Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited (Zeel), the largest television network of India, marked a new beginning in the history of Indian television with its newest venture, Zindagi, featuring top-listed Pakistani dramas.
Since its launch on June 23, Indians are being treated to the best of new-age Pakistani TV dramas on offer. Hum TV’s booming success Zindagi Gulzar Hai and A-Plus’ Aun Zara have earned much praise and appreciation in Indian newspapers as well as on social media.
Zee had been meaning to bring about such a revolution in programming for quite some time now. In an email interview with Dawn, Priyanka Datta, Business Head of Zindagi, shares the idea behind launching this new channel and the response it has received from Indian viewers.
Question: What is the idea behind launching Zindagi with Pakistani TV shows?
PD: The content of Zindagi echoes Zeel’s corporate philosophy ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – The world is my family’, which means that people across the world might have different cultures, traditions, culinary habits or lifestyles, but the stories of their lives are universal.
In the first phase, Zindagi is airing handpicked content from Pakistan. In the future, we will showcase content from various countries, which have some degree of cultural affinity with India such as Turkey, Egypt and Latin America among others. The unique selling point of Zindagi versus existing Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs) currently in India is that it's the only Hindi channel that has content from overseas and its shows are of finite duration and do not go on for years.
In the first phase, we decided to launch the channel with Pakistani content because Pakistani shows are aired in Urdu, a language that is very close to Hindi. Any Hindi speaking person can identify with the language and relate with it.
Also, all the existing GECs in India are catering to audiences with traditional mindsets. But there is also an audience base with progressive mindsets who are trying to find the perfect balance between their personal and professional lives in contemporary times. They are looking for content which is progressive and real in nature, something they can relate to. Hence, we decided to launch Zindagi, a channel to cater to their needs. We believe that the content on Zindagi lends itself very well to that mindset of audiences. The content is unique because it is fresh and different from the current content that you see on GECs in terms of script, talent; it is shot in real locations and has original soundtracks.
Question: How has the response been from Indian viewers?
PD: The response from viewers has been phenomenal and we are overwhelmed at the positivity and appreciation that each show has received from audiences across India. Social networking sites are abuzz with praise for the shows. It’s been a month since the launch and all characters in the shows have already become household names.
Question: Is there a possibility of including more Pakistani TV shows?
PD: Definitely, a key feature of Zindagi is that the shows we run are of finite duration with 20-25 episodes in each series; mostly adapted from well-known novels. We launched Zindagi with a promise of launching new shows every month. The channel was launched on June 23, 2014 and we have already started two new shows — Maat and Noorpur Ki Rani in place of Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Aunn Zara. In the coming months, we will showcase many more of the widely acclaimed Pakistani shows of recent times.
Question: One month into the launch, what do the initial ratings say about Pakistani TV shows? Are advertisers showing interest?
PD: We are yet to receive the ratings.
Question: How long did it take Zeel to launch the channel? When was the initial agreement made?
PD: It took us two years to launch this channel. In this time, we did extensive research across cities in India where not only the content purchased but also the original soundtracks were tested to get audience feedback. The team watched nearly 4,000 hours of content to zero down on the right mix of shows that were culturally suitable to Indian sentiments. We met eminent TV personalities and broadcasters across the world (from Pakistan, Egypt, Latin America, Middle East and Turkey) to get the best stories for this channel.
Question: What has been the reaction for Indian drama producers?
PD: We have been receiving overwhelming support and response from Indian television industry as well as Bollywood. The simplicity with which everything is portrayed on screen, the great talent, awesome scripts and music have been the talk of the industry since the day Zindagi has launched.