Big Magic’s over-the-top comedy gambit will work: Paritosh Painter

11 Sep,2015

When in February this year, CEO Tarun Katial announced the appointment of Paritosh Painter as Network Creative Director of the Reliance Broadcast Network’s slew of offerings, friends and broadcast insiders had seen the path RBNL would take. For, Painter is known for being a specialist with comedy – whether it’s on Mumbai’s hyperactive theatre circuit or television and even cinema. He has done over 23 plays in Hindi and English with some 2500 shows across the globe. Besides this, he has scripted Bollywood films like Dhamaal (2007), Paying Guest (2009) (also directed the film), and All The Best: Fun Begins (2009). Being armed with an MBA, he has the much sought after combo of a creative mind who can think numbers and can crunch them with ease. As Reliance Broadcast’s flagship television channel Big Magic, has gone on an offensive in the comedy route, MxMIndia caught up with Paritosh Painter in his office for a quick chat.


Big Magic has seen a recent change of look and positioning. What was the thinking behind that?

When I joined Akbar Birbal was the No 1 show for Big Magic…


In fact, it had become the driver for the channel. Just when everything was going right, you changed it.

Since that time Tarun (Katial) and I have been debating on the positioning of the channel.  What should the channel be? I come from a very strong comedy background. I have been doing comedy in my theatre and my films.  I was debating with Tarun about how we can explore the comedy space to the maximum extent possible in the Indian market. The biggest Hindi comedy channel in the market is Sab TV today. But again, we felt Sab is more on the Dramedy zone:  a mix of comedy and drama. So it is not like a hilarious out-and-out Comedy Central kind of comedy. We felt that there is a vacuum in that space. There was no point doing a regular GEC because it is already saturated. We thought we could do a lot more ha-ha comedy rather than the Dramedy. So, that’s how we decided to change the complete strategy and positioning.


But this is the fourth time the channel has taken a new look. It started off as yet another GEC with a focus on the middle end of the market, then it moved to being a light-hearted channel, later more in-your-face humour, and now a kind-of over-the-top comedy channel?

Yes, it has become over-the-top and edgy since the whole shift was towards youth. Then, we did a lot of research, in terms of watching loads of content available on the internet, watching international content. And, we felt that the edgy comedy or content works more for the youth. That’s how we got all the shows around this concept…whether it is Boyz, PMS, or Akbar Birbal to  Hazir Jawab Birbal. We need to target the youth, we need to do stuff that excites the youth. As per our research, we felt that the edgy comedy space was the space that we need to be in. That’s how we are now focussing and positioning ourselves.


You mentioned over-the-top approach. Does comedy have to necessarily go over-the-top? You have been a practitioner of comedy for long?

So actually, there is this thing about Indian audiences which I have seen. Fortunately, I have been doing theatre and tend to travel not only across the country but also abroad. And we do shows in the US, UK, the Middle East and all across the globe. What I have noticed that Indians somehow prefer loud comedy as compared to other parts of the world. In fact, within the Indian subcontinent also I find a difference in taste. For example, in Mumbai, when I do shows in the suburbs, folks prefer loud, in-your-face comedy; but the same loud stuff is not preferred by the townies; they prefer more subtle comedy. So there are a couple of jokes we keep reserved for the suburb audience as against the NCPA audience. Again, North Indians love the loud, insulting edgy kind of humour, When we do shows in South India they prefer a subtle, intelligent kind of humour. But since our audience is more from North India so that’s the space we are exploring for the moment. Most of them prefer loud humour.


But edgy also means double entendre… risqué content.

Yes. We do. People enjoy that. Not only youth, but a large number of men also. I feel shows like Bhabhiji Ghar pe Hain has given us a good start for the Indian television viewers. Or even Kapil Sharma, the kind of humour he uses, I feel it really works. We are looking at exploring that space.


But television is still watched by families in single TV homes. Does the edgy humour work?

In fact, that’s the reason why we have moved our primetime. On Big Magic, primetime will start from 8.30 pm all the way to 11 pm. That’s how we have planned our strategy.


Some of this could see some problems with the content regulator

We are ready to take this risk. And, we want to take that risk. We have debated and decided and that’s the way we want to go.


With shows like Boyz, PMS, you seem to be going all out on that path.

Yes, we are. And there is no point holding back. The AIBs and TVFs of the world are taking over internet by storm. Why should television not be delivering what people want? So we are targeting the TVF, AIB space. They are our direct competitors, not other television channels who have other different programmes. Our competitors are not Sab or MTV. We are the new internet television channel catering to the youth.


AIB has intelligent, news-oriented humour…

We are getting into that space. We are coming out with two unscripted shows by Diwali which will be unscripted, news-based and topical shows.


For instance, Aktor Calling Aktor, does comment, or does have some suggestions on what’s happening.

So Aktor Calling Aktor, are the short comedy-based formats. We are also breaking formats. We are breaking rules. That’s what we want to do.


How is it working with potential advertisers?

If you have the right content, advertisers will lap it up. They would love to be a part of it. And advertisers are looking for a different kind of content. So again, I am probably dragging the AIB and TVF comparison, it is because people want to align with them, because they are different. Today, I believe people are more attached to the shows than channels. I think channel loyalty is dying and show loyalty is coming up. If we can get people to be loyal to our shows, it is better than people just getting loyal just to the channel.


The channel tagline has the word LOL? Would you go in for English or a mix of Hindi and English?

Yes, we are very keen to get into the Hinglish space also. We want to get into late night comedies. We are looking at some of those formats also. We talk of things which people don’t usually talk on television.


What about targets and TRPs?

A lot of factors dictate TRPs. There is distribution, there is marketing, a host of other factors. Just because the TRPs meters keep moving up and down doesn’t essentially mean that the content is wrong. There are other factors which could influence TRPs. Right now our target audience is the urban youth.



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