| NAME: Jasmeet
Walia (alias Jassi)
Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin
TV CHANNEL: Sony
AVERAGE TRP*: 4.53
USP: Ordinary looks, braces,
pink umbrella, innocent but a sharp mind
BRANDS ENDORSED: Rejected
Dabur Chyavanprash offer. Sony to retail mugs, pencil boxes,
friendship bands, pink umbrellas at top stores with her name
embossed on them. Over 100,000 users have downloaded the Jassi
a bitter December morning in the capital, but that hasn't deterred
hundreds of Delhiites from congregating at Ansal Plaza in South
Delhi. Now these Delhiites aren't exactly behaving the way normal
Delhiites (yes, they do exist) would. You see, they've turned hysterical,
and there's plenty of shouting, screaming, and stomping of the feet-the
kind of treatment usually reserved for a matinee idol or a rock
star or, since we're in the Capital, perhaps a voluble politician.
But the 25-year-old who is the reason for this temporary bout of
insanity isn't any of these. She's gawky. She's ugly. She's a klutz.
But she's also television's freshest, and hottest face, Jasmeet
Walia, aka Jassi. When she bursts into a Sat Sri Akaal Dilli, the
mob, most of whose idea of excitement in saner times begins and
ends with a Nirula's ice cream, goes so berserk that Jassi's six
bodyguards are forced to intervene, and end the mania prematurely.
| NAME: Tulsi
Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
TV CHANNEL: Star Plus
AVERAGE TRP*: 14.07
USP: Sindoor, mangalsutra,
garish saris, and loads of tears
BRANDS ENDORSED: Milton,
Stayfree Secure, Keo Karpin, Royal Palms and the Bharatiya Janata
It isn't just Delhi that's given in to Jassi's
charms. Her four-times-a-week half-hour serial on Sony Entertainment
Television is a hit nationwide. That's why Jassi's next stop is
Kolkata where she will be assured of a similar (perhaps slightly
saner) reception. Just four months after launch on September 1,
Jassi is pulling in television rating points (TRPs) of six amongst
adult Hindi-speaking audiences. "The equity of the channel
has always been variety, youthfulness, and innovativeness. And Jassi
represents all these aspects," exults Sunil Lulla, Executive
Vice President, Sony Entertainment Television. For good effect,
Mona Singh, the actress who plays Jassi, says she's forgotten her
As perhaps would have the Tulsis, Parvatis,
and Avantikas of the great Indian weepy, who've all done their bit
to bring vermilion and the mangalsutra back into fashion. To be
sure, Jassi isn't the only woman scoring big points on the idiot
box. The saas and bahus of the "K" weepies (Kahani Ghar
Ghar Ki, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi et al) have fan clubs of
their own, and are pursued more aggressively by advertisers than
by their small-screen paramours. Tulsi, the sometimes saas, sometimes
bahu protagonist of KSBKBT for instance endorses not just brands
like Milton, Stayfree Secure, Keo Karpin and Royal Palms, but also
the Bharatiya Janata Party. "The Indian woman was a brand for
TV in 2003. She will also be a brand for 2004," declares Smriti
Z. Iraani, who plays Tulsi.
| NAME: Dr.
Astitva: Ek Prem Kahani
TV CHANNEL: Zee TV
AVERAGE TRP*: 1.5
APPEAL: Urban, working women
USP: Modern, liberated outlook.
Marries, then divorces a man 10 years her junior
BRANDS ENDORSED: Modelled
for Danabhai Jewellers, Pond's Dream Flower Talc, Siyaram, Pepsi.
But hasn't endorsed a brand as Dr. Simran
Iraani surely knows her onions. Doubtless it's
the woman-oriented weepie that's captured the imagination of Indian
television audiences. And it's not just wannabe Tulsis and Jassis
who are in the gallery. Rather, it's the entire family that sits
back during prime time to watch its favourite family soap, be it
on Sony or Star or Sahara or Zee. As Sameer Nair, Chief Operating
Officer, Star India, points out: "So long as Indian homes remain
predominantly single-TV homes, family drama-or kitchen-politics-oriented
serials-will continue to be popular since the entire family sits
down to watch television together at prime time."
"Television scales up the dimension of
domestic squabble faced by most Indian women by making it a life
or death situation," rationalises Santosh Desai, President,
McCann Erickson India. "The markings on the head of the female
characters, the music, the heroic, epic-like depiction magnify the
domestic squabble into a battlefield."
| NAME: Avantika
TV CHANNEL: Alpha Marathi
AVERAGE TRP*: 1.1
APPEAL: Across Marathi homes
USP: Boldness. Walks out
of marriage when she learns husband has had a long-standing
physical relationship with another woman living in same house.
BRANDS ENDORSED: Done ads
for Vicco, Johnson & Johnson, Ghadhi detergent, Prestige. But
hasn't endorsed a brand as Avantika
So it's time for sitcoms, myths, legends, reality
shows and all the rest to make way for the woman-at-the-core family
soap on the prime band. At least that's what Sahara, which splashed
the metros last fortnight with hoardings screaming "Malini
Iyer aa rahee hai (Malini Iyer is coming)", believes. A week
later the same hoardings revealed that Malini Iyer is none other
than yesterday's queen of the silver screen, Sridevi.
The Viewer's Not Stupid
But it isn't as if the audience is in the mood
to lap up any family soap that's thrown at it. Sahara is counting
on Malini Iyer-due for launch on January 19-bringing in the rating
points, something that Karisma Kapur couldn't do with her eponymous
serial. As Nair of Star TV points out: "You cannot create a
television icon by raising hype around her. A character, like Tulsi,
becomes a hit and an icon only if the story is gripping." Karisma
by that logic obviously was not.
The formula, you have to agree, isn't rocket
science. What's needed are dollops of tears, a few moral and social
missives, goodie-goodie bahus versus scheming shrews and sporadic
upheavals in the lives of the protagonists-the last an imperative
when ratings are south bound. Consider the Marathi serial Avantika,
on Zee's Alpha Marathi, whose TRPs oscillate between four and 14
in Maharashtra. "Every time there is an upheaval in the protagonist
Avantika's life, the TRP shoots up," chuckles Nitin Vaidya,
Channel Head, Alpha Marathi. "At the end of the day it's pure
and simple business," says Iraani, who plays Tulsi in KSBKBT,
who might well have shattered a few hitherto-cherished illusions
with that statement.
| NAME: Annamalai
AGE: Around 40
TV CHANNEL: Sun TV
AVERAGE TRP*: 0.11
APPEAL: Across Tamil homes
USP: Tears and melodrama.
The story of a wronged mother of four who becomes the publisher
of an investigative publication
BRANDS ENDORSED: Arogya
The channels, meantime, are busy milking the
popularity of their lead women. Jassi, for instance, has over 3,000
pals enrolled to the Jassi fan club that Sony created on its website.
Till date, over 100,000 fans have downloaded the Jassi ringtone.
Sony will soon sell umbrellas, mugs, friendship bands and pencil
boxes at leading merchandise stores across the country with Jassi
embossed on them.
| NAME: Malini
AGE: Not available
TV CHANNEL: Sahara
AVERAGE TRP*: Serial
to be launched on January 19.
USP: Fun and frolic. The
story of a Chennai-based girl who doesn't lose her South Indian
touch after being married into a North Indian family settled
BRANDS ENDORSED: Not applicable
To be sure, it's one programme (Jassi) in the
9.30-10 p.m. slot that has gone a long way in turning around Sony's
fortunes. From a share of 8.2 per cent in the pre-Jassi days, Sony's
share was up to over 31 per cent in the ninth to 12th week of the
telecast of Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin. What's more, Jassi's success
has spilled over to other prime time (8-11 p.m.) programmes as well.
In prime time (8 to 11 p.m.), Sony's marketshare has increased from
14.9 per cent during April to June 2003 to 20.3 per cent in August
to November 2003. This has also resulted in a 30-40 per cent increase
in the channel's advertising revenue. Jassi incidentally has 12
Despite all the brouhaha around Jassi, it just
doesn't seem to have the wheels to derail Star's K wagon. The ratings
of Kyunki... haven't slipped below 10 in the past four years, and
Tulsi has emerged unscathed despite the death of her husband (who
was later resurrected on popular demand), a memory loss, a 20-year
leap (of faith?), and a plethora of upheavals inflicted on her week
after week. Call her Tulsi, or Jassi, or Malini, or Avantika, or
Simran or by any other name, the Indian woman in the Indian weepie
in the Indian television-viewing household is here to stay.