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Call it luck or creative genius but Asit Kumarr Modi has struck gold with most of the serials that he's produced so far. Be it Hum Sab Ek Hain that was one of the most popularcomedy shows on Sony back in the '90s or Saarthi, which had a successful run of over three years on Star Plus or Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah that turned around the fortunes of SAB TV, Modi has perfected the art of combining novelty with acceptability. Tarak Mehta.., which was the first serial of its kind to be based on the writings of a popular columnist Tarak Mehta, has been on top-of-the-charts since it started three years ago. "I had made a family comedy, (Hum Sab..), a husband-wife fantasy comedy (Meri Biwi Wonderful based on Bewitched), so I was thinking how I could make it different this time. That's when I remembered reading and enjoying Tarak Mehta's columns as a school kid and later as a college student. I thought of making a comedy based on that," explains Modi who makes serials under the banner Neela Telefilms. He contacted Mehta, sought his permission and bought the rights to the column. Next he approached all the leading entertainment channels with the novel idea but found no takers. "There was a strong wave of saas-bahu soaps and nobody was interested in a daily comedy," says Modi who then got in touch with SAB TV which was way below on the rating chart. SAB was in the process of creating an identity as a comedy channel and was more than willing to experiment with the concept.
"When we started the show, the channel was almost non-existent but I was confident about the content of the show. I had done a lot of research on it and both Dilip (Joshi, the lead actor) and I had faith in the stories," informs the producer. Sure enough, the audience started trickling in and Tarak... was the first show on SAB to register a rating of 1, which in itself was a huge achievement. Three years on, the serial has raced ahead of many rival soaps and is consistently garnering a rating of 4 plus. It has been, along with a couple of other shows, instrumental in positioning SAB among the top five channels.
Modi credits the success to his entire team of writers including Raju Udedra, Rajan Upadhyaya, Abbas, Anurag Prapanna and actors Dilip Joshi, Disha Vakhani and Bhavya Gandhi. "Everyone is passionate about the serial as the audience loves it and we want to offer something new in every episode," he reasons. The popularity of the social satire has crossed the Indian shores. "People from Pakistan call to invite us to shoot there. Viewers in US and Singapore watch it on You Tube. Some colonies in Ahmedabad are named Gokul Dham (that's the society in which the sitcom's characters live) and parents are saying their kids have started behaving like Tapu (the brat)," smiles the proud producer. Needless to say, the budget for the show has also increased manifold. Starting with Rs 5 lakh per episode it has risen by 30-40 per cent over the years. Modi is now planning to take the serial across India as well as abroad to shoot.
It's this success with Taarak.. that probably prompted Star Plus to open its comedy slot with Modi's Pyaar Mein Twist. A weekend show, Pyaar.. is the first sitcom on the channel in over a decade. It's a challenge for Modi to recreate Tarak..'s success on the channel. The romantic comedy, which revolves around a young married couple, stars the popular Manish Paul and Roshni Chopra. Modi hopes the show will succeed in developing the slot for the channel. "It is a show that will grow slowly to form a habit with the viewers," he says confidently.
His other serial Krishnaben Khakra-walla on Sony, though, has not caught on with the viewers. An aspirational show revolving around Krishnaben, a widow with two children, who runs a khakhra factory, Krishnaben... was launched four months ago. It has Krishnaben fighting injustice and solving day-to-day problems in a simple manner. "Krishnaben is in the 8 pm slot that is yet to grow on Sony. The channel is known for its non-fiction programming rather than daily soaps. Yet Krishnaben... has been bringing an average rating of 1, which is good in that slot considering it has competiton from older brands like Balika Vadhu and Jhansi Ki Rani," reckons Modi. And if his past record is anything to go by, Modi needs to weave his magic wand like the one used in his earlier show Meri Biwi Wonderful.
Till that happens, Modi is gearing up to launch another serial, a mix of drama and comedy, on Colors.
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