Sangeeta Tanwar

STAR Plus embarks on a journey of faith with Mahayatra

The hour long show, Mahayatra, will be pitted against Bhagyavidhata on Colors and Chhoti Bahu on Zee TV

STAR Plus is setting out to encapsulate the commitment and determination of today's youth in fulfilling their parents' dream in a reality show called Mahayatra.

January 18 will see the debut of the channel's ambitious reality show, Mahayatra - Rishton Ka Anokha Safar, which will see 12 youngsters brave odds in their quest to fulfill their parents' dream of a pilgrimage to the four 'dhaams' (places of religious significance), including Kedarnath-Badrinath, Rameshwaram, Puri and Dwarka.

Talking about the inspiration and the concept of the show, Monika Shergill, senior creative director, STAR Plus, says, "The show captures the emotional bond between child and parent. Religion only serves as the backdrop of the show as the show focuses on commitment, determination and will exhibited by the participants in realising their parents' dream of a pilgrimage to the four dhaams."

STAR Plus embarks on a journey of faith with Mahayatra
The reality show spanning 31 episodes (including a Grand Finale) has 12 teams of three members each, comprising a son/daughter with his or her parents. For first few stages of the show, the 12 teams are divided into two groups, Agni (Fire) and Vayu (Air).

The groups are pitted against each other in performing various tasks and the team that loses nominates one family amongst themselves to the danger zone, identifying it as the weak link and thus being responsible for the team's loss.

The team nominated in the danger zone finds its fortune hanging in balance, entirely dependent on luck and chance. Each elimination is arrived at by using the 'Bhagyachakra' (wheel of fate), which decides whether a family will continue in the quest.

Different rounds have been designed to test the children and the families, both as a unit and as individuals. Commenting on the appeal and relevance of the show, Shergill shares, "The reality show is inspired by the mythological figure of Shravan Kumar, who took a vow to take his blind parents on a pilgrimage braving odds. The six week reality offering is also about how far today's youth can go to fulfil their parents' wish. Mahayatra is connected and resonates with the Indian ethos, culture and is all about emotions and family relationships."

Mahayatra has been mounted by the production house Miditech, which in the recent past produced another reality show, Perfect Bride, for the channel. It is an indigenous concept with the format of the show being owned by STAR Plus. The show has been shot across Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Uttarakhand.

In a period of three months, the entire Mahayatra team, including the channel representatives, the production team and the contestants, travelled more than 12,000 kilometres. The shoot for the show was completed in 89 days. Mahayatra started off from Benaras and finished in Badrinath, covering several other religious destinations as part of the show.

STAR Plus embarks on a journey of faith with Mahayatra
Niret Alva, chairperson, Miditech, says, "Mahayatra tests the emotional bond between parents and their children in extreme situations, spiritually, physically and emotionally, with high stakes involved against the backdrop of a pilgrimage to the four dhaams. As the children compete against each other, their choices come under the scanner and they are forced to reveal their true worth and what they really feel."

The contestants for the reality show were selected through 'close auditions', in which a few individuals were directly approached by the channel to come and be a part of the show. The channel reportedly approached 500 probable contestants before finally selecting the 36 participants. To ensure a varied mix of people representing diverse regions and cultures, the participants were chosen from places such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Dehradun and Una (Himachal Pradesh).

Alva is confident that the show will do well. He says, "It has the intensity of a survivor, the complex relationship play outs of a Roadies, the dynamism and pace of an amazing race, the unpredictability of the soap, locations as diverse as the most travelled show in India and yet offers a deeper journey within if you want to embark on it as an individual or contestant."

STAR Plus embarks on a journey of faith with Mahayatra
Punitha Arumugam, group chief executive officer, Madison Media Group, says, "Religion and reality have existed independently and in isolation so far on TV. Mahayatra is, for the first time, bringing together the two genres and thus, there is this curiosity and possibility of seeing something very interesting and different."

An hour long daily show, Mahayatra will be aired at 7 pm. Bhagyavidhata (Colors) is the top show at 7 pm, delivering a TVR of 3.2 (as per TAM, C&S 4+ December 1- 26, 2009 data). It will have competition in Zee TV's offering, Chhoti Bahu, at 7:30 pm. According to the same data, Chhoti Bahu was the top performing show, delivering a TVR of 4.8.

STAR Plus embarks on a journey of faith with Mahayatra
Analysing the prospects of the reality show, Bhavna Jha, general manager, TME Delhi, says, "The concept is unique and the emotions generated on account of the child-parent relationship is likely to draw audience for the channel. Initially, it could be a tough task for the channel to draw the audience from strong daily soaps on other platforms; but being an hour long show, STAR Plus is likely to benefit from the much needed window period, where people, driven by curiosity of the concept and buzz in the media, could flock to the channel, thus sampling the show."

Currently, STAR Plus has Shradha and Mitwa Phool Kamal Ke on the 7 pm and 7:30 pm slots respectively. Jha adds that in a way, the fiction show Shradha is also about a girl's devotion towards her parent and has a strong overtone of religion. However, Mahayatra is a different proposition altogether and given the strength of the platform, STAR Plus could succeed in attracting the much needed eyeballs once the audience takes to the show.

STAR Plus embarks on a journey of faith with Mahayatra
The reality show is being anchored by TV actor Manish Goyal. On the reasons for choosing Goyal as the host of the show, Anupam Vasudev, executive vice-president, marketing, STAR India, shares, "Goyal is a family man - a true believer. Somewhere, his belief in religion and spirituality completely matched the concept of our show. Also, we were looking at a youth who is understated and yet could connect very powerfully with the 12 Shravan Kumars on the show. Manish came across as a perfect fit for the show."

Arumugam, however, does not attach much importance to the choice of the anchor. Rather, she believes that it is the content that holds the pull to get in viewers. On the other hand, Jha believes that the name does not bring instant recall and the channel could have done better by roping in a more familiar celebrity name with more star power, further aiding the cause of the show.

STAR Plus is promoting the show aggressively. In December 2009, it started off with a teaser campaign to create buzz around the show. The campaign aimed to establish that the expectations of parents are not being met by modern youth, prodding the viewer to think if there is "anybody who can understand the feelings of the parents and do something about it?"

In the first week of January 2010, it revealed the 12 participants of the show, who would attempt to take their parents on the journey. As part of the on-ground activity, STAR Plus performed a 'Mahayagna' at Birla Mandir, Delhi, from which the jyot (sacred fire of the Mahayagna) will be carried to Haridwaar during the auspicious occasion of Mahakumbh.

In addition to using media platforms such as radio and TV, Vasudev of STAR Plus gives details of the additional promotional activities which will support the reality show, saying, "In the digital space, we are carrying out a banner campaign highlighting the four dhaams on websites such as and As a part of the licensing and merchandising initiatives, we have come out with a snake and ladder game based on the journey. With the launch of the show on January 18, STAR Plus will begin a multiple city hunt for 'Sheher ka Shravan Kumar' through a radio and print campaign."

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