‘We take up big concerns without being preachy’

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What is the programming strategy of Colors?

When we launched Colors, we decided on two things — to differentiate our content and to have disruptive scheduling. This means slotting programmes in a way that shows like Rahe Tera Aashirwaad, which appeal to small towns, are aired between 7 and 10pm and then, after that, to air shows like Khatron Ke Khiladi that will appeal to the big city audience. We got eyeballs with Khatron Ke Khiladi and that’s what got us into Balika Vadhu and the others. That’s how we got the audience.

So what’s the next step?
We’re not even a year old so it’s important for us to build on our strengths. Right now, we are only in prime time so we are trying to extend into the afternoons. That’s the next step.

What sets shows on Colors apart?
When we started off, we were the 11th player. If we had done the same programmes, people would not have watched us. So we decided to go with the social concept. With Balika Vadhu, for the first time on Indian television, we dealt with the issue of child marriage. You can always tell the shows that come from Colors. The protagonist has grey shades just like you and me. Our shows have no heroines and vamps. Dadisa from Balika Vadhu is not a vamp. She’s a real person who just believes in certain traditions. She is not conniving. We can change mindsets by showing women’s emancipation issues. In Na Aana Is Des Lado and Balika Vadhu, we’ve taken up the big concerns of female infanticide and child marriage, but we are doing it without being preachy. Our approach leads to cohesive viewing, where the entire family can sit and watch the show. Recently, an acquaintance travelling in a local train in Mumbai overheard a conversation between two women. One of them had just got her daughter married. “Don’t you watch Balika Vadhu?” the other woman asked, “I’m not getting my daughter married until she turns 18.” These things are happening!

What has led to the shift away from typical saas-bahu shows?
In India, satellite television is only 16 years old. I’ve observed that there’s a seven-eight year life cycle: Zee was launched in 1992; in 2000, saas-bahu serials became popular; then, in 2008, the Colors phase happened. When Zee started, we had progressive shows like Taara. Then, suddenly, we had regressive shows. Now, on Colors, we have these sorts of shows. So trends change. You have to be on your toes to figure out the next trend.

But how did Colors manage to figure out the emerging trend?
It was a calculated risk. With Khatron Ke Khiladi, we weren’t sure because it was an action show that had women doing stunts. But even then, we didn’t make it a totally youth-based show. We kept certain peripheral factors in place. The participants were addressed as Yanaji, Netraji… and we had the Gayatri mantra playing and focussed on emotions. As a result, it wasn’t completely youth-oriented and so families too watched it.

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