Meghna Vincent is soaking in all the adulation that she can. A trained classical dancer, Vincent has also appeared as a child artist in several Malayalam films but it is the small screen that has got her true fame. In Kerala, people know her more commonly as Amrutha, the character she plays on Chandanamazha, a soap opera that goes on air on local TV channel Asianet five times a week. Thanks to the TV show, in which she essays the role of an orphan, Vincent has become a household name in her home state.
Chandanamazha (loosely translated, sandalwood rain), a remake of popular Hindi language TV show Saath Nibhaana Saathiya that first went on air on Star Plus five years ago, is the most popular Malayalam serial on air at present and is steadily drawing television ratings in excess of 10 from among its target audience, which primarily comprises women. The serial has been on air since March last year, with over 425 episodes broadcast so far.
A key draw at 9.30 pm on Asianet, Chandanamazha has given no reason for the channel’s top bosses to complain. The channel’s managing director, K Madhavan, an understated personality, smiles when you ask him about the success of Asianet and other shows like this one, all of which are drawing crucial advertising revenue for him. His Asianet bouquet of channels is the leader by a very large margin in Kerala, with others such as Mazhavil Manorama and Surya struggling to keep pace.
“We have got a few things right in Kerala,” says the reticent Madhavan, when asked how he has managed to strike it rich in the state. Of course, much of that success comes from smart programming and making sure the network reaches out not just to the middle-aged demographic but also the impulsive youth. “The latter is critical,” he says. Asianet’s dominance in Kerala is aiding the process of Star India gaining a foothold in the south. This is a growing market and one where Star has to get things right.
Given that the south accounts for ₹4,650 crore of television advertising revenue (see: Southern delight), this is a story that is not just compelling but impossible to ignore. Besides, it is a market that continues to grow by at least 10-12% each year, with very high levels of cable and satellite penetration at 90% in Tamil Nadu and 70% in unified Andhra Pradesh.