Rani Mukherji’s television debut seems to have gone almost unnoticed. She’s now a judge in Sony’s Dance Premier League (DPL), along with Shiamak Davar; but for all the attention she’s got — or the show, for that matter — she may as well have been judging a local Ghatkopar dance competition.
I saw one of the latest episodes of DPL where she arrived with much fanfare, and everyone on the set behaved as if some goddess had descended from the heavens (except that this goddess was wearing what looked suspiciously like a voluminous white bedsheet). Anyhow, once she sat in the judge’s chair, Rani was friendly, complimentary, enthusiastic and encouraging — I don’t know what else she could have been actually because the dancing was uniformly good.
There are teams from different parts of India (Southern Sizzlers, Western Yodhas etc) and all the dancers seem to have coiled springs instead of feet. This is a show which should be raking in the TRPs, but it isn’t. It’s glamorously mounted, it’s got great dancing, and a big star as one of the judges — so what’s gone wrong? I’m reminded of Aamir Khan’s unbeatable dialogue-for-all-seasons from Rangeela (which I’m always quoting because it’s just so good): "Mera bad luck hi kharaab hai." Unfortunately, that seems to be the story of Sony. Even an entertaining, star-studded show like Dus Ka Dum with a crowd-puller like Salman Khan as the host didn’t do much for the channel.
But there’s another lesson here. Most GECs (general entertainment channels) sign up big stars for unbelievable amounts of money in the hope that they’ll act as miracle workers for them. But while some of these ‘starry’ shows have done reasonably well, most haven’t delivered as far as the ratings are concerned. I agree that in these days of fragmented viewing and intense competition, it’s impossible for anyone — not even Amitabh Bachchan — to do what Amitabh Bachchan did in the first season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Even so, you do expect more out of a star than the very modest ratings that their shows end up getting.
In which case, why do channels bother? Two reasons, I think. One, everyone hopes that this time, with this star, the story will be different. But more importantly, they expect stars to create a buzz around their channel. This buzz, they believe, gets more people to sample their channel (including new viewers or old ones who have strayed). So, in the long term, they think investing in a big star is worthwhile. I have no idea whether this theory actually works in practice, but that’s the reasoning.
To return to Sony, it has also revived its popular horror show, Aahat. I saw the opening episode and it started out quite spookily — a girl stuck in a train station that doesn’t actually exist any more, with zombie-like passengers on the platform. Horror is one of those ever-dependable genres and should do well — even for Sony! (By the way, it’s not as if the channel doesn’t have any hits — long-running shows like CID have consistently delivered good ratings). So for Sony’s sake, let’s hope Aahat’s latest season works. But given Colors’ incredible winning streak — for almost two months now — I think the GEC leadership issue has been pretty much settled for the foreseeable future. The channel which sets the agenda takes over the No. 1 slot. Star Plus did it in 2000, Colors has done it now.
And finally. On Children’s Day, CNN IBN had a special show where Manmohan Singh and his wife interacted with a group of children from all over the country. It was charmingly anchored by Suhasini Haidar, some of the kids asked good questions and it was nice to see the PM sedately recount how he bunked classes in school (but only once; he was a good guy even then).