By Robin Bansal
Mumbai, Jan 12 (IANS) What began with fictional dramas has now turned into an experimental journey for Imagine TV, with out-of-the-box reality shows like the "Swayamvar" series and "Raaz-Pichhle Janam Ka" grabbing eyeballs.
"The amount of reality on our channel has been higher. Our reality shows have gone on to become more successful," Nikhil Madhok, Imagine TVs senior director, marketing and communications, told IANS.
"On fiction, we have seen partial success. Some of our shows like 'Bandini' and 'Kitani Mohabbat Hai' have done well. A lot of the others have not," he added.
Launched in 2008, Imagine TV shot to fame with fictional shows like "Radhaa Ki Betiyan Kuch Kar Dikhayengi" and "Jasuben Jayantilaal Ki Joint Family".
The channel is also looking at packaging their prime time slot with a cohesive mix of reality and fiction shows.
"Our prime time has been predefined to 8-11 p.m. We'd first want to achieve a critical mass and satisfactory ratings at that time before we start looking at other slots. Currently, our 8-11 p.m. is completely fiction but it will be a mix," he said.
Despite their booming success with reality shows, Madhok points out it is fiction that draws more eyeballs in general.
"Across the world, fiction is what drives loyal sustained viewership for channels. Currently, 'Gunahon Ka Devta' and 'Baba Aiso Var Dhoondo' are our top shows in fiction. We are looking to push them higher," he said.
Talk about reality shows and one unconventional property that got the channel soaring TRPs is "Swayamvar". Having sparked controversies in its first two seasons with leads like Rakhi Sawant and Rahul Mahajan, the grand Indian televised wedding has now chosen a face with a clean history - Ratan Rajput - for "Ratan Ka Rishta: Swayamavar - Season 3".
Ratan stars in the show "Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo" on Zee TV.
"This show has become a little controversial, though that was not our intention. The idea is that the celebrity should get an ideal life partner and the whole country can be a witness to that," Madhok said.
"We did not deliberately want to take someone controversial this time. We wanted to take someone who is popular and whom people are interested in. And Ratan came out to be our first choice in the criteria," he added.
"Swayamvar" is open for all Indian bachelors "across the world wherever Imagine beams, like the US, Britain, the Middle East, and parts of Southeast Asia".
However, the third season will have two broad level changes.
"First, unlike the first two seasons, we will be shooting outside Udaipur. We haven't decided where, but it's still going to be in Rajasthan," Madhok said.
"Secondly, Ratan wants her friends and family to participate in a big way in choosing the right groom. Moreover, a lot of functions and rituals will reflect more doses of her local Bihar culture," he added.
The shooting of the show is expected to start in April-May depending on how much time it takes to shortlist the "final 16" boys. The telecast, however, is a "good four to five months away".
Noteworthy is that the petite small-screen actress has received close to 40,000 entries by now out of which 10,000 came in the first week itself.
Imagine will also pay a "small amount of compensation to both the participants and Ratan" to make up for their losses during the shooting of "Swayamvar".
Asked about the rumours that "Swayamvar" might face delay or trouble due to shooting clashes with Ratan's popular show "Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo" on Zee TV, Madhok said: "We have no issue with it.
"Our show anyway begins shooting much later. We don't know what are Zee's plans for 'Agle Janam.... But whatever happens between us and Zee, we will make sure that it is amicably sorted out."
Apart from the third season of "Swayamvar", Imagine TV will also launch Shah Rukh Khan- hosted adventure reality show "Zor Ka Jhatka" in February.
(Robin Bansal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)