CUNNINGHAM ROAD:When Myleeta Aga first joined BBC Worldwide India, she was taken aback at the amount of entertainment content it was producing. One of her first projects, as creative head and managing director, was Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, and she was instrumental in the success the show received after its revival in its fourth season. In Bengaluru for a few days to oversee the second season of Thaka Dhimi Tha Dancing Star, a regional variant of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa which airs on ETV Kannada, she spoke to City Express about her interesting challenges.
“We have thankfully received a very good response to the launch episode, which aired last weekend, and we’re hoping for a great second season this year,” says Myleeta. The network, which has been increasingly producing local shows in India over the last few years (Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, Yeh Hai Aashiqui on Bindass, Fanaah and Kaisi Hai Yaariyan on MTV), is now focusing on increasing its foothold in regional markets as well, Myleeta told City Express.
The Guinness record-holding global phenomenon Dancing with the Stars was brought to India almost a decade ago as Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, which at first aired on Sony and now broadcasts on Colors.
On taking an international format to an Asian audience, she says. “It’s about looking at what your audience wants. And making changes without compromising on what makes the format work. Eventually, people want good stories. They want to be taken on an emotional journey. That doesn’t change whether you’re Chinese, Indian, Japanese or whatever. And this is what we focus on doing by tweaking small nuances to make shows culturally relatable,” she says.
Myleeta, however, wants BBC Worldwide to focus on creating non-fiction and factual content for its Indian audiences.
Says she, “I remember my time in Discovery US, when I used to wonder at how there is such an under-representation of factual content in our part of the world. And I don’t mean just India, it’s all of Asia. For some reason our factual story-telling is low. Our audiences are still driven towards entertainment-based content. If you look at UK, on a Sunday night, you’ll be watching a two-hour science-based film on Planet Earth. Can you imagine that in India? We’d have a Hindi feature film!”
Myleeta attributes this viewership difference to two factors: culture and our own set of content creators.
“We have an escapist culture. We want to be able to relax and follow a story; rather than engage, and factual content requires you to engage. Also, it has to be relevant content. When you are pre-occupied with progress and aspiration, like most Asian cultures are, you are less interested in environment protection, for example," she says.
When it comes to content creators, Myleeta feels India lacks expertise to make factual content. “We do have documentary filmmakers. But documentaries and factual content are very different. I would say factual content is much closer to entertainment. It’s much more evolved in the West. But here, we have a set of people who make films about causes, NGOs, and other serious issues. And we have another set that only makes entertainment. It’s the in-between space that we’re completely not looking at right now,” she says.
BBC Worldwide is working to change that. She gives the example of their hit cooking show, Ravinder’s Kitchen, which airs on TLC.
“We want to serve an Indian audience with shows that have an Indian flavour. But because the TLC audience is used to watching cooks like Jamie Oliver and Nigella, we need to make a show of that quality and style as well. Therefore, we found Ravinder Bhogal, who is an Indian origin cook, but is based in Britain. So she speaks like a Brit, but makes food that offers a mix of Western and Indian food. So this is how we are sort of looking at creating factual content. Cooking shows are the beginning. Then we can progress to historical or science shows,” she says.
BBC Worldwide is going to focus on getting their content out to more people. So whether it’s bringing Jhalak Dikhla Ja to regional channels or widening their digital content, there’s a lot of work for the team in India.
“A lot of our attention is going to be on the website and making our digital content richer. We like to think that we are known for our quality and reliability. With some of our British shows like Top Gear, Sherlock, doing phenomenally well globally as well as in India, we hope to make sure that more people will catch them. That’s our mantra now: 'Must Meet its Fans,' says Myleeta.