Star Plus has finally decided to terminate Balaji Telefilms’ long-running primetime soap Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on November 10. But this final episode could well have been scripted by Balaji hacks themselves — because the production company has decided not to accept the death sentence with any good grace; instead it has declared that the termination is a breach of contract and that it will pursue “all legal remedies available to it”.
No one — either from the Star network or Balaji — was willing to comment on the matter. Says Smriti Irani, who plays the lead role of Tulsi: “I’ve been on the sets the whole day and nobody from Balaji or the channel has confirmed to any of us that the serial is going off air. So it would be very irresponsible for me to say anything. For all we know it could be a rumour.”
But sources in the television industry say it is not. And in an industry that is ruled by weekly ratings, it’s not too difficult to figure out why a soap that was once the country’s No. 1 show now faces oblivion.
The success of Kyunkii... was fairytale-like. A serial with little-known actors, it debuted on a struggling channel (Star Plus) on July 3 in 2000. Recalls Sameer Nair, present CEO of NDTV Imagine, who was then with Star Plus and the chief architect of the channel’s success: “I remember telling Jeetendra that I’m going to build this fantastic palace which the whole world will come and see. But once people come to see the palace, they have to be fed too. Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) was the palace, and Kyunkii... (and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki) was the staple food they would be fed.” Riding piggyback on KBC’s success, Kyunkii... became an overnight hit. By the winter of 2000, it had outstripped KBC in popularity.
And now, in the winter of 2008, it has been given its marching orders. Balaji claims the current termination notice issued by Star is a “contractual breach”. How exactly Star has breached its contract with Balaji is not very clear.
What is clear, however, is that over the years, Kyunkii’s popularity has been steadily fading. There are two main reasons behind its decline and fall. It is true that the serial ushered in an era of successful ‘K’ soaps; but after a few years other production houses cracked the code. Every soap began looking like a K soap. Result: saturation with the genre.
Second, Hindi entertainment channels have recently undergone a massive churning, with the unexpected success of Colors — and this success is not based on K type soaps.
In fact, none of Ekta Kapoor’s serials currently on air (on Star Plus, Zee, 9X) are doing as well as they used to. Kyunkii’s ratings have also plummeted and the serial no longer makes it to the top of the charts.
That is why Star Plus doesn’t want the show any more. It’s ironic because Star once had a cosy deal with Balaji, whereby the production company got preferential treatment from the channel. But that was when the shows were flying on the ratings chart. When Balaji shows on Star Plus started performing poorly, Star reworked its agreement: If ratings continued to fall, Star could pull Balaji shows off the air.