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Look who's back!

by Chris Newbould on Aug 28, 2012

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OSN Yahala!’s flagship show, Hindistani, returned to screens over Ramadan looking bigger and better than ever before. We find out what viewers can expect from the second instalment of the musical comedy.

When OSN announced the launch of Yahala! late last year, it promised the dawn of a new era for production in the region.

For the first time, the region’s leading pay-TV network would be producing a significant amount of its own content, and at the forefront of this was Hindistani – a lavish production inspired by Bollywood, telling the tale of a Saudi spice seller who escapes his humdrum life by egressing into an all-singing, all-dancing dreamworld.

The show was a roaring success, and it took little persuading for OSN’s VP of programming, Khulud Abu Homos, to commission a second series virtually as soon as the first had run its course.

Abu Homos explains: “The first series was a great success. It did really well in Saudi Arabia, and even the second run of repeats were in our top three most watched shows.

The number of downloads of songs from the shows online was another sign of how popular it was, and our research even revealed that people were citing Hindistani as a key reason for subscribing to OSN.

The number of big names that have been keen to close product placement or advertising deals, like Coke, is another indication of the show’s popularity.”

After such a successful debut, OSN has pulled out all the stops for the second series, says Abu Homos: “We feel that our investment in quality and detail with the first series has been proved correct, so for the second series we’ve doubled the investment and taken longer over the shoot, as well as moving to a one hour show format from half an hour.

We’ve also taken on a number of young Saudi personalities in the cast, including Saudi star Asaad al-Zahrani, and we feel we’ve moved the narrative towards more relevant subject matter – we even have one episode about smart TVs and social networking with a song about the internet!”

Indeed, the scripts are an area where Abu Homos feels the show has really begun to come into its own. She explains: “We’ve really worked hard on the drama. Everyone loved the music, but this time we’ve worked really hard on plots and also on intertwining the music and drama to bring it all together rather than seeing them as separate elements.

I think it’s much more edgy and relevant to a wider age group than the first series. There’s also more influence of Arabic and Gulf music and customs this time around, although the Bollywood influence remains strong. We have a music composer and producer in Syria, and another in India, and there’s a real feeling of fusion there.

“The first six episodes have gone through post and are now complete, and I have to say I feel all our editorial decisions have been vindicated. The result is great, and I can’t wait for it to screen as, at the end of the day, I’m a viewer too.”

The shoot itself was on a grand scale. It took place on location in India, Dubai and Sharjah with a team of around 380 production staff – mostly Indian with a core team from the Middle East travelling to India, and all taken from the local talent pool for the UAE shoots, and even by Abu Homos’ standards this was a new experience: “I’ve never worked on something so big,” she says.

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