Shailesh Kapoor: Zee TV: 20 Years and a Piece of History

11 Oct,2012

By Shailesh Kapoor


Earlier this month, India’s first homegrown satellite television channel, Zee TV, completed 20 years of being on air. In 1992, when the channel started with about three hours of prime time programming, we couldn’t have imagined how pioneering this initiative would turn out to be.


It can be a very interesting exercise to make your list of the top 50 landmark programs on Indian television. Programmes that have shaped our television content over years. Zee TV dominates my list with 14 programmes, second only after Doordarshan with 15. So here’s my list of Zee TV shows that will find an indelible place in our television history:


1. Saanp Seedi (1992): The first game show ever on Indian television was based on a popular board game, but executed with a style that was flamboyant, almost brazen, in Doordarshan times. I have often wondered why our desi game shows have never managed such energy levels again. I’m sure Saanp Seedi’s host, Mohan Kapur, wonders the same too!


2. Tara (1993): The definitive urban Indian woman’s show, Tara, would ironically be too modern for today’s television. But back then, it was on-the-edge entertainment; a programme in which a woman (Sheena played by Amita Nangia) actually sipped beer on-screen.


3. Banegi Apni Baat (1993): Banegi Apni Baat was a progressive, urban take on teenagers and youth, aided by some of the best acting you will hope to see in an Indian serial. The starcast boasted of Irrfan, Surekha Sikri, Shefali Chhaya, Anita Kanwal, Divya Seth, Achint Kaur, Sandhya Mridul and R Madhavan. Phew!


4. Zee Horror Show (1993): The visual of Archana Puran Singh’s severed head, on a plate on the dinner table, has been imprinted on my mind forever. Zee Horror Show had a somewhat cheesy feel to it, but it was a pioneering step in the mainstream horror genre, after some Doordarshan experiments like Qile Ka Rahasya.


5. Aap Ki Adalat (1993): Aap Ki Adalat was Rajat Sharma’s first brush with television. When Rajat moved on and Zee replaced him with Manoj Raghuvanshi, the show predictably lost its audience. But Adalat gave us a TV format that has subsequently been exploited in several variants. Arguably, it also gave us India TV.


6. Khana Khazana (1993): Recipe shows are on-air by the dozen today. We even have two full-fledged food channels. But when Zee signed on Sanjeev Kapoor for Khana Khazana, it was uncharted territory for both. I will always remember Khana Khazana as the first successful marriage of the kitchen and the television in India.


7. Antakshari (1994): It is hard to recall Antakshari as anything else except Close Up Antakshari, though the series had Sansui and Titan as subsequent sponsors. It is even more difficult to think of this show without its impeccable host Annu Kapoor. Like Saanp Seedi, Antakshari was another example of how Zee brought simple but deep-rooted Indian concepts to television.


8. Hum Paanch (1995): Much before Ekta Kapoor became synonymous with daily drama series, she produced Hum Paanch, a cult comedy about a mad family and their escapades. The supremely talented Ashok Saraf headed its ensemble cast. And Hum Paanch also gave us Vidya Balan!


9. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (1995): Singing talent has never had a more fertile nurturing ground than this landmark show, which has given us many singing stars, none less than Shreya Ghoshal. Another season has just taken off, and the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa legacy continues.


10. Amanat (1997): In many ways, Amanat set the template for the biggest success mantra of Indian television – joint family dramas. Amanat was only a weekly, like most pre-KBC shows. But this tale of a father (Sudhir Pandey) and his seven daughters remained the centerpiece of our prime time television for almost five years.


11. India’s Most Wanted (1999): I was never a fan of Suhaib Ilyasi’s guttural voice. But IMW, like many other new ideas in the 1990s, had a charming, camp feeling to it. You watched it because it was not well produced. Or maybe, it was meant to come across like that. Today, news channels have pale variants by the dozen, and even Ilyasi attempted one a few years back.


12. Saat Phere (2005): Saat Phere was the social show that existed before socials oversaturated our serials market. The story of Saloni, who has to face tribulations because of her dark skin, eventually morphed into a meaningless one. But while it was at its peak, Saat Phere redefined new-age television in times of multiple marriages, plastic surgeries and resurrections.


13. Dance India Dance (2009): Easily the biggest reality show franchise in India in the last five years, Zee TV took the industry by storm when it converted a seemingly low-budget, experimental show into a runaway hit. Several myths around reality show jury were broken, as three unknown choreographers became household names within weeks. If the recent Li’l Masters season is anything to go by, DID is ready to enthrall us for many more seasons.


14. Pavitra Rishta (2009): Pavitra Rishta is, in many ways, the love saga that Indian satellite television never had in its first 15 years. With its afternoon soap texture, the series has managed to survive several story leaps and casting changes, and continues to have a fairly strong run. And its original hero (Sushant Rajput) is set to make his film debut this January.


Hasratein, Astitva, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai and Philips/ Colgate Top 10 narrowly missed my list. There’s also a fair chance that I may have missed out something else truly landmark, given the plethora of content on the channel over the last 20 years.


Kudos to Zee TV. Hope they have many more aces up their sleeve!


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media & entertainment research and consulting firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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One response to “Shailesh Kapoor: Zee TV: 20 Years and a Piece of History”

  1. suhbham says:

    I have only watched ‘Hum Paanch’ and have heard of “DID”.No Idea about others.Then how can they become landmark