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Away from the cranky bahu and roaring saas

By , agencyfaqs! | In | October 14, 2002
ZEE soaps, Lipstick, Kittie Party and Love Marriage, are an attempt by the channel to break the stranglehold of the bahu serials. Will it succeed?


There's a quiet revolution happening on the programming front at ZEE TV, reminiscent of the time when serials such as Tara and Banegi Apni Baat brought in a whole new generation of viewers with a more contemporary or modern view to life. Distinctly skewed towards the female audience, these new-age soaps launched in recent months by the channel clearly stray away from the archaic representation of women so rampant on television today, choosing instead to reveal the more vibrant, emancipated side of her.

ZEE's exploration with diverse formats began with the launch of Love Marriage on July 29, 2002. Telecast at 9.00 pm from Monday to Thursday, this serial traces the lives of four women in Mumbai, namely Anu, Meera, Sonali and Kiran who come to the city with the hope of realising their dreams and finding a soulmate who can help them meet their goals and objectives.

The second serial tilted Kittie Party was launched on August 19, 2002, at 10.00 pm with the storyline revolving around eight women and the support they seek from each other through their little 'kitty parties'. Penned by columnist and author, Shobhaa De and aired during weekdays, this serial explores the individual lives of Manju, Rewa, Vidya, Tina, Pixie, Niloufer, Kuku, and Natasha through these meetings, highlighting their hopes, disappointments, aspirations and longings in the process.

The last in the list, is the late-night show, Lipstick, launched on September 9, 2002, at 11.00 pm. Centred at two publishing houses and their perennial war to stay at the top, this late-night drama revolving around two women, Sheetal Singhania and Suniti, has a liberal dose of power and glamour sprinkled into the plot that takes an inside look at Bollywood.

So what got the channel involved with a line-up so far removed from the tried and tested saas-bahu format? Explains Apurva Purohit, president, ZEE TV, "It began with a research project that we undertook in March-April this year hoping to understand what women want. We conducted 600 semi-structured interviews with women in seven cities (Mumbai, Nagpur, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bhopal and Ahmedabad) in the age groups 15 to 50 across SEC A, B and C. What emerged shattered some of our preconceived notions,
warranting a relook at our programming line-up."

For starters, the research highlighted that women play two roles - individual and social. Of the individual roles, a daughter or friend is the closest to her heart whereas her social roles include that of a daughter-in-law and wife, which she accepts but is not too content with. As Purohit puts it, "We had respondents stating that they are completely at ease with friends and true to themselves. They could do their own thing as a daughter but as a daughter-in-law, it is not acceptable."

What the channel learnt through the exercise was that the portrayal of women could range from merely 'acceptable' to 'motivating'. And for a more 'motivating' portrayal the 'connection' had to be right, which, a combination of her individual role and her dreams and aspirations could achieve. "Our creative team picked up this cue and for all new soaps, we strove to get the portrayal in the motivating zone because that will ensure that viewers not only 'view' but get 'involved' as well, " she reiterates.

With Lipstick, Kittie Party and Love Marriage too, the same principle worked. "Well, the concept of Kittie Party emerged from a research finding that tracked the widespread phenomenon of unconventional support groups going by the same name among women in the age group of 30 years and above. The idea generally doing the rounds is that kittie parties are vicarious and verbose with women playing cards and what not. But the fact is that these very kitty parties are a great support system where members can bring up their personal problems and generally unwind and be friends. Love Marriage, on the other hand highlights an interesting trend among younger women especially in the age group of 18 to 20 who seemed intrigued by the concept of love marriage. For many of them, love marriage is a hot topic of discussion. And Lipstick is about Bollywood, another favourite past time for a woman."

Despite ZEE's sincere efforts at connecting with the masses, in particular the womenfolk, TVR figures have a sorry tale to tell, with the bahu serials still dominating the television landscape. For week 38, (September 15 to September 21, 2002), Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi topped the list with a TVR figure of 9.01 (for the episode telecast on September 19). Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki was next with a TVR score of 8.86 and Kyunki Saas made an entry once again at number three with a figure of 8.83 (for the episode telecast on September 16). (Source: TAM Media Research; Target group: C&S homes 4+ years.)

Purohit, however is upbeat about her channel's programming line-up. She says, "Our endeavour is to break through the viewership habits formed over the last two years and build new ones. We are obviously hoping that viewers will get away from the saas-bahu format and sample our products." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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