From across the border

From across the border

From across the border

‘Think Global’. A buzzword used by corporate honchos, which became synonymous with the West.

However, Zee TV has perhaps changed that definition by looking closer to home. They recently launched a channel — Zindagi — with serials and shows from Pakistan. And going by the initial response, they seemed to have hit a soft spot.

It took almost a year for the channel’s  creative members to work its successful launch. It’s exhibiting shows inspired by award-winning novels and literary stalwarts, including Umera Ahmad, Samira Fazal, Farhad Ishtiyaq and Maha Malik.

The idea behind the content is entertainment. The channel’s creative head, Shailja Kejriwal, has a long career in making shows on Indian television. She says, “In 2010-11, I was not enjoying what I was making for the telly. I then started looking for content from abroad.”

The process after this was more interesting. “I went to 37 small towns in India and showed them the content of shows from Pakistan. I also showed it to my friends and their families. This helped with some feedback. When I was convinced about the end product, I took it to Zee. They gave me creative freedom.” It is her opinion that the age of digitalisation has offered choices of channels. “I don’t expect  everyone to watch only Zindagi!”

Shows on Zindagi are mostly social, family dramas and romantic comedies. But, as the producers say, they will be finite, unlike the never-ending sagas we see on the Indian telly. “We also plan to re-introduce the concept of tele-films. Some of the shows we have launched are Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Aunn Zara and Kitni Girhain Baqi Hain. There will be no movies or non-fiction content,” says Kejriwal.

Is there any objective behind selecting shows from Pakistan? Is this another initiative for Indo-Pak peace? She says, “If a story can send a nation into mourning because of its character’s death, it can also be the catalyst to make a subcontinent peaceful. There comes a time in life when one wants go beyond the scope of a regular job. I feel the same way, after having worked in the entertainment space for 18 years. I now feel that entertainment should have a purpose. And it’s with this thought that Zindagi was conceived.”

So, what are the plans for the channel? Shailja shares, “We will follow three steps — the first step is to bring the contents of Pakistan to India, which we have already done. Stage two will see shows commissioned by us that will be made in Pakistan with their artistes and technicians. We also plan to have shows by Indian makers, actors and writers. Stage three is my real dream, where there will be genuine coproduction between the two countries.”

Today, the most popular show on the channel is Zindagi Gulzar Hai. It features actor Fawad Khan, who is set to make his Bollywood debut opposite Sonam Kapoor. Fawad stars alongside Sanam Saeed, who is a British-Pakistani actor and model.

The story of the show revolves around Zaroon Junaid (Fawad), who is blessed with good looks and money, and Kashaf Murtaza (Sanam), a strong woman from a lower middle class family.Aunn Zara is another show that has caught the audience’s attention.

Director-actor  Osman Khalid Butt, who became famous through his comedy video blogs on YouTube, will play the character of Aunn. The show will also see Pakistani model, VJ and actor Maya Ali playing the lead, and Zara, who is more a tomboy than a lady. Zara eventually gets married to Aunn.

If the adage ‘The childhood shows the man, as morning shows the day’ is true, Zindagi definitely will see stage three, Shailja Kejriwal’s dream.