While in the past, our forte under this column has always been personalities from mainstream commercial cinema, this time round, we are focusing on the small screen of the so-called ‘idiot box,’ as it is mainly through television in their homes that our diaspora keeps abreast of Indian cinema. NRI Achievers spoke to Shailja Kejriwal, Chief Creative – Special Projects, ZEEL, who shares with you her plans to premiere Pakistani films and revive telefilms and teleplays through the latest new fiction-centric channel to vie for the pie in the sky: ‘ZINDAGI,’ in her own words …

The Zee group is known to go off the beaten track and do things daringly different from what the other channels have been doing all these years. So after launching Zee Pictures and Zee Anmol last year, we have now launched the new channel ZINDAGI. To quote Subhashji, ‘we should do eight times better in the next twenty years instead of just sitting back on our past laurels and being smug,’ which has resulted in our raising the bar significantly. I have always been a part and parcel of the TV industry in various capacities with various channels for the last fifteen years, and had always wanted to embark on some project which would be challenging not only for me as an individual but also for the channel. Though the channel had approached me with another idea, when I suggested this idea to Bharat Rangaji (to start a channel which will bring on board select shows from across the border), he was game and I was asked to join Zee. “To tell you the truth, the idea for this kind of programming came to me as a brainwave, when I had reached a stage where I was bored with the content that I was creating over and over, again and again. I feel that Zee is the only group which is suitable to start a channel like this, to beam shows from neighboring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc., because it is the only India-based mega company which has its presence in various countries across the globe. The new channel reinforces Zee’s vision and corporate philosophy ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and aims to unite people in India and abroad with shows produced overseas. Zee has 700 million plus viewers in over 171 countries across the globe. ZINDAGI aims to showcase real, friendly, vibrant and premium stories from across the world that share similar cultural backgrounds, morals and values that are also intrinsic to India. The channel proposition ‘Jodey Dilon Ko’ is based on the understanding that even if people are culturally different, the life stories are universal … “Thanks to the era of digitization, today a channel does not have to cater to all kinds of viewers. ZINDAGI will not cannibalise Zee and subsidiary channels because Zee has a dedicated audience, and we are merely giving them an alternative. I have always subscribed to the belief that mass entertainment should not be boring but entertaining with a basic purpose. I went to Pakistan and brought some shows from there to beam on ZINDAGI channel. You see stories do not need visas but human beings do.

I realized happily that all our Indian stars are very popular all over the world including Pakistan. We at ZINDAGI also plan to revive the concept of telefilms, which was what made Zee different from the rest of the channels when it started way back. All the shows that we will be airing on our channel will be contemporary. Since I believe that I am also a viewer, my main idea was to look beyond the talent from India. “The USP of all shows in ZINDAGI is that they will not be the regressing ‘saas bahu’ shows which go on ad nauseum, but rather shows that will have a lot of diversity. You will get to see relatable stories. What will set our channel apart from the other channels is the fact that focus will be on the storyline, and there is no need to alter it depending upon the kind of TRPs the shows will garner. In ZINDAGI, no show will be on air for more than twenty six episodes, and there will be a beginning, middle and an end to all the stories. The accent will be on family values which our elders used to teach the youngsters. You will get to see them in the shows from Pakistan. MERA NASEEB, ZINDAGI GULZAR HAI, AUNN ZARA, KAASH MAIN TERI BETI NA HOTI and KITNI GIRHAIN BAAKI HAIN etc., are some of our popular shows from Pakistan that will be aired on ZINDAGI from monday to sunday. “Though initially we will bring shows from Pakistan, eventually we will also start shows from other countries like Bangadesh, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, with which we share the same culture and traditions. The revenue our channel will generate will come only from India, because the channel will air exclusively in India. Our idea is to lead fragmentation rather than becoming its victims, since we are of the opinion that with digitization, the number of channels will also increase three-fold over the next ten years. “Ours is the only new GEC channel that conducted a successful first of its kind simulcast Bloggers Meet across Delhi, Mumbai and Lahore as part of its marketing initiatives with IndiBlogger. It connected the bloggers across the two metro cities, Mumbai and Delhi and gave them an opportunity to converse with prominent Television Producer and Director Sultana Siddiqui from Lahore and actor Imran Abbas, the actor who is not only part of the show MERA NASEEB but also plays the lead opposite Bipasha Basu in Vikram Bhatt’s CREATURE, a film in 3D. Instead of depending only on the politicians, we should change ourselves if we want the change.”

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