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SET Max moves away from the Mandira Bedi formula
by Boria Majumdar
Apr 23, 2008
The IPL, just a little more than a week old, most agree is one of the biggest reality shows on Indian television. Entertainment personified, it has added a new dimension to cricket watching.

While there’s consensus on the above, there’s little known about the men and women who have worked tirelessly for days and months to make IPL what it is. “We want to stay away from the limelight while giving people the limelight”, says Sneha Rajani, the super efficient chief of Set Max. When asked how many hours she puts in a day, Sneha, a modest but forthright corporate, chuckles. “Not me alone. The entire team has been putting in 20-22 hours a day for over a month now. We barely get to sleep but none of us regret what we are doing.”

The 100 plus Sony Team working on the project are in it to “make history”, says Sneha. Their only goal, as she suggests candidly, “is to see IPL is successful.” If the inaugural days ratings are anything to go by (a very impressive 8.2), her team has every reason to be pleased.

Working behind the scenes in diverse working conditions, trying to put on a high-end cricket television production together is like wicket-keeping in a tense contest. You get noticed only if you drop a catch or miss a stumping. For putting together a perfect show, there are no credits.

It is part of the job. Only if there’s a hitch, something similar to the flood light fiasco at the Eden Gardens during the Kolkata Knight Riders versus Deccan Chargers encounter, does the world wake up to start the castigation. Interestingly, Sneha knows this and isn’t perturbed. “I don’t mind the world not knowing me. As long as I am satisfied, I am happy. You can call me selfish but for me, it’s my family, my friends and I. If they think I am doing good work, I am satisfied.”

There’s little doubt that Set Max has pleasantly surprised us all in its inaugural week of coverage. While most expected them to go back to the Mandira formula, a tried and tested success story, they have done exactly the opposite. Not a single of their IPL studio anchors are women. This was a conscious decision, says an upbeat Sneha. “We wanted to target the youth. This prompted us to risk three new rookies to host our studio shows. 65% of this country is below 30. This is our effort to reach out to them.”

Why give Mandira a miss? Max has their reasons. “When we got Mandira to cricket, the world laughed at us. Within three weeks, it was clear to all that we had heralded a revolution of sorts. Everyone started following us. However, since then cricket coverage hasn’t seen much innovation. While the news channels have done much to improve things, sports channels have followed a particular formula. We have once again thought out of the box and are confident this is the second stage in creating a perfect receipt for cricket on television.”

Whether or not they are correct, only time can tell. What we do know, however, is that their coverage has attracted an unprecedented number of women and children to it. So much so that IPL has successfully started competing against the Saas Bahu reality shows, the staple of Indian television for years.

While doing their best to retain the captured eyeballs, the Max team, to their credit, hasn’t lost perspective. They know full well that ratings are bound to drop in the coming weeks. Across a 44 day tournament, it is impossible to sustain ratings over 7. That does not deter them from trying. “Even if there’s a dip in the middle, interest will pick up as the tournament enters its final phase”. It is this ability to be positive that differentiates Sneha and her team. Here’s wishing them all the best in their quest to create history.

 
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