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

Sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers arrested for…

The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police…

Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…