Fenil and Bollywood

Failing in academics does not mean failure in Life-Ronnie Screwvala

Posted on: January 19, 2010

BROADCAST BARON: Ronnie Screwvala

Relentless UTV scores big time with the restless youth

CYRUS H. MERCHANT Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; January 20, 2010)

On Marathon Sunday while most of Mumbai ran, Ronnie Screwvala, head of UTV, and his brilliant creative director (UTV Network) Zarina Mehta celebrated their recent success. They were happy, clearly. When life is on a song, you walk on the high notes. The broadcasting network, ably led by CEO MK Anand, has come of age and is now one of the top five players. “We’ve broken the mould and are very excited about the speed which with we did it,” beams Ronnie. They’d launched it barely two years ago with four speciality channels and without a General Entertainment Channel. In television parlance that’s railroading your TRPs. But much to everyone’s surprise, it took off, the graph gasped and they’re at the top. Going against the tide, helps indeed.

Up until now youth TV meant only music, but with their quick moving, these two TV cats and their terrific team across the board went for the jugular of the Indian youth: careers, relationships, the intricacies of Life. They took the power of their network, spread their nets wide, and there with producing youth-oriented big hits of Indian cinema and here with broadcasting they have almost covered the neglected space: the blooming heart of the young.

“We were passionate, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to crack it,” Ronnie offers. What he doesn’t say is they were also focused on the demographs. Their latest offering of UTV Action which showcases Hollywood blockbusters, innovatively dubbed in Hindi, has caught the guys by the collars. Just two weeks since its launch and it’s a runaway success already, opening a whole new genre and market, creating a new viewing habit. And in 18 months, their channel UTV Bindass hit bullseye with the youth. Ronnie is all praise for the Indian youth. “They’re terrific, they work very hard, they’re truthful.” Maybe that’s why, in his company, the average age is about 30.

Whether it’s Emotional Atyachaar about the transparency of morals and the irreplaceable requirements of relationships or the Big Switch where rich kids slum it out, they’re pushing the envelopes of the young. “And we’re having fun doing it,” Zarina says. “If you don’t have fun, you’re dead.”

Their youth broadcasting success comes close on the heels of their UTV Hungama which zeroed in on the four to 14 age group and broke into the difficult six channels of cartoons dominated by world biggies. Ronnie explains how: “We created content, Indianised it, were very passionate about it. We looked at the demographs. And then the real needs. Now we are looking at college-goers and first time jobbers”.

What about the rest of us? “Well there’s UTV Movies and UTV World Movies,” Ronnie replies. Indeed there is, world class cinema which otherwise we wouldn’t have got to see, with multiplexes these days only going for the box-office ringtone. I cut into the joy with the recent, terribly tragic youth suicides. And thankfully they don’t just give me a right answer, but an honest one. “What’s academics!” Ronnie says. “I failed in my Inter! Parents need to back-off, this parental pressure is getting a bit too much. Failing in academics does not mean failure in Life.” Even while hiring at UTV? And Zarina says: “I look at the person, their confidence, their goodness and how they think on their feet. College education in India is very poor. When people come to us for jobs, we don’t look at the marks.”

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