Makers of Indian ’24′ series plot a TV show revolution

Anil Kapoor is the Indian Jack Bauer. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Anil Kapoor is the Indian Jack Bauer.
Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

In a street next to Mumbai’s biggest mall, in a suburb teeming with people even at midnight, is a building that at first glance looks like an abandoned warehouse.

The decrepit exterior hides the set of what may be one of India’s most ambitious TV productions yet: the domestic version of the hit action series “24,” which its makers hope will revolutionize Indian TV.

The Indian “24″ is a novel concept in an industry where daily soaps reign. It will be the first seasonal fiction show on TV, one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced and the first to have a Bollywood star in the lead.

Best known for his turn as the talk show host in Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire,” Anil Kapoor, 53, will be the Indian counterpart of Jack Bauer, the suave police officer who is part of an elite anti-terrorism unit. Kiefer Sutherland starred in the original series.

It is with this mix of Bollywood stardom and the terrorism theme that the show’s makers are hoping to woo Indian audiences.

“We are giving them their star that they love and we are giving them subject matter which is close to them, which is India, patriotism, terrorism, crime, thriller and family emotions,” said director Abhinay Deo. “Where can this go wrong?”

Kapoor, who is also the show’s producer, played a Middle Eastern leader in the eighth season of the U.S. series in 2010 and was convinced he had to bring the “discipline and professionalism” of American television into India.

Aware that they are venturing into untested waters, the show’s makers are paying great attention to detail. The main set or the CTU (counter-terrorism unit) is a replica of the one in the U.S. series, complete with newspaper clippings, Venn diagrams on softboards and huge monitoring screens.

On a recent day, director Deo and his assistants were debating how one of the characters should grip a syringe, attempting several different shots until they were satisfied.

This is unusual for an Indian television show, where the pressure of producing daily episodes often means little thought is given to characters or storylines.

“An international format is only a starting point, the key is how it is adapted to India,” said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media.

If it does work, Indian television may be tempted to follow the West’s lead, sticking to seasonal formats and focusing on smart writing and better production values, they said.

“When ‘24′ becomes a hit, be assured that every CEO of every broadcasting company will be on a flight to L.A. to pick up formats,” said Raj Nayak, CEO of the Colors channel which will air the series later this year, perhaps as early as August.

But it is not going to be easy. Nine of the top 10 fiction shows on Indian television are daily soaps with a crime thriller sneaking in at only No. 10, according to a recent report by consultancy KPMG.

“My audience is the masses — the Hindi heartland,” says Nayak. “They haven’t seen this, for them it’ll be a novelty and something new.”

Still, it’s a gamble, and the show’s makers know they have to get it right the first time. Bollywood star Kapoor, who has starred in more than 100 films in three decades, may not get another chance to prove himself on TV, and chances of a second season are slim if the first doesn’t make the cut.

“You stick your neck out and I have stuck my neck out,” says Kapoor.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

National

PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.