Shailja Kejriwal on success of Zindagi on ZEE5: “We’re looking to broaden our offering slightly differently”


With Urdu series ‘Dhoop Ki Deewar’ proving a huge success on ZEE5’s Zindagi channel,’s Raj Baddhan caught up with Shailja Kejriwal, Chief Creative Officer – Special Projects, ZEE Entertainment, about Zindagi’s third original.

Aligned with the belief that art transcends borders and should not be restricted by physical boundaries, Zindagi is the only content studio in the subcontinent creating content for the South Asian diaspora which is now catering to the audience globally.

‘Dhoop Ki Deewar’ has had a tremendous response since it launched, surely you knew the Ahad & Sajal pairing would’ve always been a successful formula?
Without a doubt Ahad & Sajal are great together on screen, but I think what worked for the show is more than just them being a popular and loved couple. It’s their individuality and what they bring to the table as masters of their craft and we must agree that both of them did a fabulous job bringing Vishal and Sara alive on screen.

You’ve re-built the Zindagi brand after the challenges you faced previously, how does the new Zindagi compare to the former?
The digital launch of Zindagi has given us the opportunity to create content for different audiences in India and globally. As a brand, we have continued to cater to different cross-sections of audiences bringing South Asian content to the rest of the world through differentiated shows such as Churails, Ek Jhoothi Love Story, and our latest original Dhoop Ki Deewar.

Urdu content generally has proved a huge success for Zindagi, what other show formats (reality, non-fiction) are you working on for the fans of Urdu content?
We are looking to broaden our offering slightly differently. Currently content is seen as Hindi or Urdu but “Hindustani” is a language that is common and is a mix of Hindi as well as Urdu. This is the largest linguistic group if we talk about South Asian content. So the aim is to tell true blue South Asian stories with talent from both the industries and explore different genres within the fiction format for now. I am particularly excited about one of our upcoming shows where we explore the thriller/noir genre in our first “Hindustani” show.

We believe in producing content that is meaningful and has an impact on society in one way or another.

What’s the biggest challenges you face when it comes to commissioning content from different countries?
I find it more exciting than challenging. It is such a learning process to interact with new minds, thoughts and ideas. The fusion of culture and politics when collaborating gives way to newer and exciting discoveries for everyone involved in the making of a story. It pushes you beyond your comfort zone because it is a new experience and that is what keeps it fresh.

Despite successful content from Pakistan, ZEE5 has been blacked out on various occasions, do you feel proud to be breaking barriers with innovative content or annoyed with the authorities in those countries?
I feel immensely proud of the type of content we offer to our audience. We believe in producing content that is meaningful and has an impact on society in one way or another. Just as we had with our first Zindagi original Churails, which brought to the forefront women’s fight against patriarchy, our new original Dhoop Ki Deewar highlights the unspoken effects of war.

Final words?
The fact that a brand like Zindagi exists and thrives is testament to what collaborations can achieve. Zindagi has been the forerunner of what we now call South Asian content. This is the audience that will be the most valuable across platforms in the next few years with Hindustani being the largest linguistic block of viewers.

Collaborations such as Churails, Ek Jhoothi Love Story and our latest Dhoop Ki Deewar have been possible because of the sheer hard work and the will of all those involved in creating these shows and we’re eagerly looking forward to announcing more originals this year for the audience that has validated our belief through their love for our Zindagi!

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