True Review

A Complete Network, Almost

A Complete Network, Almost

by Piroj Wadia August 27 2014, 9:03 am Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 49 secs

Has the time come for Indian Television to move into genre specific channels? On a visit to Canada, I discovered that there were pay channels dedicated to Westerns and war movies. At any given time of the day, one could pick the genre they want to watch. I was told there were channels dedicated to reruns of soaps of yesteryear, crime shows and old films again a subdivision of drama, thriller and musicals!

I would like to believe, that the move has started in India, albeit minimally, but this little step is significant. ?Asli Mazaa SAB per? or so goes the buzz line of a promo which shows a family watching television together. This family bonding on the couch is what makes SAB Sony have an edge over the rest of the GECs. The myriad soaps that make up Prime Time aren?t a universal hit in most households. The way out has been a second TV or now the solution is a set top box with the plus facility. One show or the other gets recorded, to be watched later. If there are grandparents in residence they just watch whatever is on.

When the Adhikari Brothers started the Sri Adhikari Brothers Television Network in 2000, they slotted SAB TV as a GEC. The mix of shows ranged from thrillers, to comedy to soaps. In 2003, it was positioned as a comedy-centric channel. In March 2005, SAB TV was acquired by?Sony Entertainment Television?and was transformed into a youth channel. ?In June 2008, the channel returned to its roots when it was repositioned as a comedy channel.

Having weathered the change of identity in the first decade, SAB Sony, as it is now called, stands head and shoulders above the others on family viewership. Its programme mix is truly the stuff family channels are made of. Starting 8 pm is Baal Veer, a super hero children?s show with loads of fantasy, adventure and comedy. The channel driver Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah holds its position with the mirthful goings on in the fictititious Gokuldham Co-operative Society. Chidiya Ghar, romps with the dysfunctional household of a retired school master where the family members are curiously named after birds and animals. A recent addition, Badi Door Se Aaye Hain has an alien family in search of a missing son. They settle down in Sunshine Colony with its motley residents and their quirks. The newest show in the lineup is Chandrakant Chiplunkar Seedi Bambawala, about the selfless misadventures of the eponymous hero, a fireman. The channel?s prime time band ends with Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai?which is unique in that the characters are named after Gujarati delicacies! It also marks the sitcom debut of Alok Nath. There is of course F.I.R, a sitcom in the police station, which has its mirth berth on the weekends.

Among the plethora of GEC channels, SAB Sony wisely continues to cultivate its programming with a clutch of sitcoms and fantasy shows; and the channel has only itself to compete with. Largely successful in their choice of shows, they have attempted a horror comedy with Pritam Pyare Aur Woh which met with little success.

Across channels, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma has seldom been out of the top ten shows and is a channel driver. Now off the air, Lapataganj cleared two seasons. It was one of the most popular comedy-shows in India, and was SAB?s most successful show after?Taarak. Just as Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma provides the cosmopolitan flavour of a Mumbai colony with all the city?s pros and cons, it is based on the writings of Taarak Mehta, an eminent Gujarati writer and satirist. Likewise, Lapataganj was a satire based on a novel of the same name by Sharad Joshi. Lapataganj is an imaginary small town, which has been forgotten by the system. The people struggle for basic facilities, yet they are the happiest.

Judging by the response of viewers and having created the niche for comedy with India?s first authentic family channel, Sony Network is moving in the right direction to make it a most comprehensive network in India. The flagship channel Sony Entertainment Television, is flanked by Sony SAB, Sony Max, Sony Pix, Sony Six and starting September 1, Sony Pal. Sony Pal?is a woman specific Hindi GEC with stories about women, it is also targetting the family, with ?Juhi Chawla?as the Brand Ambassador. ? Launching with nine fresh concepts, which will be in keeping with its slogan?? - Yeh Pal Humara Hai. Now the women audiences have a channel of their own

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