Zee Theatre: ZEEL’s new vertical to bring stage to screens

Mumbai, Oct 28 (IANS) After breaking clutter by launching Zindagi channel and bringing Pakistani shows to Indian small screens, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) is now foraying into theatre production with the launch of Zee Theatre.

Renowned playwrights and theatre stalwarts are on board to produce socially relevant content for online, on-air, on-ground and in-transit viewing.

“Bringing the stage to screens is the idea behind Zee Theatre,” Shailja Kejriwal, chief creative – Special Projects, ZEEL, a leading Indian media and entertainment conglomerate, told IANS.

The idea of Zee Theatre — which will start its roll-out December onwards — germinated due to lack of original content for entertainment in the country.

“Everybody, all the time, was thinking which international format to bring in next to India, what can we get from outside… but we were also thinking, what is it that’s our own that we can take outside.

“Of course, India has been exporting Bollywood to the world, but here was a chance to explore the medium of theatre,” added Kejriwal, who was born in Kolkata and says she has a natural fascination towards theatre.

The plan is to produce over 100 plays over the next three years, thereby even renewing the audience’s interest in theatre as a medium.

Leveraging its wide-reaching network and presence, Zee will make the plays available across multiple platforms such as the internet, mobile, DTH, television, in-flight, screenings at multiplexes and educational institutes, in addition to existing on-ground performances. And by making it digitally consumer-friendly, it will give a chance to viewers to watch the plays at their convenience.

India has a rich culture of traditional, folk and classical theatre, and people used to really go out and watch these plays. Only since TV became big, people reduced going for plays and the theatre scenario in the country has been going down.

“In our country, we have a goldmine of stories to to tell via theatre and so, we thought it’s best to take theatre to people rather than taking people to theatre,” she said, adding that this idea was whole-heartedly backed by ZEEL’s managing director and CEO, Punit Goenka.

For starters, Zee Theatre will bring together works of playwrights like Mohan Rakesh, Jaywant Dalvi, Vijay Tendulkar, Surender Verma, Mahesh Dattani, Ranjit Kapoor, Shafaat Khan and others from Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and English theatre.

Stage stalwarts such as Usha Ganguly, Vijay Kenkre, Vijaya Mehta, Atul Kumar, Ishan Trivedi, Sumon Mukhopadhyay, Chandrakant Kulkarni, Rajan Tamhane and more will bring alive plays such as “Rudali”, “Sandhya Chhaya”, “Piya Behrupiya”, “Janpath Kiss”, “White Lilly Night Rider”, “30 Days in September”, “Doll’s House” and “Ma Retire Hoti Hain”.

There’s a common thread that binds these plays — social relevance.

“These are mostly stories that neither films nor TV shows are touching… There’s one play on domestic child abuse; another on the social reality about parents being left alone after their children go out of the country; there’s even one on what happens when a woman asks her husband for sex…nobody ever talks about it.

“When we spoke about the idea of Zee Theatre and these plays, Punit Goenka said it’s a no-brainer that we must go ahead, because these are serious subjects and how can we not discuss these through popular mediums? Why should these be left to seminars and newspapers. Now through theatre, we’re trying to bring subjects as these back into conversation,” Kejriwal said.

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