Prachi Srivastava

Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights

The channel has already shot two episodes, one with Baba Ramdev and the other with Udit Narayan and Mika.

STAR India is credited with many successful comedy shows, including reality shows such as The Great Indian Laughter Challenge (STAR One) and Comedy Ka Maha Muqabala (Star Plus), and fiction like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai (STAR One), Khichdi (Star Plus) and Shararat (Star Plus).

Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
To create similar magic, Star Plus has roped in two "mad" television stars popular for their comedy timing - Sunil Grover (who achieved fame as Gutthi on Comedy Nights with Kapil) and Manish Paul - in a show called 'Mad in India - 100% Desi Show''.

Produced by Key Light Productions, 'Mad in India' will be launched on February 16 and will be aired every Sunday at 9 pm. It will showcase Grover as 'Chutki', a flirty social network addict hailing from the fictional city of Bharatnagar. The cast supporting Chutki will comprise Dolly Ahluwalia as Mango Dolly and Shweta Tiwari as Katrina Mishra, along with other comedians like Khayali, Siddharth Jadhav, Rehman Khan, Rajbir Kaur and Paritosh Tripathi.

'Mad in India' will comprise of several fun elements - celebrities, comic acts, glitz and glamour of the rich and famous as well as a peek into the common man's life. The show is divided into segments and Paul will also be seen interviewing celebrities in a segment. However, the celebrities section will feature people from various walks of life.

The channel has already shot two episodes of the show with Baba Ramdev in one and Udit Narayan and Mika together in the other.

Ashish Golwalkar, programming head, non-fiction, Star Plus, says, "If the content is strong, people really don't care about anything else as long as you are making them laugh. People keep drawing comparisons and we are aware of it. But, if you look at 'Mad in India' closely, it is a very different show. It will talk about day-to-day problems that we face but will have a funny take on all of them. It's not a satire, not a political comment, not a show taking digs on people, it's a show for, by and of common people. The chat with celebrities on the show will be very different from what people have seen so far. There will not be audience interactions as such but one will get to see different aspects of a celebrity on the show," Golwalkar adds.

According to Rajeshwar Nair, producer of the show, very little percentage of the content on the show is scripted. "We have given everyone a very definitive character. It's about life in a 'mohalla' and the interactions between them. So, once you give them strong characters, you just put them in a situation, be it corruption or anything and then they themselves will evolve. Conceptually there is no comparison to Kapil's show and that audiences will realise after they watch the show."

The channel has planned 26 episodes in the series. While the production cost of 'Mad in India' is much lower than that of any other reality show on the channel, Star Plus has invested a lot on the sets. The set is a rotating stage wherein one side has a sitting arrangement where Paul will interview celebrities, the other side portrays the society of Bharatnagar with houses and various kinds of shops including a boutique, a video parlour, an English speaking class, a salon, a tea-centre and a general merchant store, which also portrays a small banner of one of the associate sponsors - Nestle Kit Kat.

Besides Kit Kat, the channel has also roped in LIC and Endura Mass as associate sponsors. As per a source in the channel, Star Plus is eyeing to rope in six to eight associate sponsors and two title sponsors (presenting and powered by). However, the channel is not in a hurry to get sponsors at this point in time. "We are very confident about the success of 'Mad in India'. We want people to watch the show and enjoy it. The idea is to get them to value the property, which I am sure they will," the source adds.

As of now, the channel has sold around 70-80 per cent ad inventory of the one-hour show. While the sponsors are likely to occupy 60-90 seconds in an hour besides the other advertisement like integration, the rest of the inventories will be scattered amongst spot buys.

Star Plus is asking Rs 1,30,000-1,50,000 per 10-second spot, as per sources in the industry. It is pertinent to note here that the show's biggest competitor, Comedy Nights with Kapil, is getting around Rs 2,00,000-2,50,000 per 10 seconds, whereas it actually started at Rs 80,000-85,000.

On the marketing front, the channel's major emphasis is on television and digital. Nikhil Madhok, SVP, marketing and content strategy, Star Plus, says, "For comedy as a genre, in order to communicate to people it's a fun show, you actually need to showcase the joke. Therefore, it becomes difficult to convey the same by any medium outside TV."

The channel had started introducing characters of 'Mad in India' on Nach Baliye. Besides, promos of the show are also running on the channels across the STAR network. Since the show appeals largely to male audience, the channel has struck a content partnership deal with them. After TV, digital is the second preference of the channel. Star Plus has tied up with YouTube, MSN and Yahoo! wherein clips of the show will be run to encourage people to sample the show. The regular outdoor sites of the channel in Mumbai and Delhi will also create awareness.

On the day of the launch of the show, 'Mad in India' will take over Yahoo!. There will be a flipbook on the site with characters and if one rolls the mouse over any character, it will pop up and introduce itself. The idea is to get familiar with the characters and Chutki's quirkiness.

Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
Mad in India: STAR's answer to Comedy Nights
The audience already relates Grover with the character of Gutthi. When asked how the channel plans to face this challenge, Madhok adds, "It's both a challenge and an opportunity. Opportunity because Sunil as an artist has a huge fan following and that makes our task easier but Chutki as a character is very different from Gutthi, so we have to make people fall in love with Chutki - it's a challenge. The only similarity between Gutthi and Chutki is that Sunil is playing the role but the latter's aspirations, her role in the city of Bharatnagar and what she does with the celebrity guests on a week-to-week basis is very different."

The channel had launched two in-house teasers of the show almost a month ago. Recently, it has rolled out two TVCs to build the show as a funny and entertaining show.

Commenting on the property, Pratik Rathod, senior investment director, Maxus Mumbai, says, "I think it will work well, maybe not as well as 'Comedy Nights with Kapil' because it's an established show now. Guthhi got fame there and now a similar character is being played by the same actor on 'Mad in India'. What is important is what kind of gags they will do and how different the concept is from Kapil. I think saturation has come for dancing and singing formats. On the marketing, I feel Star Plus should have done more activities. There is not enough awareness and buzz being created around the property. There is lack of PR activity."

R S Suriyanarayan, associate vice-president, Initiative, adds, "Mad in India will be a single band show and because of all the buzz around Sunil Grover, it will get good traction initially. Since it's not clashing with Kapil's show, more and more people will sample the show in the first two-three weeks and later on, its success purely depends on the content and its delivery. There have been many comedy reality shows but 'Comedy Nights with Kapil' became a super hit because of the way Kapil delivers the content. Sunil was associated with the show as Gutthi, which was a very popular character and people are actually waiting to see him on television again. Also, Star Plus is a very strong channel hence definitely the production quality is going to be very good. They have assured advertisers that the property is strong."

Star Plus is also launching a show based on dark love stories called 'Ishq Kills' on February 16 at 10 pm, pitched against 'Comedy Nights with Kapil'. The fiction show will talk about how love can go wrong and will be narrated by Vikram Bhatt.

For the record, Star Plus has shifted its weekday fiction shows, airing from 6.30 to 11 pm, to Saturdays as well. Arjun that currently occupies the 8 pm slot on Sundays is expected to go off-air soon.