Samir Nair, CEO of STAR Entertainment India, defends celebrity couple Maanav Gohli and Shweta Kawatra, accused of distributing 200 SIM cards among friends to get more votes for Nach Baliye 2, saying that there's a certain amount of canvassing in any competitive show.
"I feel sorry for those two contestants. They've done nothing wrong. We've our own inbuilt security measures to ensure no one misuses the voting system on Nach Baliye," Nair told IANS.
"It's only routine to get your uncle, aunt and other relatives to vote for you. A contestant needs to buy two million SIM cards to make a difference. So I think we're being unfair to these two contestants. Maanav and Shweta's SIM cards going into the wrong hands is really not their fault," he added about the controversy clouding STAR One's successful dance show.
Talking about competition, Nair said: "Now Zee is our only competitor with Saat Phere and Kkasam Se. I doff my hat at Zee. They finally got it more right than Sony ever did."
STAR has signed up the rights for Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) for five years stretching into five seasons and Nair hopes to steal the march over Zee.
"Hopefully, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan will be back at the helm. We're working very hard at taking on the Zee challenge. I think they deserve my attention."
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What's the truth about Maanav and Shweta feeding SMS votes for themselves on "Nach Baliye 2"?
A: I feel sorry for those two contestants. They've done nothing wrong. In any of these competitive shows, there's a certain amount of canvassing. We've our own inbuilt security measures to ensure no one misuses the voting system on "Nach Baliye".
For example, we allow no more than 20 votes from the same e-mail ID or phone number. Last year, during "Nach Baliye", Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar were running scrolls on cable systems from the interiors of Maharashtra. It's legitimate garnering of votes. This year, Tenaaz and Bakhtriar are distributing T-shirts with their own pictures at traffic signals. As a matter of routine all couples try in their own way to optimise their votes.
Q: But buying so many SIM cards?
A: It's only routine to get your uncle, aunt and other relatives to vote for you. A contestant needs to buy two million SIM cards to make a difference. So I think we're being unfair to these two contestants. There's nothing wrong in getting your relatives and friends to vote for you.
When Debojit won on Zee's "Sa Re Ga Ma", it was said he got votes from his home state Assam. When Abhijit Sawant won on Sony's "Indian Idol", there was talk of Maharashtrian votes. When Sachin and Supriya won "Nach Baliye" last year there was a feeling that Maharashtra was behind them in spite of their great performance.
The contestants do play up their constituencies. Maanav and Shweta's SIM cards going into the wrong hands is really not their fault.
Q: Last year there was a similar controversy on "Nach Baliye" regarding Manish Goel and Poonam Nirula.
A: It was exactly the same situation. They bought SIM cards and gave them to their friends and family. We're aware of this strategy. But like I said, we block the SIM card after 20 votes.
Q: A few weeks ago there was a mini-scandal when on "Nach Baliye 2" it was alleged that Saroj Khan was asked to give Shweta Tiwari a 10 because you asked for it.
A: Well... Shweta got eliminated. So her supposed friendship with me didn't help her. Seriously, this is too funny.
Q: What about the "Jhalak Dikhla Jaa" competition?
A: I think nothing of it. It's no competition to us. Considering its production costs, the TRPs were low. Malaika Arora is sexier than everyone put together on "Jhalak..." And then we've got the rest.
I did watch the first episode. And I thought it was the identical dupe of "Nach Baliye". But the combination of an amateur dancer and professional choreographer doesn't work for us. That's why we at STAR didn't do "Jhalak Dikhla Jaa" when it was offered to us. We chose to do "Nach Baliye" instead.
In India we'd be loath to see a married chef flirting with a professional dancer. It's not doing too much for Sony. The one to look out for is "Big Boss" on Sony... though their choice of celebrities is a little dicey. We at STAR were given the option of doing "Big Boss" as well. We saw it as a good show. But not right for Indian audiences.
I remember when "Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin" worked on Sony we went around buying tele-novellas from all over the world. I still pull my colleagues' legs about it. We bought many tele-novellas, adapted two. Both bombed, while all our homegrown shows continue to do well. Ekta Kapoor's shows remain stable with the TRPs.
There's a grammar to the soaps. If you don't get it right you'll always get it wrong. Some of our shows like "Viraasat" and "Resham Dankh" got the fundamental grammar wrong. We're now correcting that.
Q: Who's your main competition right now?
A: Zee, with "Saat Phere" and "Kkasam Se". I doff my hat at Zee. They finally got it more right than Sony ever did. Now Zee is our only competitor.
Q: What lies ahead at STAR?
A: We've signed up the rights for "Kaun Banega Crorepati" (KBC) for five years stretching into five seasons. That's the way I always wanted to do it. Hopefully, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan will be back at the helm. We're working very hard at taking on the Zee challenge. I think they deserve my attention.
Q: What about the court case that your show "Paraya Dhan" has got into vis-à-vis Zee's "Betiyaan"?
A: The matter is still in court. But the show has moved on. We're very pleased with the success of our historical "Prithviraj Chauhan".