A ZEE TV soap travels from bhatinda to birmingham

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 17.07.12

Bhatinda to Birmingham — In search of love. That is the tagline of Zee TV’s magnum opus Rab Se Sohna Isshq, being publicised as the first cross-continental love story made for Indian television.

The cast and crew of the show, which premiered on July 16 at 8pm, is camping in England for what promises to be a Hindi general entertainment channel’s longest shooting stint abroad. “They will be there for at least three months,” says Sukesh Motwani, the channel’s head of programming, fiction.

The story pivots around the ambition of the Punjabi youth to settle abroad. “In other states, you have boys growing up with dreams to be doctors, engineers or lawyers. But in Punjab, they just want to migrate,” says Motwani.

This is seconded by Kannan Malhotra, one of the two male leads of the show: “You may say it is true of 60 per cent of youths.” So there is the dashing Ranveer (played by Ashish Sharma, earlier seen in Love Sex aur Dhokha and in the title role of Chandragupta Maurya till Imagine TV downed shutters) whose UK visa arrives the day before his wedding to Sahiba and he sets off to chase his dream abandoning his bride. Then there is Sahiba (played by Jammu debutante Ekta Kaul), who chases her love to foreign shores. And there is the good village boy Daljeet (Malhotra) who is going abroad for higher studies and agrees to accompany Sahiba.

“The background of this triangular love story will be provided by the vibrant Punjabi community in the UK and the country itself. In the process we will capture the dynamics of the NRI life abroad,” says Motwani.

Zee TV is the most popular among Indian channels beamed in the UK but the primary target audience for Rab Se is the one at home. “We want to give them fresh material. That the Indian community abroad will identify with the story is a bonus,” says Motwani.

What about the budget for Blighty? An average episode in a daily soap costs about Rs 7-8 lakh, while Rab Se is pegged at least 20-25 per cent higher. Producers Jay and Kinnari Mehta are bracing for more. “We are travelling to London at a time all expenses — hotel to travel — have shot up. But we are excited that we will get to capture London in the throes of the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the Olympic Games,” said Jay, son of Pranlal Mehta who produced films like Marte Dam Tak, 100 Days and Love 86 in the ’80s.

Another challenge is sending the canned episode back home on a daily basis for edits and telecast. “We will try uploading via Internet as well as fly out a hard disc as back-up every day. Given how tight things get even while shooting in Mumbai, we are keeping our fingers crossed,” said Jay.

For all the three lead actors, this is their first trip to London. “I hope to get some days off to do some sightseeing,” says Kannan. “I have no such hopes but since we will shoot at all the famous places, we will get to see them anyway,” says Ekta. “I am happy to fly to cooler climes anywhere after suffering the 47°C kadakti dhoop during our Punjab outdoors,” laughs Ashish.

Aryan Vaid, who has recently been drafted into the serial, is upbeat about the London shoot. “This means not only novelty and exposure for the audience but it’s a pointer to how big the canvas can get for a TV serial.”

Some recent shows that have shot sequences abroad

Hitler Didi (Zee TV) Macau (5 days)
Bade Achhe Lagte Hain (Sony) Australia (14 days) and Dubai (10 days)
CID (Sony) France (7 days)
Choti Bahu (Zee TV) Malaysia (10 days)
Saathiya(STAR Plus) Switzerland (7 days)
Diya Aur Baati Hum (STAR Plus) Singapore (12 days)

Sudeshna Banerjee