Sep 13, 1999
Attitude Mangta Hai
By Priya Ramani
Channel V revamps as a youth channel. The stress now is not an ultra-glam veejays but a younger, in-touch with-the-kids look.
It's pandemonium time. Actually it's a round-the-clock panto-mime. Drenched in perspiration, fitness freak Matthew Kordilia runs in circles for no apparent reason. Purab Kohli says he loves sleeping. His personal snooze record? 18 hours. Bianca Fernandes, 20, converses in Mandarin. Only, she mouths gibberish since she doesn't know Mandarin. Yadunath (Yadu) Karim Bil declares his undying love for her. But she wants a tall, dark, handsome guy. Go take a walk Yadu.
Forget the hip sophistication of Sophiya Haque or the earthy sensuality of Suchitra Pillai. This crop of 11 new veejays are kids having fun. Like the pint-sized Peeya Rai Choudhuri, 19. Anchoring the style show Style Police, she herself dresses in unironed clothes. "People can't relate to you if you look like a Barbie doll," she announces firmly.
The second generation is a motley bunch. Purab and Yadu at 20 have planned their adult careers in management and corporate law, others are living for the moment. Like Vekeana Dhillon who loves cooking and is currently "looking for something yum to do to a chicken". Sibling, co-host, best pal Vikram vaguely says his goal is to entertain.
Repositioning itself as a youth channel, not a music channel only, V is revamping itself. "We failed to keep up with trends," says consultant Mahesh Murthy, one of the brains behind the new look conceived in April. With bored audiences wanting more than just music and ratings reflecting viewer disenchantment, music content was dropped to 55-60 per cent from a previous 90. Veejays who had become bigger than their shows were dropped. Marketing budgets were hiked by over 50 per cent and production budgets zoomed 80 per cent. "We were a necessary part of a youngster's life six years ago. Not any more. The revamp is to get that status back," says Murthy.
The 26 new shows cover everything from politics to cybersex, V shtyle. Witty and wacky, they often take an irreverent look at Indian youth. "It's a return to the entire roots of 'We are like this only'," says Murthy. As for the veejays, "we chose these guys against specific shows rather than doing an en masse come one, come all if you're cute." The result? A brazen Gaurav looks at actor Manoj Bajpai in the eye and asks him: "Are you having an affair with Neha?" A lazy Purab follows the Narmada on the travel show Gone India, spending just Rs 150 a day, and happily shares how he used some of the country's worst loos.
The competition's reaction is predictable. "What's new? We've done fashion, Internet, travel, candid camera," says Alex Kuruvilla, MD, MTV India. MTV says it has no specific plans to counter its rival's new look. "You can't expect a knee-jerk reaction from us. Constant innovation is in our DNA."
Does this new look-old shtyle work for V? As expected, of the 20 plus shows just launched, there are some which are similar to those already being aired on MTV, such as Channel V On Campus. Host Matthew does pretty much what MTV's madcap veejay Cyrus has done for a while now. Whether or not V rocks the nation, the chants of change have already begun.