| MUMBAI, April 18
MUMBAI, April 18 In a bylane next to Mumbai's
biggest mall, in a suburb teeming with people even at midnight,
is a building that at first glance looks like an abandoned
The decrepit exterior hides the set of what may be one of
India's most ambitious TV shows yet - the domestic version of
the U.S. television hit action series "24", which its makers
hope will revolutionize Indian TV.
The Indian "24" is a novel concept in an industry where
daily soaps reign. It will be the first seasonal fiction show on
TV, one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced and the
first to have a Bollywood star in the lead.
Anil Kapoor, 53 and best known for his turn as the talk show
host in Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire",
will be the Indian counterpart of Jack Bauer, the suave police
officer who is part of an elite anti-terrorism unit. Kiefer
Sutherland starred in the original.
It is with this mix of Bollywood stardom and the terrorism
theme that the show's makers are hoping to woo Indian audiences.
"We are giving them their star that they love and we are
giving them subject matter which is close to them, which is
India, patriotism, terrorism, crime, thriller and family
emotions," said director Abhinay Deo. "Where can this go wrong?"
Kapoor, who is also the show's producer, played a Middle
Eastern leader in the eighth season of the American series in
2010 and was convinced he had to bring the "discipline and
professionalism" of U.S. television into India.
Aware that they are venturing into untested waters, the
show's makers are paying great attention to detail. The main set
or the CTU (counter-terrorism unit) is a replica of the one in
the U.S. series, complete with newspaper clippings, Venn
diagrams on softboards and huge monitoring screens.
On a recent day, director Deo and his assistants were
debating how one of the characters should grip a syringe,
attempting several different shots until they were satisfied.
This is unusual for an Indian television show, where the
pressure of producing daily episodes often means little thought
is given to characters or storylines.
"An international format is only a starting point, the key
is how it is adapted to India," said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of
media insights firm Ormax Media.
If it does work, Indian television may be tempted to follow
the West's lead, sticking to seasonal formats and focusing on
smart writing and better production values, they said.
"When '24' becomes a hit, be assured that every CEO of
every broadcasting company will be on a flight to L.A. to pick
up formats," said Raj Nayak, CEO of the Colors channel which
will air the series later this year, perhaps as early as August.
But it is not going to be easy. Nine of the top 10 fiction
shows on Indian television are daily soaps with a crime thriller
sneaking in at only number ten, according to a recent report by
"My audience is the masses - the Hindi heartland," says
Nayak. "They haven't seen this, for them it'll be a novelty and
Still, it's a gamble, and the show's makers know they have
to get it right the first time. Bollywood star Kapoor, who has
starred in more than 100 films in three decades, may not get
another chance to prove himself on TV, and chances of a second
season are slim if the first doesn't make the cut.
"You stick your neck out and I have stuck my neck out," says
Kapoor. "I am not playing it safe, I am playing the lead. And
I'm a movie star."
(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Elaine Lies)