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Sridevi returns, whips up interest in Sahara TV

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

After Sridevi's spectacular debut in the biweekly sitcom "Malini Iyer" this week, the parent channel Sahara TV can finally look success straight in the face.

Having pumped millions of rupees into the flop Karisma Kapoor soap "Karishma: The Miracle Of Destiny", Sahara was prone to believe media experts who felt huge celluloid stars could not work in fiction on television.

But Sridevi's character as the stunningly spunky and beautiful Tamil daughter-in-law in a Punjabi household threatens to break the myth about stars' clout on the home viewing medium.

While she makes the whole nation laugh, her husband Boney Kapoor who has produced the serial for Sahara can laugh all the way to the bank, provided the serial, which kicked off Monday, manages to hold its own in the coming weeks.

Indications are "Malini Iyer" could generate a cash flow that's been denied to Sahara so far. Many of its premium products have bombed. And yet the flush-funded channel has been insistently signing big celluloid stars, including Amitabh Bachchan, to do TV fiction.

With Sridevi breaking new ground, her juniors like Raveena Tandon, who's doing a mini-series based on Bimal Mitra's Bengali novel "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam" for Sahara TV, may find the going easier.

Sridevi had to bid goodbye to film acting six years ago at the peak of her career to be producer Boney Kapoor's wife. Her last film was Boney Kapoor's "Judaai" where she co-starred with her brother-in-law Anil Kapoor.

She eventually had two daughters and showed no interest in returning to acting...until the super-lucrative fee that was offered to her to do "Malini Iyer".

For Boney Kapoor, the success of his wife's TV debut is a triumph on many levels. His recent celluloid sojourns like Rajkumar Santoshi's "Pukar" and J. Surya's "Khushi" have been box office disasters.

Now he has four major films lined up for release this year.

The first release will be the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer "Run", a remake of the Tamil Madhavan-starrer by the same title, followed by two huge multi-starrers "Bewafaa" (Kareena Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Sushmita Sen), "No Entry" (Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan, Fardeen Khan, Bipasha Basu) and the youthful Kareena Kapoor-Shahid Kapoor musical "Milenge Milenge".

The success of the sitcom "Malini Iyer" has brightened Boney's box office hopes. The producer believes the serial will put him out of the red.

Says the relieved and overjoyed producer-husband: "I haven't been so relaxed for a long time. The calls haven't stopped coming. 'Malini Iyer' has broken the myth that stars don't work on television. Except Mr Bachchan no one else has worked on television.

"And the credit goes to a large extent to my director Satish Kaushik. When I went into a contract with Sahara, Satish was the first director I approached to direct 'Malini Iyer'. But he was busy shooting my film 'Badhaai Ho Badhaai'. Then I approached several other directors, including Rajkumar Santoshi and Radhika Rao. It didn't work out.

"The project finally came back to Satish. The results are evident. People like Shammi Kapoor and (Telugu superstar) Chiranjeevi have called up to congratulate Sridevi."

Viewers have, however, complained about an unimpressive supporting cast.

But Boney defends the cast saying, "We had to sign actors who could be available according to Sridevi's schedules."


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