Want to tell stories beyond the headlines – Shailja Kejriwal

Arijit Bose

Lucknow: Beyond the skirmishes and the political rhetoric that is deeply entrenched in the Indo Pak relation, art has always been the one saving grace that binds the two countries with talent being appreciated on both sides of the border.

With the Uri attacks and the strained relation, earlier on Zindagi TV has had to go off air and even the pandemic had its own impact. As better times return, the channel is once again back on TV sets and its shows are also being streamed digitally.

It was launched on DTH platforms with the landmark series ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ brainchild of Shailja Kejriwal, Chief Creative Officer – Special Projects, ZEE in 2014 with the Pakistani soap opera ‘Aunn Zara’. It ended in 20 episodes. The channel bid adieu in 2017. It became a digital-only channel  later it came on the Ozee app, and later as Zindagi Digital. It was then launched on ZEE5 in 2020.

Shailja Kejriwal is an  Indian media and entertainment professional, film producer, and writer. She is well known for her Bollywood script for Madaari. In an exclusive one to one she spoke about the road ahead as things gradually fall in place.

Speaking of the idea behind the inception of Zindagi TV, Shailja said, “The idea behind having Zee Zindagi was to give something very simple and unique a mass viewership cutting across borders. There was a time when at home we would huddle up and see 80s Pak shows. This is something new that this side was not privy to. Channels like Zee Zindagi quench the curiosity Indians have about those living in Pakistan. It is a showcase of life beyond headlines. It is about understanding cultures and the life conditions of those on the other side. It is something that is unique and interesting for the viewer.”

Talking of the fresh exciting lineup she says – Zindagi has planned a complete set of programming keeping in mind the partition. It coincides with the  Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav as well. There is no denying that there are emotions on both sides, there is a positive people to people connect. Among the shows lined up are Fawad Khan’s Humsafar, Ketan Mehta’s Toba Tek Singh, and Pankaj Kapur and Vivek Pathak starrer Dhoop Ki Deewar.

On the importance of a platform like Zindagi she adds – Channels like Zindagi matter because as artists we have a job to do. We are not here to instigate violence. To tell stories and bring people closer. Art is not meant to demonize a nation. Noone wants aggression. Art should help one understand different cultures. Culturally platforms like Zindagi provide an alternative throwing open a broader slate.

Talking culture she said, “With cultural exchange one gets better understanding. It emerges as a soft power wherein people understand each other. At the human level, culturally or through perception. These are new stories, stories, languages which provides a taste change, different but not alien.”

The slate of Zindagi is a rich one she feels. “Since we entered the market in 2014, it has been a happy thing that artists from across the border have come to India. Among the leading faces has been Fawad Khan who has fast caught the fancy of the country. Saba Qamar, Mahira khan have carved a niche for themselves. There have been top shows like Chudails, Qaatil Haseenaon Ke Naam and Mr and Mrs Shameen that have grabbed major eyeballs. Filmmakers in india have now realized that talent from across the border is beneficial for everybody. I feel more and more channels should open up its doors do stuff like Zindagi because it increases your mass base.” says Shailja

Summing up the expansion she underscores – “As a channel which is once again back on DTH services along with its presence digitally we will continue to diversify. Our focus will continue to be on acquired content, content curation with variety at the heart of the process, producing original content from Pakistan. In future we also aim to bring in greater viewing experience by going beyond Pakistan. There is a  wide gamut of shows that could see the light of day on Zindagi coming from Turkey, Israel and Iranian shows. They are uniquely different yet similar. With good filmmakers they offer a big alternative when talking of Hollywood. In other words this will usher in a new cultural revolution.”

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