Apart from the short film contest, which will culminate in the festival, the channel also has plans for other interesting initiatives up its sleeves
Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | May 17, 2016
Zee Talkies’ short film contest, ‘Lighthouse’, ends with a three-day on ground short film festival in the first week of June. Zee Talkies is the Marathi movie channel of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel).
The contest ran for a month to promote new talent in Maharashtra. A ten-week long Sunday programming slot was launched for the short films as a precursor to the contest in January. The programming slot saw the screening of 50 Marathi short films and about ten or twelve Hindi films during this period.
Bavesh Janavlekar, Business Head, Zee Talkies, said the call for short films had been inspired by two concepts. “One idea was to identify talents. Digital is growing big, we wanted to kind of provide a platform not only to professionals, but also to those who feel that they have it in them to film a concept, even on mobile phones.”
Short films are primarily consumed on the digital platform. The channel has, however, attempted to bring these to the audiences of Zee Talkies. Janavlekar added, “We wanted to take the stories to the masses.”
Another reason for the contest and the programming block was to warm up the audience to the short film format of programmings. The channel has clearly denied any possibilities of brand integrations with the short films. “Brand integrations are not a driving factor at all. Brands have a separate kind of approach for short films and with brands coming into the picture, the whole execution and ideation process changes. In fact, we are planning to build Lighthouse as an annual event for our channel, along with the programming block.”
The channel senses a huge potential not just in the short film format, but also in the digital space within the State. There’s an urge in people to give voice to their stories, evident in the fact that the contest got about 5,000 entries. The entries are currently being screened to be shortlisted for the on ground event. The on ground festival will showcase about 60 of the best films in the lot.
The channel will also be experimenting with dubbing English animated movies into Marathi. The movies have found quite a good response on the channel. So, the movies that are ready to be dubbed include ‘Kung Fu Panda - I and II’, ‘How to Train Your Dragon - I and II’, ‘Madagascar Series - I, II and II’, ‘Rango’, ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘Beauty & the Beast’ and ‘Lion King’, among others. The slot will begin airing the movies from May 29, 2016 from 9 AM to 11.30 AM.
Another novel initiative of the channel is making feature films only for television. The first three- hour movie produced solely for television will be ‘Madhu Ithe Chandra Tithe’, which will be telecast on June 12.
The channel is gearing up to tackle the competition it has faced of late from free-to-air (FTA) Chitrapat Marathi and Fakt Marathi, which were launched over the last six months. Zee Talkies, launched in 2007, was the first mover in the genre and has faced very little competition in its journey so far. The channel still commands about 75 per cent of market share in terms of viewership, but is now sensing competition from Chitrapat Marathi and Fakt Marathi.
Janavlekar explained, “We ought to feel the heat as both of these are free to air channels and BARC is now mapping rural numbers too. We do have plans to tackle the issue, but it seriously doesn’t mean that we will go FTA or have another launch in that vertical, in the near future.”
But does the Marathi movie genre have space for so many players? Are people watching Marathi movies on television? Janavlekar feels they do. “There are approximately 15 Marathi channels, all genres put together. And we (Zee Talkies) are at No. 3, while we were at No. 2 till a couple of weeks back. In the last four-week average, we have had a reach of 26,656, against the closest GEC Zee Marathi at 25,484, followed by Colors Marathi (22,515) and Star Pravah (14,865.07). The fact is that merely 10-15 movies out of the annual 90 are doing well and get traction on TV, while the rest are all library material. But people do come to TV to watch Marathi movies.”
It is interesting to note that the costs of satellite rights of Marathi movies are also increasing, along with the Box Office figures. While Marathi movies have been grossing in Rs 40-50 crores at the Box Office, the satellite rights valuation has also been increasing, even if the increase is not as much as that for Hindi movies.
Due to a major overlap of the Hindi genre onto Marathi, getting a huge viewership for the Marathi movie channel genre is challenging. “It is to the tune of 16-17 per cent viewership for Marathi within Maharashtra, while it is close to 60 per cent in the State for Hindi channels,” Janavlekar pointed out.
High definition variants of the channels are known to be in the pipeline, but the network is not ready to talk about them just yet.