Dear Mr. Shankar,
I am a U.S. based Dish Network subscriber who has access to STAR Plus (SP) and other South Asian programming. In a recent interview to the Business Standard, you said "as a content person, I have realized that the way people connect to content is the same for news or entertainment." (Tea with BS, June 26, 2012.) I have to admit I have not connected to much of the offerings on SP, other than to your groundbreaking show, Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon (IPK). Kudos to your team for giving us such a gripping, intense, sensitive and passionate screenplay, depicting an ethereal love story so brilliantly portrayed by Barun Sobti as Arnav Singh Raizada, and Sanaya Irani as Khushi Kumari Gupta. As you are obviously aware, the show is watched across the Indian Sub-continent and diaspora, and has a cross-cultural appeal which has redefined Indian television.
Your partner here is 4 Lions Films, a relatively new production house (PH) in the entertainment space. I applaud the PH for trying to create a "niche" product, one that I had embraced completely until recently. In the time the show has been on-air, I have come to understand that with a daily Indian soap opera, we are to expect and accept peaks and valleys in the "content" provided, but does this include abruptly changing tracks, grossly under utilizing the excellent supporting cast which makes up this ensemble, pressurizing your actors to accept appalling working conditions, hours, and most importantly, a substandard script which seems to make up this "content" now?
It is clear the PH, which currently has a new show on a competing channel, is unable to maintain high production values for IPK at this juncture. The slide in these values is most obvious in the shift away from the USP of this show: Arnav and Khushi's love story. Rather than carrying the story forward on a positive note, the producers seem, at times, undecided, and frankly, disinterested, in the direction of the screenplay. Is this what we get for being loyal viewers?
In the last few weeks, there has been much negative backlash against this PH because of the inconsistency and change in the tracks, the pressure tactics used on the male lead, the PH's new focus away from this show, the list goes on. In a world which increasingly operates on a dynamic, virtual platform, these kind of adverse reactions affect the way in which we, the viewers, watch your show. In the last two days alone, numerous articles have been posted about: 1) Mr. Sobti leaving the show; 2) The male protagonist being replaced by a new male character; 3) The show coming to an end imminently; and 4) A possible Season II with Mr. Sobti and Ms. Irani, after a revamp period. Indian media outlets as well as online social networking sites carry these rumors in real time, and there is absolutely no damage control on the part of the PH or the channel here. Meanwhile, viewers across the globe are scrambling for clarity, and many are considering unsubscribing from STAR programming completely (myself included.)
With STAR India's revenues estimated at Rs. 4,500 crores for FY 2012, it is obvious why Mr. Murdoch, Chairman & CEO of News Corporation, STAR India's parent company, looks to India and your network "to develop market-leading capabilities in that important and burgeoning region". (News Corporation, Annual Report, 2010) To this end, IPK has been a revenue generator not only in India, but also in the international markets. However, with Indian advertising income being offset by the weakening rupee, there is increased pressure on STAR's international markets. If the show goes off the air, or if the male lead leaves or is replaced, there is a high probability that a large portion of your viewership, particularly in the United States and in the United Kingdom, will cancel their subscriptions to STAR Plus. In turn, your advertisers will be affected; the repercussions could result in substantial revenue losses. Is this is a risk you are willing to take, given the increased competition among all South Asian programming providers in these nations?
You take great pride in your new corporate repositioning with the "Rishta Wahi, Soch Nayi" tagline. As a viewer, it suggests that the channel and the network at large are committed to innovative thinking, and providing programming which reflects this new mindset. In one of your articles, you had stated "we have a social contract with the viewers, and we must be very careful that we are able to deliver and build on that trust and deepen the channel and viewer bond." It is in this spirit that I request your team to sit down with 4 Lions Films to strategize a long-term working plan for IPK, keeping in mind those loyal viewers who are desperate to hang-on to the old IPK "magic". I would also like STAR Plus to consider removing the show from the hands of the current producers, and assigning another production house or the channel to take over; it increasingly seems to be the best option for it.
IPK will no longer be that love story of star-crossed lovers who redefined the nafrat-mohabbat nexus, if either of the actors leaves the show, or if a new male protagonist is introduced. Every fan, every well-wisher is eternally grateful to Barun Sobti and Sanaya Irani, as well as their immensely talented co-stars in front of the camera and colleagues behind the scenes of the show. They all only deserve the best. Until IPK does go off the air, we would like to remember it with the same intensity, and in the same vein in which we started watching it.
I would appreciate a definitive statement from the channel regarding the future of the show. I trust you will not disappoint us. Thank you for taking the time to read my comment.