By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Jan. 19: ‘Satyamev Jayate’ was an influential TV show in India that brought burning issues to the attention of the general public. A few years ago, Radha Krishna Dhital got a chance to meet and interact with the show’s team in India and that gave him the idea of running a similar show in Nepal.
Dhital cultivated that idea for more than a year and a half and is now ready to present it as ‘Ainaa’. “We want to bring in ground-level issues which have the most impact on people’s lives but have not been picked up by the mainstream media,” Dhital explained. “We want to go beyond the headlines and look at the underlying dimensions,” he said.
Dhital, with his nearly two decades of experience in the Nepali media, also wants to change people’s perceptions of television. “There is this binary notion that commercially produced programmes are pure entertainment and non-commercial ones are news reports.
When we approached people and organisations with the concept of this show, many were puzzled. They thought only non-governmental organisations would produce such programmes. This attitude is what we seek to change.”
Ainaa will be a commercially produced reality show which will focus on content traditionally considered non-commercial. “We will have commercial brands and businesses as sponsors. There will be advertisements,” Dhital, who is also the project head, elaborated.
The TV programme is being produced at a cost of Rs. 50 million by the team of Horizon Multimedia. It will air every Wednesday at 9 pm on Kantipur Television starting January 20.
The show itself will be a video magazine, including interviews, testimonials, footage from the field and dramatization. Essentially, it will follow the same format as Satyamev Jayate. For this, it has obtained a no-objection certificate from the makers of Satyamev and has been consulting with its team throughout the production process.
Ainaa will also have a live studio audience and all concerned personalities including the victims, authorities and experts will be brought on to present their perspectives. The first season will have 26 episodes with each episode focusing on a new topic.
The topics were selected through an exhaustive research process that took up most of the past one and a half years, Dhital told The Rising Nepal.
“We looked at the issues that haven’t received media attention, made field visits, talked to people, gathered data and made a list of 150 topics. Then, we shortlisted 40 and finally, chose the 26 issues which were most consequential to the society.”
After the finalisation of issues came the filming part. The team, comprising around 40 people, have filmed in more than 70 districts and are presently shooting in their studio set up at Nepal Chalchitra Bikas Company in Balaju, Kathmandu. Things are ready for the show’s launch on Wednesday – no small achievement considering the challenges COVID-19 threw Ainaa’s way.
“We began shoots from the middle of February but then had to stop because of the lockdown from March 24. We stayed home for more than two months and had only just resumed in May when 11 of the 14 members of our field crew caught the coronavirus and had to be isolated,” Dhital said.
“Furthermore, owing to the pandemic, we have decided to only have 45 people in our studio audience, less than half our original plan of having 100. Masks will be compulsory and there will be sanitizing booths.”
Ainaa, which will be 58 minutes in length, will be hosted by Bishwa Prakash Sharma, spokesperson for Nepali Congress. Shows like these often tend to feature activists, social workers or cause-related individuals. Satyamev Jayate featured actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan. So, why did Ainaa choose a political personality?
Well, according to Dhital, they didn’t set out to choose a political person. “Our intention was to feature someone who has an in-depth understanding of the issues our show focuses on, someone who can relate to the everyday struggles of the people, someone who is the representative of the ordinary society and someone who is competent. This could have been anybody.”
Dhital and the team explored many options, auditioned many people from many sectors and ultimately found that Sharma was the only person that fit the bill.
Sharma, for his part, has said that he wishes to hold a mirror (ainaa) to the country and himself through the show. While he could not be contacted directly for this article, Sharma has stated in other media interviews that the show will shine a light on the people who have not been able to experience the changes brought by the political transformations in the country.
But won’t Sharma’s personality overshadow the show itself? Dhital does not think so because the new “TikTok generation” this show is aimed at does not know Sharma’s political affiliations.
They will view him solely as the presenter of the show. Moreover, Sharma is also a respected individual who has not been caught in any controversy.
Because the show is targeted to the youths, it has adopted a mainly digital promotional strategy focusing on social media. It has also released radio promos and plans to put up 20 hoarding boards across the country.
It released its theme song last month which has so far received more than 140,000 views with more than 1,500 likes. “The reaction to the show has been largely favourable and encouraging,” Dhital shared.
The makers of Ainaa want to start a campaign to bring real change in the society. Hence, they are preparing to establish the Ainaa Foundation that will continue working in various social fields even after the show come to an end.