NDTV Imagine which was launched on 21st January 2008 has successfully completed its one year run. The channel has provided the audience with a range of programming which is fresh, distinctive and memorable, whether it is in its fiction line-up or the non-fiction format.
Here is Shailja Kejriwal, EVP – Content, NDTV Imagine in an exclusive conversation with Telly Buzz Editor Srividya Rajesh on the year gone by, their distinctive programs and above all, on the good viewer response their recent show of Balaji Telefilms, Bandini has garnered.
It feels good, as ours has been a long association. We have a personal as well as professional association, and have worked together for long. Ekta is an extremely creative person, and makes her shows with utmost passion. So its nice to get together again!!
When the chips were down and all were pulling Ekta down, NDTV Imagine has given her all the support. Your comments?
There is nothing like that (laughs). I truly believe that any successful show on any channel is made in collaboration with the broadcaster and the production house. There is an equal contribution coming from both, when it comes to success as well as failure of a particular show. So it is unfair to say that Ekta's shows did not work. Spare a thought to the fact that when she delivered great numbers, it was the channel that worked and clicked with the masses.
Bandini has got a great viewer response in the first two weeks. How does it feel?
It feels really good. I must hand it over to Ekta here, as it is very difficult for a creative person to re-invent and evolve a new style. We know what a Ram Gopal Verma or Karan Johar offer in their films, isn't it? Ekta has had the courage to try out something different, and has put her heart and soul in getting this right.
And what according to you is the USP of Bandini?
The USP of Bandini has to be its simplicity, and the way in which the simple tale is said without being pretentious. If you ask me on a personal level, I just love the girl Aasiya as Santo. Her innocence, her acting prowess is simply mind-blowing. And Ronit Roy in an all new avtar has taken the show to another level altogether.
Has it been deliberate on your part to make Bandini different? Especially knowing the fact that this is the same combination which gave viewers Kyunki, Kahaani and Kasautii?
Very true! We wanted to do something different, and Ekta came to us with this concept, which she had with her for past few years. She had an intention of using this story when she had a channel of her own; but then, when she approached me and Samir, she said 'You are like family to me and I will love to work on this with you'.
You have been keen on trying out different things ever since the launch of the channel. So going down the memory lane, do u regret doing a particular show, or have you felt that a certain show could have delivered more?
When we were about to launch the channel, Samir had told me that we need to be very creative and try our hands at different things. It is so very easy to follow a set trend, but you personally get the kick when you do something new. You might never know whether your efforts will work or not, but there is a thrill in not knowing the result, but just doing your job. At the end of the day, it's so heartening when the journos call you and tell you that this program was very good and unique.
What was the reason behind keeping away from Balaji Telefilms for nearly one year?
There is no reason at all!! In fact, Ekta was with a contract with Star Plus and had programs in all the prime time slots. At that point of time, it did not make sense to do a non-prime time show with her. So when her contract with the channel ended, we decided to do something together.
But why two contrastingly different shows like Kitani Mohabbat Hai and Bandini from Ekta?
We did not want to do two shows of the same type, since it's like repeating yourself. Above all, contrasts always click. Love story works in every generation, so we went ahead with Kitani Mohabbat Hai. However, if you observe very carefully, you can see that Ekta has tried her best to stay away from showing unnecessary negativity thro' the characters. Even though the basic concept is closer to her usual style, of a girl with good values meeting a boy who is rich, she has also provided a good overlap of emotions and has tried to be different.
Coming back to Bandini, has the success of shows like Balika Vadhu led to the making of Bandini in a realistic way?
See, this show is based on a popular Gujrathi novel, and we could not have taken the backdrop as Mumbai. It had to be made this way, where a man lives in a hut with his three grand daughters. Unlike the usual shows, the man has to sell off his cow to clear his debts. At the end of it, the show looks very realistic and we are happy about it.
Bandini is a genre which Ekta has not worked on till now. So how exactly was this concept planned and brainstormed?
Any show, with any producer always happens in brainstorming environments, and that is why, as I said earlier, success and failure of a project depends equally on both parties. But in this case, I would say, Ekta has put in much more effort for Bandini, as she had to reinvent a new style. She can deal with stories like Kitani Mohabbat Hai even in her sleep, but she had to put in hard work for Bandini.
It's been a year since NDTV Imagine was launched. Can you give us a brief about the growth curve of the channel?
It's certainly been a good year, where we have done different things; some worked and some did not. We are satisfied that we set a new trend, and did not get into the trap of following the trend that existed. For instance, Balika Vadhu has been very successful, but if you go about having kids in all your shows, you tend to get repetitive; and your success becomes short lived.
With shows like Main Teri Parchain Hoon and Radha Ki Batiyaan Kuch Kardikhayengi going off air, what are your shows in the pipeline?
We have Jyoti which will take the 8.30 PM slot. It is a very different show and has a simple subject of a girl who is the bread winner of a family. In an era where women go out and work and lead an independent life, television has been portraying women only as dutiful bahus. Why should women be depicted in a way that they are only good to get married? Well, this show is different here, where the girl takes care of her maternal family, and the concept has nothing to do with her marriage..
Also we have another very interesting show lined up Dehleez, where the woman not only takes care of her home, but also her work place. There are thousands of women today who face the same problem, and struggle to meet both ends - office and home. This show will take up the 9PM slot.
Why is it that you have not done the typical song/dance reality shows till now?
To be very honest, I am personally fed up of the usual song and dance stuff, as we have had too much of it. However, we are coming up with Red Chillies Idiot Box' Knights and Angels which is a different kind of reality show, which is sporty and trendy too, where the hunt will be on for the best cheer leaders. Having a bunch of celebrities on board for your reality show does not make sense nowadays. Knights and Angels is a finite show, is fun too, as people love to see a combination of cricket and cinema on television..
Oye.. It's Friday has been a revelation. But has it got you the numbers you have desired for?
Oye is the brainchild of Samir Nair, and none of us had anything to do with it. When he dreamt of it and designed it, we had a certain show target in mind and wanted to cater to the youth. The chat show is cool, funny and has a nice variety too. We are happy with the numbers we have garnered, and it is one of the top rated shows across channels.
Will Oye.. It's Friday see a change in host soon?
No. We will be dealing with Oye on a seasonal basis. The first season will be hosted by Farhan Akhtar only. When we get back with Season 2, our first choice will again be Farhan. In case, he is not able to give us dates, we will figure out on who can be next.
How do you see the competition right now? Is it a 'Channel V/s Channel' or 'Your Content V/s My Content'?
It is surely Content V/s Content, and the show with the better slot and good content will surge ahead. This is a healthy trend as it indicates that audience has got mature enough, and use their remotes more often now (laughs). Now that they have set to surf and make their choices, we need to get more creative.
SRK's Ghar Ki Baat Hai launched this weekend. How do you think audience will react to the fact that it has been inspired from Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi?
We have never hidden the fact that it is a tribute paid to Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. Samir has been a big fan of that show, so am I and so is SRK. We wanted to do some clean humor, and got the rights of the show from the earlier producers. This is Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi of 2009, with a mind-blowing cast, and certain changes made to suit today's generation.
Ramayan has entered its final phase of Ravan Mahavadh. So do you plan to take the story forward to the story of Luv-Kush?
Yes, we certainly plan to do so!!
Are you planning to do something with Karan Johar who is in your Board of Directors?
Yes, we surely want to do something with him in future, as he is very creative. But as of now, he is busy with the shoot of 'My Name is Khan'.
Lastly, which is the show you have liked over the past one year?
This is a very tough question to answer. But if you want to know the show I like today, then it has to be Bandini. And my favorite actress is the lead girl…
Reporter and Author: Srividya Rajesh