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Sunday, June 15, 2003

Television

Pay channels get jittery over CAS



Will CAS be the curtain call for saas-bahu soaps?
Will CAS be the curtain call for saas-bahu soaps?

"WEíLL be paying more to see less." this is how a TV viewer describes the governmentís move to implement the Conditional Access System (CAS) from July 14. The issue has snowballed into a major controversy with viewers across the board condemning it.

However, rumour mills are working overtime saying that most of the current criticism against CAS is being orchestrated by jittery pay channels. A study has shown that just around 10 per cent of the 65 lakh cable viewers may actually opt for a set-top box. Most would initially settle for free-to-air channels costing just Rs 72 a month.

If the estimate is correct then pay channels have reasons to be alarmed. With viewership being reduced to a mere 10 per cent, the advertising megabucks may dry up and it could be the curtain call for many saas-bahu soaps that have raked in the fortune for broadcasters.

Ad agencies are putting the brakes on future bookings till the imbroglio is solved. Many pay channels are considering going free-to-air as most of their revenue is generated from ads that could dry up if there are so few viewers. The scenario is loaded. It would be interesting to watch who blinks first-pay channels or viewers.

Standing tall

Jaese Randhawa: Bollywood beat
Jaese Randhawa: Bollywood beat

Standing tall at 5 ft 11, she can deliver a strong taekwondo blow with as much ease as she can sway her tall frame on the ramp. Sheís a green belt in karate too and holds a private pilotís licence as well.

But thereís more to Jaese Randhawa. Having rebuffed many TV offers sheís been receiving, the petite model is now all set for Bollywood and is making her debut playing a crime reporter in Sanjay Thakurís Choat. With her entry in films the TV offers have doubled and serial makers are hotly pursuing the leggy model-turned-actress.

But Jaeseís mind seems to be very clear. "It really doesnít matter whether it is TV or films. Iíll seriously consider every offer where the role is meaty."

She says sheís not cut out for run-of-the-mill stuff. "Iíve never liked to do normal things. Thatís why I learnt to fly and later chose modelling as a career." Now Delhiís busiest model is fast going out of circulation in the Capitalís high society doís as she heads for Mumbai "because thatís where the action is."

Whatís so funny?

Bhatti: getting it wrong
Bhatti: getting it wrong

After youíve scaled the Everest then all other roads lead downward. The famous saying aptly describes Jaspal Bhatti. After his brilliant Flop Show that set the standards for comedy on television, itís been a steep and swift downhill descent.

Bhattiís street theatre may still be alive and kicking and drawing instant guffaws for its imaginative themes but it is his plummeting fortunes on the small screen that should be getting him worried. After the path-breaking Ulta Pulta and Flop Show he seems to have lost his comical wit.

Serials like Shahji Ki Advice, Money Plant and the currently on Dhaaba Junction on Sab TV have definitely not done him proud.

In fact, Dhaaba Junction is so inane that it fails to make the grade of a comedy. Fans are now hoping that cameos in forthcoming films like Thoda Tum Badlo Thoda Hum and Kuch Na Kaho will give a much-needed boost to his career.

Fight for the greatest

The fight to elect the greatest Briton of all time begins on BBC World. Each week high-profile presenters spend one hour passionately promoting their chosen Great Briton in the hope of convincing viewers to vote for their choice.

But only one name can come out on top...and thereíll be no holds barred as the presenters use their powers of persuasion to the full.

Besides Lady Diana and William Shakespeare, the eleven episodes every Sunday would include all time greatest scientists like Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin; military commander Oliver Cromwell, the most successful British naval chief Sir Horatio Nelson; the war-time Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and the slain Beatle John Lennon.

Though episode hosts present their cases with persuasion and gusto, it is the viewers who have to decide who the final winner will be. So take time out every Sunday to select the candidate of your choice who should be the greatest Briton of all times. Who knows, soon there could be a similar programme on Indians as well.

Once is not enough

Full House: One good airing deserves another
Full House
: One good airing deserves another

Will Zee English make up its mind what kind of imaging change itís seeking? Every few months the channel announces a complete make-over with new on-air programming.

But in the past few months, the channel has been showing re-runs of shows like Sienfield, Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Friends. Even as viewership plummets, anxious channel bosses have once again announced a revamp promising an Ďinternational lookí to the channel ó whatever that means.

So, while the repeats continue, the channel has added a few more offerings like Will and Grace, Mind of the Married Man, She Spies and Six Feet Under. In a bid to pump up itís market share and give the channel the much-needed viewership boost, it also aired the Miss Universe Contest in Panama City.

But the magic doesnít seem to be working. "You canít expect to hit big time if you are airing shows that went off the air in the west years ago," says a viewer hitting the nail on the head. No matter how attractive the packaging and promos, the channel would have to get quality shows that are both current and relevant.

Unravelling mysteries

Mysterious India: Arthur C. Clark unravels enigmas.
Mysterious India: Arthur C. Clark unravels enigmas.

Indian swamis and gurus hold sway over people by creating startling miracles that leave people awestruck. Yogis can lie on a bed. of nails, walk on burning coals or have trucks driven over their chests or even pierce their tongue with a spear.

For centuries, no one has been able to unravel these puzzles that have caused both wonder and amazement and charmed swarms of foreigners. Now one foreigner is out to uncover the truth behind these death-defying deeds.

Celebrated scientist, author and futurologist Arthur C. Clark explores these phenomenon in Mysterious India, Saturday June 21 at 9 p.m., on Discovery.

Besides visiting godmen and Gurus who perform these miracles. Clark also tries to analyse enigmas like how, a few men can lift a large stone at Shivpuri using only their fingertips. Or why the centuriesí old iron of the Ashoka Pillar in Delhi has never rusted. Or how a psychic surgeon in Mumbai cures patients without scalpels or pain.

A fascinating series that may not have all the answers but certainly makes an attempt at finding the answers to these riddles that have tantalised man for so long.

ó Mukesh Khosla

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