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Ajay Bhalwankar quits ZEE as content head

MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s (ZEEL) content head for Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) Ajay Bhalwankar has put in his papers.

Meanwhile, Namit Sharma will join Zee TV as programming head. Sharma was earlier with Wizcraft as head of television.

Ajay-BhalwankarBhalwankar was instrumental in creating path-breaking content for Zee TV and also spearheaded the launch of Zee Anmol, the network’s free-to-air (FTA) channel.

This is for the second time in 19 years that Bhalwankar has decided to move on from ZEEL, after joining the company way back in 1994. He first left as Zee TV programming head in October 2009 to join Multi Screen Media’s flagship channel Sony Entertainment Television (SET) in the same capacity. However, after a brief stint of eight months, he again left SET for Zee TV.

“Ajay’s support for ideas, creativity and innovation has been the real strength of his time as content head of Zee TV. He gave the team strong creative leadership with the freedom to experiment and he’ll be hard to replace. With regret, we accept his decision and thank Ajay for his valued contribution to the organisation,” said ZEEL chief creative and content officer Bharat Ranga.

“During his stint with the group, Ajay has achieved various milestones and strengthened the position of the channel and built a great and dedicated team for the channel. Given his credentials, we are also sure that he will continue to achieve his aspirations and further strengthen his credential in his domain,” Ranga added.

Bhalwankar said, “It’s been a memorable journey. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. It’s a tough decision. The trust reposed in me by ZEEL MD & CEO Punit Goenka will never be forgotten. I leave ZEEL with renewed respect for television broadcasting and the talented producers of our programmes, and with great pride to have worked with an exceptional team who will continue to see success.”

Bhalwankar will handhold Sharma in settling down within the organisation and will continue to take all programming-related decisions.

Over the past six months, there have been many changes in the order of the GEC top brass. In September 2013, Star Plus GM and business head Nachiket Pantvaidya joined MSM. At that time, his role was not clear, yet speculations were rife that he would be given charge of the languishing SET.

To fill Pantvaidya’s place, Star India shifted its head of content engine Gaurav Banerjee to Star Plus. As of now, the content engine team is divided, and Banerjee and Life OK GM Ajit Thakur are overseeing their respective channel’s teams. But Star India may decide to have a content engine head once again, and there is a space lying vacant there.

Similarly, earlier this year, NP Singh was promoted to CEO of MSM after serving the company as COO for over nine years. The first thing he did was made Pantvaidya head of SET, who will be looking at building a team, which will include hiring a programming head too. Besides, SAB business head Anooj Kapur has been given additional responsibility of new venture in entertainment.