ultimately it doesn't matter much if the storyline is strong enough. She adds, "The new girl is also quite known. Her face looks familiar and her accent is also tested and verified."

Ashish Bhasin, chairman and chief executive officer, Aegis Media adds that leaps in time do work as they bring in fresh content in the same packaging to the viewers. He says, "Replacing the stars is no big change. Since most of the shows are daily, the viewers get used to it quickly, and the weekly pattern of FIR could also work as well."

SAB TV accepts that the change is a risk and adds that it has earlier taken risks with formats such as silent comedy and patriotism-based shows. Anooj Kapoor, AVP and business head, SAB TV, says, "Even the silent comedy experiment was treated sceptically by the industry, but the show paid off well. For FIR, seven years is a long time and with time, some kind of content fatigue is bound to creep in. This is why we thought of bringing in a little change, keeping the flavour same." However, he clarifies that Chandramukhi will not be gone from the show forever. "She might come-back," he suggests.

The channel does not plan a special marketing campaign to communicate the change, although promos on the network channels and through the existing annual marketing deals on the OOH and multiplex platforms will be used. SAB TV plans to release three promos through these routes.

SAB's recent launch, Tota Weds Maina, which replaced FIR at the 10.30 pm slot, is averaging at 0.8 TVRs, lower than the earlier slot ratings. However, the ratings of Hum Aapke Hain In-Laws and Jeanie and Juju, the other two new launches, are hovering at about 1-1.5 TVRs, respectively.

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