Small Towns,big dreams

When a low-income government employee from Bihar,Sushil Kumar,won the coveted Rs 5 crore jackpot in Sony’s Kaun Banega Crorepati last season,the event marked the success of producer Siddharth Basu’s campaign.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:May 4, 2012 1:52 am

When a low-income government employee from Bihar,Sushil Kumar,won the coveted Rs 5 crore jackpot in Sony’s Kaun Banega Crorepati last season,the event marked the success of producer Siddharth Basu’s campaign: ‘Koi bhi insaan chota nahin hota’. The young man’s euphoria was shared by millions of hopefuls from small towns and Basu successfully catapulted the common man to the top of the telly,with stories of their travails and triumphs at the forefront. The effect reflected on the ratings,which shot up to eight points.

Taking cue,several other shows have adopted the strategy of tugging at the heartstrings of the common man. This June,KBC’s marketing team has designed a campaign for Indian Idol on the same channel with the tagline ‘Har Idol ke peechhe na jaane kitne Idol hote hain’ (Many others are behind the success of each Idol). “For talent to become big,it takes lot of people to recognise it,” says Danish Khan,Senior VP and Head of Marketing,Sony Entertainment Television,explaining the tagline. Khan’s strategy is to excite and create an emotional connect as well as spot talent.

Like these two shows on Sony,Zee TV has taken its reality shows — Dance India Dance and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa beyond the metros and into towns such as Amritsar,Ludhiana,Indore and Aurangabad. In fact,the channel has extended this strategy to their fictional show Punar Vivah too,where the team is conducting debates on the subject of remarriage with experts and the common man. Similarly,the channel Life OK has taken its road shows to colleges across India,urging the youth to fight against corruption. The recent season of Sach Ka Saamna unravels the pressing circumstances and dilemmas that bother a regular Indian. Come May 6,and Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate will showcase the reality — real India,real Indians,real stories.

Sukesh Motwani,Fiction Programming Head,Zee TV,explains that smaller cities are the new playgrounds for television. “People hardly watch television in metros. It’s in tier two and three cities where the Hindi-speaking population resides,where untapped talent exists,and television penetration is the most. Also,everyone wants to be on TV,hence the reach,” Motwani says. But according to Indian Idol host Mini Mathur,TRPs alone are not the reason for this shift. “What does the average Indian want? A sense of identity,acknowledgment,someone to hear them out. Fathers encouraging their daughters to sing,a brother trying to save his house by singing. Such stories connect with people who’ve lived on the streets and dream big,” says Mathur.

So,Indian Idol has forgone the big cities and taken the audition route via Amritsar,Jaipur,Rajkot,Aurangabad and so on,where on-ground activities include the Indian Idol Gully Concert that features finalists from earlier seasons including Swaroop Khan,Bhoomi Trivedi and Rakesh Maini. Judge Anu Malik points out that the rags-to-riches stories work for the show. “It is about triumph against all odds,stories of contestants like a painter babu from the first season,people who never thought they could be stars,” says Malik.

Ashish Golwalkar,Head – Non-Fiction,Zee TV,referring to the huge success of their show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs,further adds,“India is a musical country. Singing is huge in every nook and corner of the country,and we are out there to discover talent in every edition.” It is therefore also a win-win situation for the contestants who return home with fame if not the award. Twelve-year-old Sanjana Bhola of Ludhiana used to sing at jagratas for ten hours at a stretch until she was awarded the title “Voice of the Himalayas” in 2011 on the show. Since then she has brought out two CDs of devotional songs.

There is another advantage of contestants from small towns and interiors of India. “They come with no ego issues or pre-conceived notions. They dream,work hard and prove their worth,” says choreographer Uma,who has judged dance reality shows like Channel V’s Footloose and Dance Premier League. Does this shift in focus alienate the city audience? Basu realises that everyone loves the underdog. “Across the world,TV programmers are playing up the contestants’ lives and what winning means to them,” says Basu,chairman,Big Synergy Productions,the makers of KBC. “So in Season 5,we opened a window to Bharat,where the common man lives with simple dreams,” he adds.

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