Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, credited with presiding over the most-watched TV show in history “the ‘Ramayan‘ re-run on Doordarshan which has racked up more than 250 million unique views” recalls his WhatsApp groups ringing with laughter when news of nostalgia programming hit the headlines soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the first lockdown in late March.
“They’re all, like, laughing. Who’s going to watch it?! I had to tell them that, you know, India is very different. It’s not just the English speaking elite, it’s much bigger, much more diverse. So there was that worry,” Vempati told IANS during a video interview on the backstory of Prasar Bharati’s programming during the COVID-19 lockdown.
After the “Ramayan” re-run began, Doordarshan’s reach soared way past the top seven Hindi general entertainment channels. Time spent on Doordarshan moved from 15 minutes per week to more than 70 minutes. The re-run on April 16, 2020 alone logged 77 million viewers.
“It was crazy,” Vempati said, detailing the nuts and bolts of sourcing the “Ramayan” from the Ramanand Sagar family in Mumbai.
“The tapes were in the deep archive of the (Ramanand) Sagar family, and in Mumbai it was like operating in curfew. Someone had to physically retrieve these things. The formats had changed. People had to work through the night to figure out how to get it into a compatible format, and then push it from Bombay. Because the file sizes are so large, you can’t do it over the internet, it would have taken forever. So we had a satellite-based mechanism by which the content was beamed from Bombay and downloaded into servers here, so that the next day’s episodes could be aired.”
Now, nearly two months on, as India’s lockdown eases, Doordarshan viewership numbers are already reflecting the shift away from binge-watching spikes.
Vempati is now thinking about “reinventing the brand” for India’s youth while staying away from what he describes as the pitfalls of audience segmentation and OTT content that is inconsistent with “family values and culture”.
“Somewhere, the calculus of audience segmentation has lost its way,” Vempati said, speaking to how families watch entirely different content across multiple devices during times when they could instead be sharing a common viewing experience.
“The combination of lockdown and ‘Ramayan’,” he said, “showed us that families can still come together around television if the content is wholesome and appeals to every segment.
“Nostalgia was always a trend for Doordarshan. While we leverage nostalgia, we can’t rely on that alone”.
For Vempati’s team, the upside to Doordarshan’s lockdown programming is brand awareness among “an entire generation born into the world of cable and satellite and internet”.
Speaking with candour about the inner workings of public broadcasting, Vempati said Doordarshan happily finds itself sitting on a pile of fresh content because “bureaucratic process takes that long to bring content on it”.
“So while the rest of the industry is struggling, we have a large library that has not been seen by audiences across India which we’ll roll out in the next few weeks.”
Vempati points “history buffs” to Doordarshan’s YouTube channel. “We have the oldest TV interviews of Nehru. In fact, his last TV interview which he gave to an American broadcaster, just weeks before he passed away we have retrieved those, put them on YouTube.”
Vempati said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to the metaphorical “Lakshman Rekha” when he ordered the first India lockdown became the tipping point for Prasar Bharati to go all in on mythological content.
“So one of the questions that bothered me when I joined to serve as a board member and later on as CEO was that all of these iconic serials have immense nostalgia and brand connect but we don’t have access to any of this content,” Vempati said.
Prasar Bharati took the decision to re-acquire this content late October 2019 but it took a lockdown announcement to fast-track the closure.
Ramayan’s four episodes a day format was based on the assumption of a 15 day lockdown. “Ramayan” closed out its re-run in mid-April.
Vempati is pushing hard for organisational collaboration with academia and startups to create what he calls an “enabling” environment to transform India’s public broadcaster for the digital age.
Prasar Bharati is working with Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, around research collaboration on direct-to-mobile broadcasting.
“We have asked IIT-Kanpur to create that enabling environment, create the test-bed to bring in startups. And then let’s see what we can do in this whole ecosystem. So that effort is on.”
Ronit Roy On Actors Committing Suicide: “For Four Years I Was Sitting At Home, I Did Not Kill Myself”
The world is not just battling a health crisis in the form of COVID-19 but also a grave financial crisis. But closer home, things are getting tougher and tougher for our Telly town actors. Popular actor Ronit Roy has opened up about actors ending their lives due to no work.
While there are several actors who have opened up about their financial crisis, there are also many who have sadly chosen to end their lives. Ronit Roy says that while he debuted with a blockbuster film, he had no work for as long as 4 years. However, he never chose to end his life.
Very quickly adding the fact that he is not passing judgement on anyone else, Ronit Roy says that ending your life is never a solution. Speaking to ETimes, the Hostages actor said, “My first film was released in 1992 Jaan Tere Naam which was a blockbuster. It was a silver jubilee and silver jubilee of that day means a Rs 100 crore movie of today. My debut film was of that level. 1992 it released and for the next six months, I did not receive a single call. Then I got all kinds of trashy work which I did for three years and around 96 all the work dried up. For four years I was sitting at home.”
Ronit Roy, who is a veteran TV and Bollywood actor further says, “I had a small car, but I had no money for petrol. I would walk up to my mother’s house for a meal as I did not have money even after being in a silver jubilee film. I did not kill myself. I am not passing judgement on anybody. Everyone at some point in their life faces financial crisis. I feel if you are facing a financial crisis then killing yourself is not a solution. I don’t see any sense in taking your life because that can’t be a solution.”
While we do agree with what the actor says, mental health is certainly a very subjective issue. We hope that actors talk to their loved ones in times of crisis and hang on to every last thread of hope and not give up their lives.
The post Ronit Roy On Actors Committing Suicide: “For Four Years I Was Sitting At Home, I Did Not Kill Myself” appeared first on Koimoi.
Simran Sachdeva On Quitting Colors TV’s Choti Sarrdaarni: “One Of The Producers Misbehaved With Me”
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 induced crisis, several Telly Town actors have opened up about taking pay cuts and their financial crisis. Joining the list is Choti Sarrdaarni actress Simran Sachdeva. The actress has made some shocking revelations and has claimed that she is no longer a part of the Colors TV show.
Simran Sachdeva has said that the producers of the show had been forcing her to take pay cuts amid the ongoing crisis. Speaking to Telly Chakkar, the actress said, “Lately, the producers were pressuring me a lot to take around a 40% pay cut which is not feasible for me. Also, in the past I’ve faced many issues with the production house regarding the payments as we weren’t paid on time. One of the producers misbehaved with me and was extremely disrespectful and rude. Now, because of the lockdown and the gap, I had the choice to continue with them or not and hence I decided to give it a pass.”
Well, this certainly comes as a shocker when there are several TV actors who have been raising their voice over non-payment of dues. What’s even more disheartening is the alarming rate of actors committing suicide after a dearth of work opportunities.
For those of you unversed, Simran Sachdeva plays the character of Harleen Kaur Gill Bajwa in Choti Sarrdaarni. The part was earlier played by Mansi Sharma who had to leave the show mid-way owing to certain health complications.
However, things seem to be getting better now as there are reports of Simran Sachdeva being retained in the show. The actress has reportedly sorted out the differences with her producers and will soon be seen returning to sets.
While we are not sure as to which side of the story to believe, do let us know your thoughts on the same.
The post Simran Sachdeva On Quitting Colors TV’s Choti Sarrdaarni: “One Of The Producers Misbehaved With Me” appeared first on Koimoi.
The Casino: Sudhanshu Pandey Opens Up On Playing A Father To A Person Almost Of His Age In The Upcoming Zee5 Show
Actor Sudhanshu Pandey can’t wait for people to see his ‘different’ look in the upcoming web show “The Casino“. He will be seen sporting grey hair.
“My character Marwah is the owner of a Casino. In fact, this would be the first time that I would be sporting grey hair. I have never played a character who is older and is playing a father to a person who is almost my age! This is the first time I am doing something like this,” Sudhanshu Pandey said.
Directed by Hardik Gajjar, “The Casino” also stars Karanvir Bohra and Mandana Karimi.
Speaking more about his character, Sudhanshu Pandey shared: “My character cannot be labelled as negative but he is someone who has come up the hard way and created a huge empire. So, obviously when you aim big, you rub a couple of people the wrong way. But in any journey, you make friends and you make enemies.”
“The Casino” will stream on Zee5 from June 12.
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