Mumbai, Feb. 28: Maria Goretti asks Heath Streak what the colour of her eyes is and you wonder what that has to do with cricket. But according to Sony, it makes splendid sense.
The three girls may be as extra as the three ‘a’s but Extraaa Innings, the sideshow on the World Cup on SET Max with Mandira, Maria and Sandhya, is here to stay, says the channel.
Extraaa, a “fun” filler between bouts of real action, which has former television star Mandira as an expert commentator locking horns with the likes of Tony Greig and Krishnamachari Srikkanth, may have purists fleeing from the small screen but has attracted the masses, especially women, says the channel, congratulating itself on a successful strategy.
The same may be said of MTV VJ Maria and actress Sandhya, who are prancing on African soil and questioning cricketers about food, travel and favourite authors (Enid Blyton is one answer).
Cricket lovers are also trying to preserve themselves from another member of the Extraaa team, a lady tarot card reader, whose predictions may have surprised herself at times.
But the dumbing down has worked. Sony is flaunting the TRPs saying women — who watch soaps and not cricket and at whom Extraaa has been primarily targeted — have been kind.
During the opening ceremony, Extraaa garnered a TRP of 3.1, according to TAM, a television-rating agency. Out of this, 2.7 was contributed by the female audience.
Otherwise, too, Extraaa has done very well, says Rajat Jain, executive vice-president and business head, SET Max. The average rating for India matches during the first week of the Cup has been 8.6 (a score that would make any Balaji serial proud) and the average for all matches has been 5.5.
The figures for Extraaa during India matches have been 2 and that for other matches 1.4. Extraaa has shot up to be among the programmes in the top-100, appearing 8 times on the chart.
But a section of the women are very angry.
“I may not watch cricket. But it doesn’t mean that I will be interested in the frills. It makes women feel like frivolous creatures, only interested in the trivia, while the men watch the real thing,” says Rupavali Sinha, a media marketing executive.
“Using women to hook women in this way makes it worse. I feel embarrassed to watch Maria giggling and asking cricketers about everything that does not matter,” she adds.
“There are two kinds of people, those who watch cricket and those who don’t. Why badmouth women saying such programming is meant for them'” asks a woman viewer.
But others, especially from the television community, welcome it. Vinita Nanda, the woman who made Tara, a popular serial featuring a “bad” woman as a heroine, feels it is all right to feature women this way.
“If women have attributes that make them fun, what’s wrong with it' Cricketers are used to sell products too,” says Nanda. “If it has done well, I should say it is excellent strategy.”
Extraaa has also done well in Calcutta, with a TRP of 6.9 during the opening ceremony, confirming the city’s love for trivia. In non-metros, Extraaa episodes in Mahabharat and Ramayan-type of set-ups in which an India match is likened to a battle have done well.
But many have not been bowled over. Like cricket veterans Ajit Wadekar and Dilip Vengsarkar. “I don’t watch Extraaa Innings,” said Wadekar, apologetically. “I switch to other channels with cricket commentary,” said Vengsarkar.
“I find it ridiculous,” says Shashi Ranjan, head of the Indian Television Academy, a platform for the small screen community.