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Out to Make a Real Change: Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai

© UNICEF/ 2008
Creative Director Umesh Bist (left) and actors on one of Kyunki...'s interior sets

It’s been a long day but the directors of Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai are happy with the shots they have captured. After all, hard work is a small price to pay for the mission they have set out to achieve.

UNICEF’s Kyunki… imparts life-enhancing, life-saving messages — many of them drawn from Facts For Life — through an aspirational, high-drama, glossy TV soap with all the expected masala.

“Working on the entertainment-education format is very different from straightforward entertainment shows”, explains Monica Chaturvedi, Kyunki…’s Message Design Director.  “From medical facts, government policies, and health schemes to the behaviour change strategies and tactics required to effect change — nothing is assumed and everything is evidence-based as we design this show.  At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the story we are crafting has to impact people’s lives”.

The purpose? To get everyone watching, learning, and eventually acting on these critical messages.

As the show approaches its last production schedule in its first 130-episode phase, the cast and crew who have dedicated themselves entirely to the cause of Kyunki… know that they deserve a pat on their backs. 

“As we wrap up the first phase, the entire crew is in an upbeat mood and we really feel like we are achieving what we had set out to do. We are getting the right reactions from our audiences. They are completely hooked to the storyline and are involved with the characters,” says Creative Director Umesh Bist.

Turn on the national public channel DD1, Mondays to Wednesdays at 8:30 pm, and you will find a soap with all the requisite glitz and glam surrounding personalities whom you can love, hate, debate but not forget: the overpowering villain in the garb of generosity, the taunting mother-in-law, the long-suffering daughter-in-law, the egotistical husband…

But it’s the show’s seamless mix of entertainment and education, its effort to inspire and empower without preaching, that makes it stand out in the crowded drama serial market.

The only show of its kind presently airing on primetime in India, Kyunki… is breaking new grounds. In addition to being one of the biggest television productions out of Delhi, it’s the only daily entertainment property dedicated to promoting pro-social behaviours through inspiring role models. The episodes that have been broadcasted to date have tackled often sensitive issues including gender equity and girls’ education, safe motherhood, diarrhoea management, hygiene and sanitation, and breastfeeding. 

And there’s plenty of dramatic tension around issues that remain untackled: “Audiences can’t wait to see what the nurse’s relation with the village’s most affluent (and wicked) family is! We give our audiences their dose of daily soap but at the same time share with them something that might improve their lives,” explained Bist.

In addition to steadily climbing up the popularity charts, Kyunki… is also garnering support from frontline workers who are inspired to see themselves portrayed positively through the serial’s main protagonists.

“I used to generate awareness earlier, as well. But after watching this serial I have been doing it in a more focused manner,” shares a teacher from Jharkhand.

Another viewer, a child nutrition and development worker, adds “We have already had four girls from the locality visit my centre to enquire about getting enrolled in the school. The community has really learnt from this show.”

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