'Tenali Rama' to return to TV; producer calls it "most expensive historical"

By Anirban Roy Choudhury , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | June 21, 2017
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SAB TV to air a fresh rendition of Tenali Rama, DD's hit show from the '90s, starting next month.

'Tamma Tamma' and 'Raabta' are busting the charts when it comes to Bollywood music, Hotstar recently launched the sequel of Star's iconic comic series, 'Sarabhai VS Sarabhai'... remake seems to be the new trend in the entertainment space.

This trend now seems to be heading towards the TV screen too. Recently, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) "refurbished" its comedy focused Hindi General Entertainment Channel (HGEC), Sony SAB and among the new titles, one that managed to raise many eyebrows is 'Tenali Rama'.

Tenali Rama

Tenali Rama

Neeraj Vyas

NP Singh

Abhimanyu Singh

Yes, SAB is all set to bring back the story of the legendary poet in Krishnadevraya's court who uses his ingenious methods to solve even the trickiest of problems. People still remember 'Tenali Rama' as one of the Doordarshan classics of 90s. The show was made by film director T.S. Nagabharana who was very popular in the Kannada film industry. 'Cartoon Network' aired an animated series on the Indian mythological character, the show was created by Toonz Animation.

The upcoming SAB version will be produced by Contiloe Pictures. "It took us only half an hour to say yes to Tenali Rama, the proposal was on the table and after I took over (as head of Sony SAB) it was the first show we green lit," asserts Neeraj Vyas, senior EVP and head, Sony SAB and MAX cluster of channels.

N.P. Singh, chief executive officer, Sony Pictures Networks India, adds, "Tenali Rama is a loved character and has not been seen on TV for a long time, so we thought we should bring back the show. With his wit and humor, we believe he will bring smiles to a lot of faces."

"Keep an eye on the Choti (ponytail)," Singh gives a hint, "It will do a lot of interesting things," he adds.

Vyas feels that apart from historical value, the show has another vital tool in its kit and that is the actor playing 'Rama', "Krishna Bharadwaj is playing the lead and he is something to watch out for," he adds.

Contiloe Pictures, over the years has made the mythological-historical space its own in Indian television. The television software company has titles like Sher-e-Punjab: Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman and Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat among others in its portfolio. "Abhimanyu Singh is an expert in the mythological/historical space and it's great what he has done with the show," Vyas adds.

Chief executive officer, Contiloe Pictures, Singh pitched 'Tenali Rama' to SAB as a "natural extension", "We have done a lot of biopics and historical magnum opuses and we thought this would be an opportunity for us to do comedy on a large scale. Historical comedy is something nobody has done before and we thought it would be a great space for us to be in and that is where the idea came from," informs Singh.

While the show is based on tales of the historical figure and many of them have already been adapted before, Singh firmly believes that his version is unique and has not been seen before. "The scale, characters, interpretations, sets... every aspect is unique. The tales are different, it will be a totally different experience," he adds.

Tenali Rama on DD

Historical and mythological shows are always more expensive than daily soaps. The channel bears around Rs. 6-8 lakh as cost per episode of a fiction show whereas it escalates above Rs. 15 lakh for a mythological show.

"This is the most expensive historical that we have made," Singh asserts. And what makes it so expensive? "We have put up a huge set, his empire was one of the richest of medieval times and we tried to recreate every minute aspect. We created bullock carts and everything else that was there. Also, the costumes and cast; we wanted to make this a visual delight and that is what has made it one of the most expensive historical projects that we have ever worked on," he adds.

"Historical and mythological dramas attract a lot of family audience and that is why brands like to punt on them," adds a brand custodian who prefers not to be named. "SAB has done very well with clean comedy so far, but the channel has to overcome two challenges. One, it is often considered as big as 'Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah' and the second is that it is a Hindi channel for the Gujarati people."

The media planner thinks that the kind of content they generally air is what develops the Gujarati perception. "It is good that this channel is bringing up shows like Tenali Rama who is a South Indian figure. They should be able to monetise the show well," he adds.

Now it remains to be seen if the show manages to make a mark in the rating charts. SAB is yet to disclose the date and time of the show, for now, it's coming soon.

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