Anirban Roy Choudhury

"In today's day and age, it is difficult to keep track of what hurts people's sentiments": Shailja Kejriwal, ZEE 

The chief creative officer, special projects, ZEE, says that the digital medium liberates content creators, and enables brands like Zindagi to cater to its niche (audience). In an interview with afaqs!, she shares her vision for Zindagi.

"Unfortunate stance of Mia Sharif (Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister of Pakistan) at UN. Zee is considering stopping Zindagi programs from Pak, as well as artistes from there should leave." This is what Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE) chairman Subhash Chandra tweeted back in 2016. After the Uri (Jammu and Kashmir) attack, the network decided to bring down the curtains in Pakistan. 

It looked like a dead end for Zindagi, the TV channel that was launched by ZEE in 2014. It had a great run, and became popular by airing Pakistani shows, such as 'Aunn Zara', 'Humsafar', 'Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain', 'Maat' and 'Zindagi Gulzar Hai'. Many Turkish titles also found an audience among women in urban India.

In July 2020, ZEE announced its decision to bring back Zindagi as an offering on its video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform ZEE5. Shailja Kejriwal, chief creative officer, special projects, ZEE, was given the responsibility to relaunch the brand. The first show 'Churails' got Zindagi back in the headlines. 

A Zindagi Original (show), 'Churails' is a Pakistani drama that revolves around Karachi's detectives, who are out on a special mission. 

Kejriwal has been in the broadcast business since 1998. After Star India, she led content (team) at NDTV Imagine. She joined ZEE in 2013, and has also written the Irrfan Khan-starrer 'Madaari'.

She says that the digital medium liberates content creators, and enables brands like Zindagi to cater to its niche (audience). In an interview with afaqs!, Kejriwal shares her vision for Zindagi.

Edited Excerpts:

Was it the right time to bring back Zindagi?

We have always been trying to broadcast shows from across the world. Digital allows us that platform. It is difficult to do it on linear television.

The purpose of Zindagi was to break boundaries and bring content from Pakistan, Turkey, Korea and other parts of the world. On digital, people watch content from all parts of the world. So, we thought, why not bring back Zindagi.

What will Zindagi offer in the long run?

Zindagi is a bit different in terms of its content philosophy. While most platforms primarily target the male audience, Zindagi is slightly more feminine in its approach. Its USP lies in addressing women's issues and concerns, and be their voice. That is something we keep in mind when we create, curate or commission...

Also Read: ZEE Entertainment brings back the acclaimed content brand ‘Zindagi’ on ZEE5

Who is Zindagi for, or targeted towards?

Zindagi, as a TV channel, had its own following, and that audience is still there. Having said that, its primary audience would be females in the 18-40 age group, who want to find something relatable and are not a TV viewer anymore.

At the same time, they are the ones who are looking for something which is different from the lot of content that caters to the male sensibilities. They are the same audience who would probably watch 'The Crown' (on Netflix).

Shailja Kejriwal
Shailja Kejriwal

Is that a big enough base for you to target?

On linear TV, you have to think about the audience and make content for the (audience) set that (you think) is available to watch shows. Whereas, on digital, it is all about finding your niche and staying true to it.

The beauty of the platform is that many niches can coexist on digital. The medium gives you the freedom to create for the pockets that you relate to.

Is it an offering for individual viewing only, or can a family sit together and watch too?

It is not an offering that confines you to one kind of viewing. 'Churails' is something that I would like to watch on my phone (individually). 'Ek Jhoothi Love Story' is a show that a family can watch together, while having dinner.

Also Read: Zee announces strategic restructuring 4.0; appoints Rahul Johri as President – Business, South Asia

On television, you had a channel dedicated to Zindagi. Now, on ZEE5, don't you think that discovery would be a challenge?

When you are a part of the platform, be it ZEE5 or any other, it needs to cater to many (different) audience segments. For a person, it is like being in a movie theatre, where you have all kinds of films, be it Hollywood (English) or Indian language or Hindi. The audience will pick and choose whatever they want to see.

What is Zindagi's content strategy?

We would like to create the brand in three parts: curate, create and collaborate. As far as the first one goes, we have got the most successful Pakistani shows, which have been put under Zindagi. The creative part is where we are creating original content for ourselves out of Pakistan.

Our dream is that there will be a collaboration, where people from across the world will be able to work together with a common pool of artistes, writers and directors.

Last, it is a channel that received a lot of flak because of its connection with Pakistan…

In today's day and age, it is difficult to keep track of what hurts people's sentiments. Just about everything can hurt everybody's sentiments. So, we will just be creative and go with what we believe in, and then leave it for sensible people to view.

My belief is that good content will find its viewers. As far as trolls are concerned, they are part of life.