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‘I'm an absolute tyrant at work'

Zarina Mehta, COO of UTV, in the throes of launching 'Bindass', a youth channel, shoots off some work fundas to Lalita Iyer.

tv Updated: Aug 25, 2007 15:58 IST

What drives you in the business of television?
Understanding the viewer, finding out what he/she wants and then tailoring content to fit that.

You were quite active in theatre once.. has that helped you?
It drew out the real me.. till then I was very shy. Theatre taught me to express myself - I was fortunate to work with someone like Pearl Padamsee after schooling at the J B Petit.

In theatre, when the curtain goes up, you are on your own... it builds discipline and improves your self-confidence tremendously. Even if our legs shook before we went on, we had to. There is no greater fear than facing an audience. You are said to have quite a temper at work. Yes, I've thought about that quite a lot and I don't want to change it. I'm aware that I'm known as a tyrant at work, but I'm not planning to change that.

I like to get my work done when I want it, the way I want it. I even turned to Vipasana to control my temper. It helped, to an extent.

<b1>How different are you at home?
Absolutely chilled out. I don't talk much, I love to be able to sit, think, and play with my dog, my absolute darling.

Looking back, what do you feel about UTV ?
It feels good to have been a part of some pioneering stuff - Mashoor Mahal, Snakes and Ladders, Shanti, Lifeline, Hip Hip Hurray, Wada Chirebandi.. they were all ahead of their time.

Can you deal with failure?
Some shows didn't really take off. Yes.. that is tough to accept but you have to learn. Like Kahin na Kahin Koi hain was a public failure. And we actually thought we had got it right. It was a reality show based on marriage. We had Madhuri Dixit, great production values, we thought we had it all worked out. Maybe it was too unreal for a reality show. No one was watching it, we had to accept that and back out.

You made quite a killing by selling off Hungama TV. Right?
Till Hungama, no one ever viewed a TV channel as a brand. We did, and trusted our research. Our target audience was the 10 year old in Lokhandwala, we had to get into his mind.

When we launched Hungama, it had to compete with established brands like Disney, Turner, Cartooon Network and Nickleodeon. Cartoon Network had a way-ahead viewership rating.

But we used our Indianness to beat them all. Within a year, we were No 1. We sold to Disney. It was hard to let our baby go, but it was a terrific business decision.

You do have a thing for numbers..
I'm obsessed with numbers. I can see patterns in numbers that others can't.

<b2>Hasn't the standard of programming declined, compared to your Shanti and Lifeline days?
It's just that there's so much on today that it's tougher to get to your viewers. Which is why everything you do must resonate with your viewers.

‘Resonate'?
It's my favourite word. It defines why we do what we do.

What are the specifics of your Bindass channel?
It is a 360 degree youth channel, so it's about much more than television. The 20-year old Indian male is a very dissatisfied viewer - he has nothing to watch but random kids' channels, movies and the news! The youth doesn't watch news anywhere else. It's our responsibility to entertain the youth - we're not here to teach or preach.

So will you add to the barrage of daily soaps?
No. There will be no daily soaps on Bindass.

What's your take on female stereotyping on TV soaps?
As long as they resonate with the viewers.. that's okay by me.