Hindi film star Amitabh Bachchan will be back on Star Plus, the flagship Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) from the Star India network, after 15 years with Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi (AKRHZ), a new talk show. The network COO Sanjay Gupta says while the show marks the reunion of two of the biggest forces in the entertainment industry, the philosophy of the show is much bigger: AKRHZ is a reiteration of Star India’s positioning as a socially relevant entertainment network.
The show, anchored by Bachchan, is a talk show with a twist. Each episode will highlight the journey and achievements of individuals trying to make a difference on their own. It could be about a kid who makes sure the elderly always have someone to assist them while crossing the road at peak hours, or about doctors who make a difference through free treatment. The show will be peppered by light entertainment in the form of song, dance, poetry and so on. Gupta says, “We at Star tell powerful and engaging stories that inspire people, which, in turn, facilitates change. This reflects in the content we have across our network, whether it was Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) 15 years back, AKRHZ, or for that matter Satyamev Jayate (SMJ) or kabaddi (the Pro Kabaddi League). In a way, SMJ and AKRHZ draw from the same philosophy.”
While SMJ tackled the issue by bringing the stark reality to the forefront – before viewers, policy makers, the government etc – the new show is about celebration. “We realise there is a lot of pessimism and negativity in the society today,” continues Gupta. “There is so much bad news around – in the papers, on television – it has begun to overwhelm us to the point that most of us are beginning to forget about the good around us. We believe the time has come for all of us to celebrate the good around, in us.”
AKRHZ is based on a format owned and produced by BBC Worldwide. The show will also be aired on the network’s mobile content streaming platform, Hotstar.
Star India is no stranger to taking up social issues through its content. While SMJ, anchored by Aamir Khan, is its most visible and recalled attempt, it has, in the past, taken up initiatives related to women’s safety (the Channel V app), fund-raising for the Nepal earthquake (2015) and the Uttarakhand flood (2013) and awareness around the importance of voting. Being the leader in the GEC ratings table, Star Plus has the prime time reach and viewership to disseminate a message effectively. It often uses characters from its popular shows to do the job.
Coming back to AKRHZ, the show will be aired on Sundays at 8 pm, starting October 18. The reason for choosing the slot, says Gupta, was to capture the audience’s “family-viewing” time over the weekend. “Whether the weekend will be strengthened is a by-product of the show because the main reason is to make sure families view it together,” he says. The combination of Bachchan and Star Plus has metamorphosed television in the past with KBC, catapulting the 9 pm slot on weekdays to the top of the pecking order. This, coupled with the absence of any formidable property on other GECs in that time slot, will hopefully give AKRHZ strong viewership. The show will not clash with Colors’ popular reality show, Bigg Boss (season 9), which is aired at 9 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
All this factors have helped Star Plus swing key sponsors for the show. AKRHZ has Maruti Suzuki as the title sponsor and Cadbury as the “powered by” sponsor. Other sponsors include Ghadi Detergent and LIC. Gupta says the combination of Bachchan and Star Plus would be an important reason for a brand to associate with the show, but a lot of motivation will also come from the premise of the show: it offers the commercial partners a chance to be part of a project that reflects all the goodness in the society.
Agrees R.S. Kalsi, executive director, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki India: “We believe in making a difference to every Indian and our inspiration comes from one place – India’s hopes, dreams and aspirations. It’s a privilege to be associated with a show that shares the same belief.” Adds, Prashant Peres, director, chocolates, Mondelez India, “Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) aims to trigger joy by unlocking relationships and this programme is all about people who go beyond the call of duty to bring joy to others. CDM stands for generosity, optimism and authenticity and we felt that the stories of AKRHZ mirror those very values.”
The extensive marketing campaign by Star Plus before the launch of the show, has led to immense curiosity and discussion around it. The first teaser of the campaign received over 1 million views on Facebook in under 20 hours. The campaign has received 400 million impressions on social media so far. The social media campaign will be followed by a marketing blitz on television, radio, digital and outdoor. The creative campaign for the show has been conceptualised by O&M and produced by Bubblewrap Films.