An educated girl with big aspirations is married off to an illiterate boy from an orthodox family is not something out-of-the box. We all have heard, read or seen such stories year after year. But what is it about Star’s primetime show – Diya aur Baati hum – that has caught everyone’s fancy?
Prompt comes the reply from Star’s programming head (fiction) Danish Khan that there are various aspects which have led to the success of the show that completes two years on 29 August. “The most important thing about the show is that even though it is set in a small town, it has broken the stereotype that one cannot pursue his/her dreams after marriage.”
Khan goes on to give the credit to the strong and evolving story and the actors for integrating well with all the elements, “The writers and producers have been able to keep the horse running for us. The story is so simple yet day-after-day it has been able to connect with its audience. Even the actors have portrayed the characters so well. They are reliving their lives as those characters.”
Agreeing with Khan, Shashi Sumeet Productions (which is producing the show) founder director Sumeet Mittal adds, “As an inspirational story of a halwai (sweet shop owner) wanting to make sure his wife becomes an IPS officer, it was amazing how the audience accepted our show. Furthermore, the extremely relatable characters have helped give this show a sense of realism to which our audiences can connect.”
And the numbers are proof enough of that. The drama series, which is based in Pushkar (Rajasthan), has been a consistent No 1 for nearly a year and a half for Star Plus. Its launch ratings of 1.9 TVRs (the metric used nowdays is TVTs) were not oo impressive. But it grew on its audience which took a fancy to it as reflected in the ratings climb to 6.7 TVR (week 34 of last year). A year later in 2013 in week 33, Diya aur Baati has reported TVTs of 11,166 TVT, which is way higher than any other primetime show on the competition. Rival Zee TV's Pavitra Rishtawhich airs at the same time slot has a relatively leaner TVT of 4,959 TVTs for the same week, while ratings of shows on other channels don't even merit a mention.
Sandhya and Sooraj enjoying some alone time in Singapore
Industry sources say that adverising commercial air time on Diya aur Baati comes at a high sticker price thanks to its continuing stellar performance and connect with its loyal viewers. “The premium attached to the show is almost 30-40 per cent more than the second ranking show, as per ratings,” says a source.
Any other channel worth its salt would love to replicate the prime time series success. What is that makes Diya aur Baati tick? It’s all about staying true to your roots and understanding why you are making a show and for whom, feels Mittal. “Having an audience connect doesn't just mean making a show with good television ratings, but also creating a beautiful amalgamation of what we want and what the audience wants,” he elaborates.
Star Plus vice president (marketing) Nikhil Madhok avers that effective marketing during the show's high points and brand integrations are something that have worked well for it. “When Suraj went for the ‘Top Chef Competition,' we got the entire nation to give their best wishes to him. If you look at the recent activation, we got Shahrukh Khan to the show in the ‘Master Quiz’ episode. We do such activities regularly to connect to people,” states Madhok.
Nikhil Madhok believes effective marketing has played a hand in the show's success
The producer of the show doesn’t think retaining stickiness is a cakewalk . “Today, people are spoilt for choice and one has to maintain the connect with audiences for them to keep coming back every day,” says Mittal.
Fiction show audiences on GECs expect high drama. Some of the tools programming and creative folks in channels have been using to keep viewers hooked are generation leaps and unexpected twists and turns in the story plot. "The idea is to the audience guessing and looped-in otherwise there is always another show where they can find drama. Also, it helps the show to stay fresh, all the time," says a media observer.
To keep freshness going after 500-plus episodes isn’t a difficult task if the entire team is driven to make each episode work, believes Mittal. “We have to treat every episode as a whole and give it equal importance. Each department, from writing to direction to actors, to camera persons each and every member of the crew has to work with the same amount of passion and that’s what will translate into a beautiful episode on screen. I strongly believe that in a daily soap, where your interface with the audience happens every single day, the philosophy that small parts make a whole applies aptly here. We have to see that imagination and execution go hand in hand.”
Sumeet Mittal says its not a cakewalk to create a chart topper
Lodestar UM’s general manager Hema Malik agrees but adds that it is impossible for a show to keep reigning forever; unless of course the team is able to continually come up with interesting and entertaining elements. “Overall, if a show has been getting good ratings, it means it has a strong storyline and characters which one can relate to. And if at a certain stage the storyline becomes boring or predictable, people will take even less time to get off it than they took to get hooked on to it. It is here that one needs to take up the challenge and bounce back.”
Malik goes on to say that the show portrays the channel’s philosophy Rishta Wahi Soch Nayiperfectly. “Star’s values are very much in the storyline of the show. Hence, it’s a perfect match.”