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A glimpse of ‘Jhalak’ on Colors
The seventh season of ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’ has all the masala to make it a wholesome entertainment package.
As the contestants pranced around in colourful costumes with their choreographers in tow, and the production team hurried to get the stage ready for the next performance and brief the judges, I went back in time to relive the fairy-tale story of ‘Jhalak’ on Colors.
How Raj Nayak decided to bet on ‘Jhalak’
Adapted from ‘Dancing with the Stars’, ‘Jhalak’ is a BBC format that aired on Sony Entertainment Television for four seasons before it took a break as the channel was not very sure of airing the property.
Having just joined Colors as CEO, Raj Nayak met with BBC Worldwide senior VP and GM for India Myleeta Aga to learn about the kinds of shows that BBC does. A mention of “Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa” got Nayak intrigued, leading to the next question, “When are you doing ‘Jhalak’?”
Expressing the reason for not producing the dance show that year, Nayak asked Aga what if Colors wanted to air the show. The conversation ended there, until around two weeks later, Aga came back with positive news.
“I said the decision is made, but there is only one condition. I am the CEO, and I don’t own the company. So I need to get my board’s approval. Give me two days for that. She agreed; and there it was, ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’ on Colors,” Nayak recalled.
Roping in Madhuri Dixit
However, the journey was not that easy. While choreographer Remo D’Souza agreed to be on the jury, Madhuri Dixit was not sure of continuing as a juror. Nevertheless, the Colors team was adamant about Dixit on the panel of judges.
“I went to meet Madhuri. I spent around 10 minutes with her discussing generally about life, her coming to India, her husband having studied from UCLA as my daughter is studying there too. I told her that I wanted her to do ‘Jhalak’ and we would not do the show otherwise. And I meant it. She agreed to do the show. We decided to have a long-term relationship and we signed her on,” he added.
Getting Karan Johar in
The story is not much different with the third judge Karan Johar. With two jury members on board, the team decided to rope in Johar after a lot of deliberation. His number was then sourced from Nayak’s friend and Mahesh Bhatt’s wife Soni Razdan.
“Once Raj and I agreed to do ‘Jhalak’ together, the big thing was how to give it that unique Colors approach and take it to the next level. So, after it was locked, the next few weeks were very intense for the creative and technical side as the show already had a reputation and what we were doing had to exceed expectations,” Aga chipped in.
The challenge was all the more intense, because the show, earlier on Sony, was aired during weekdays catering to a specific audience, but Colors gave it a weekend slot and attracted mass appeal.
Evolution of the show
For the first season on Colors, the pre-production started a little late as the crew were working on other shows. But everyone had a good rapport and was expecting the show as it was off air for more than a year and a half.
The channel then went all out and scaled the property in terms of floor lighting and new technology which was specially imported from abroad.
Explaining further, Nayak said, “We got good casting and the following year it became even more difficult because we kept upping the ante. And this time, in the third season, we have gone one step further because one of the things we have managed very well is the casting which is fantastic. We have outdone ourselves. If you see ‘Jhalak’ the way Colors has brought it up, we have used it as a backdrop and made it wholesome entertainment.”
Indeed, Colors has tweaked the dance reality show in its own way. While dance is an important element, the channel added a tinge of humour through comedian Bharti Singh as a contestant in the first year, Manish Paul and Kapil Sharma as anchors in the second year.
This season, the channel has roped in the popular character of ‘Palak’ from their top-rated non-fiction show ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’. The interesting part here is that while the character is a girl, it is played by a male actor, Kiku Sharda. Interestingly, I saw Sharda walking around in the garb of ‘Palak’, making up for some hilarious moments on the set and showing off some fine dance moves as well.
Apart from Palak, the channel has also got on board comedian Sudesh Lahiri as a comic relief in between the performances.
Colors weekend programming head Manisha Sharma explained, “It’s our constant attempt to do something new in the show every time. As part of our content strategy, it was a conscious decision to get Kiku to participate in the show as Palak. We wanted to ride on the success of his onscreen image. And in order to add to the entertainment quotient, we will have Palak carry forth her image and engage in hilarious banters with the cast. Sudesh Lahiri won’t be a constant fixture on the show.”
It’s not just the contestants and format, but the three judges too will be seen in an altogether different avatar. While Johar has adopted a tougher stand, Dixit has got a new contemporary look, and D’Souza has gone grunge.
As D’Souza put it, “All three seasons I had to wear formal stuff, but this time I thought of getting into a different, informal style. Every season, we try something new so that the audiences are happy. We have the best line-up this time. Most of the contestants are well versed with dance so we want to push the bar high from the very beginning so that we get to see some great performances towards the end. It’s better for them also to learn something new.”
As I sat in the audience and saw the 13 contestants before me, most of them my personal favourites, a question that popped up in my head was regarding the selection process. Though this is a closely guarded trade secret, I came to know that there is a complex selection process involving debates and arguments.
“We make a bucket list where we slot people from different walks of life. From that, we pick and choose people who are pure dancers, some who are entertainers, some who have another skill set and that’s how an entire batch is formed,” explained Sharma.
Aga added that this year, there was a lot of interest among artists regarding the show and the channel did not have to do as much convincing as in the previous seasons.
One such contestant who readily agreed to participate is Shakti Mohan, a dancer who found ‘Jhalak’ to be the perfect platform to enhance her skills. However, many others feel she has an upper hand in the competition as she is from the field of dance. And I was proved right as a hot ballroom performance fetched her a ‘perfect’ score from the judges.
Mohan said, “I was very happy when I was approached as I am a big fan of Madhuri Dixit. I feel I do have a upper hand, so I understand when people say it’s so unfair. But that is the format of the show where people from different walks of life come together. I have also started my acting career so dancing is helping me. I have lots to learn and I hope I evolve as a performer on the show.”
So, while the unique line-up of contestants was applauded, the channel went ahead and upped the ante a bit more by roping in Ranvir Shorey. Dhrashti Dhami was brought on board as the co-host. Being a past winner of the show, she could relate to the journey of the contestants and support them.
However, that is not all. The channel has a bit more up their sleeve this year. It has now devised ways to shake people from their comfort zone and push their limits.
Nayak stated, “The beauty of the show is that you become vulnerable when you come here, because you show your other side. So we thought of doing a global form of dancing which the country has never seen.”
Keeping the thrill of the show alive are an immunity ball, ex-participants Salman and Lauren as challengers, and an international judge Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the winner of ‘Dancing with the Stars 2014’.
“The contestants should feel the heat and put their best foot forward; otherwise, it’ll be a failure on our part as designers of the show. This season, we decided to give the stage a truly global flavour by bringing in an exciting new jury member, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and present some never-seen-before dance forms from all corners of the globe,” Sharma added.
Well, the heat is being felt this year not just by the contestants but by the production team as well. Managing 13 well-known celebrities, three high-profile judges, two popular anchors, plus 13 highly sought-after choreographers on one show is not an easy task.
“Every department toils hard to innovate, come up with novel ways and different initiatives to make a difference to the show. Newer and better themes are thought through each season, and then convincing the celebrities to perform the same and put it out there in a never-before-seen manner is a task of mammoth proportions. A lot of sweat, blood and tears go into the show to make it a perfect pot boiler,” claimed Sharma.
The result of all the hard work is for all to see—a glitzy set with shiny disco balls designed by Umang Kumar, the electric performances of the contestants, the encouragement of the judges, the support from the hosts and the off-screen exercise by the crew.
Added to this is the charm of Chmerkovskiy, who grooves with Madhuri Dixit and other female contestants. Seeing all this, I too was grooving (in place of Shakti Mohan!), until Johar brought me back to reality by pressing the ‘Jhooter’. OK, that was it, a daydream… Sigh!