By Yohan P Chawla
In a day and age when angular, edgy stories and themes are being made not just in movies and television but also web series, an invitation to visit the sets of Colors’ latest offering, a show called Dastaan-E-Mohabbat: SalimAnarkali, intrigued me enough to accept. After all, it sounded like a historical show that would ideally demand epic production, casting, sets and execution, and one wanted to see whether the show would be, like most TV shows, just ‘film-making in a hurry’.
Of course, another important attraction was the opportunity to speak with Manisha Sharma, recently promoted to Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18, about the show and, hopefully other things.
So, to come back to the first impression about the show: the design, quality, detail and richness of the sets — designed by Omung Kumar and put up in Mira Road East 20 kilometers from Mumbai at Green Valley Studios — promise the show is filmmaking on television.
And the cast too. The historical love story has a handpicked cast of Aruna Irani, Shahbaz Khan, GurdeepKohliPunjj, Shaheer Sheikh, and Sonarika Bhadoria, among others. The show premieres on 1st October 2018, and will air Mondays to Fridays at 8.30 pm on COLORS. The sponsors already on board are Dabur Red Paste and MDH DeggiMirch.
Talking about the target audience of the show, Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18, told me, “The target audience for the show is ideally the youth between the age 15 years to 25 years, but it always goes a little higher, it can go up to the age of 35 also.”
There is much discussion happening around the fact that younger audiences are refusing to remain tied down to fixed television sets and instead opting to watch content on the go, the fact remains that a growing viewing habit is to watch content sent over the top, on connected televisions. Dastaan-E-Mohabbat: SalimAnarkali produced by Writers’ Galaxy, clearly aims to target the younger audiences by offering them the well known story by telling it in a way that would keep it true to the original settings but told in an interesting and pacy way.
Speaking about the appeal power of the show for the younger audiences and the Generation Z, Sharma said, “A love story is a love story. Sometimes you tell a love story against the background of a widow, sometimes against the background of being a divorcee, and the story of Salim and Anarkali is a love story on the background of a historical. Why did youngsters go and watch Padmavat…that too was a love story, and the historical background makes it real, and it has happened. So I am sure the audience will love our love story of Salim and Anarkali.”
The epic sets and production values are Colors calling card for the show’s scale of production. As Sharma rightly mentioned about the popular TV show, Game of Thrones, apart from its intriguing story line and content, the shows’ scale contributes largely to its viewership and popularity.
What the sponsor brands reflect
Intriguingly, while the love story of SalimAnarkali has been created for and targeted to youngsters, the background on which the story has been based upon and the fact that it is literally an ‘age-old’ story, seems to suggest that it would automatically appeal to the older, even elder. Also because the show cut the clutter of heavy-duty melodrama. Most telling is the fact one of brands already on board –MDH DeghiMirch – are the kind that will appeal more to slightly older, lower-and middle class audiences, and it is a product that the older audiences, especially women, are likely to use on a daily basis. However, the younger audiences are now increasingly getting drawn to more natural products, and so a Dabur Red Toothpaste would likely appeal as much to them as it does to the oldler audiences. Sponsor brands are always a reflection of what the marketers think of a show, and it will be interesting to note which brands join the show as it progresses.
Storytelling: Great plot points for television
On the storytelling of this popular chapter from Mughal history, Sharma said, “We have seen so many versions of Naagin while growing up, and our version of Naagin which is currently on air, is doing so well! Likewise, SalimAnarkali — we have read about them, but it’s been a long time since anyone has seen it.”
On the various twists and turns that viewers can expect from the story, Sharma said, “We are very excited about it because, well… Akbar has got many wives… they don’t want Salim to be on the throne, so the plotting, the conniving… the lovely kaneez who has fallen madly in love with Salim, who too is ready to give up his throne for her… the story is already extremely beautiful, if you ask me.”
“Moreover,” Sharma adds, “We have our own filter, and the filter is completely of love. The scale is beautiful. We have shown them a little bit from when they are children, and how they get along very well as friends, and how he is sent away to come back and find that he loves her even more. There are a lot of plot points and it’s great for television.”
Marketing & Digital
COLORS has planned an integrated 360-degree campaign that will witness an extensive playout of what it calls ‘larger-than-life’ promos across both – the network and on other broadcast channels. Across HSMs, Dastaan-E-Mohabbat: SalimAnarkali will be brought alive through billboards, whilst the daastan of love will be heard on radio as well. For print, there will be tune-in ads on the day of launch.
Targeting the younger audiences
On the digital front, the show will be available on Viacom18’s own OTT platform, Voot, primarily as catch-up content. One feels that that once the show catches on traditional television, it could also appeal to young binge watchers, because in a couple of weeks, there would be a 10-episode bank, followed by 5 new ones available each week.
Bingewatching, once the show establishes itself, will add to the viewership numbers connected TV and OTT can deliver.
And COLORS has planned several interesting activities for the younger audiences.
An interesting activation is planned in Delhi. Sharma says Colors has got constructed “the Imaarat – e – Ishq, which is a beautiful monument, in Delhi. It doesn’t just tell the tale of love, but listens too. Through this activation, we hope to find India’s Biggest Daastan-E-Mohobbat (story of love).”
In Mumbai, at several Mumbai Metro stations, key locations will witness the era come alive with an Anarkali Dance Flash Mob/ Mughal Arch Gates and more through branding. Tapping the unconventional medium of traditional clothing boutiques, COLORS has also branded boutiques with the show creatives in Delhi.
Social Media activations:
Colors has planned high-buzz activities on social media platforms like Facebook and Zapr, and a 360-degree tour to bring audiences the spectacular sets, along with a dedicated SalimAnarkali photo gallery and a motion graphic post.
So, for Dastaan-E-Mohabbat: SalimAnarkali COLORS seems to have pulled all stops, and is treating the historical love story with the epic content and marketing support, and the channel is upbeat about the show. How it opens will remain to be seen.