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November 5, 2001

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Clash of the Titans

Mammootty and Mohanlal Superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty may find themselves pitted against each other yet again. This time, in the world of television.

Mammootty heads the Marxist-promoted Kairali TV. Now, reports indicate that Mohanlal has, in principle, agreed to take over the reins of Kerala's latest satellite channel, India Vision.

Promoted by state Minister for Public Works MK Muneer, India Vision is expected to go on air early next year.

The hunt for a new chairman for the channel commenced six months ago when Muneer decided to step down from the chairman's post after he took over as minister. The first person considered for the job was award-winning writer MT Vasudevan Nair. But Nair decided to work behind-the-scenes for the new channel.

Mohanlal Since then, several names were considered. Mohanlal, who is close to one of the directors of the channel KC Babu, is reported to have finally consented to take the job.

Babu and Mohanlal already have a business association. They are partners in a seafood export firm and recently opened two new hotels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A close business associate of Babu says that India Vision will announce Mohanlal's appointment as chairman soon.

When India Vision was mooted, the popular impression was that it would be a voice of the Indian National Muslim League party. But since then, its promoters have revamped its image and have recruited top professionals. The final round of talks is on with the STAR network, which is to help the new channel in its marketing and distribution.

Initially, India Vision had planned to tie up with Sony Entertainment Television. But in the final round of discussions, the deal fell through.

When it goes on air, India Vision will become the fifth Malayalam TV channel. The others are Asianet, Surya, Kairali and Doordarshan.

Kairali completed its first year operations on a sour note with losses amounting to Rs 70 million. But Mammootty is determined to revive the channel, which is still mired in controversy over the involvement of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Mammootty Another new channel, Jeevan TV, is expected to be launched soon and has already started recruiting staff. It will be launched with the backing of a premier church in Kerala.

There is also talk of launch of yet another channel with the backing of spiritual leader Amrithananda Mayi.

India Vision had initially planned to start operations from the Onam festival season in August this year. While the launch was put off slightly, India Vision TV crews can be spotted at almost all major events in the state. Reports indicate that several programmes have already been filmed.

The total investment envisaged for India Vision is in the range of Rs 800 million. In four years' time another Rs 2 billion would be required and its promoters are confident that it would break even in a matter of four to five years.

India Vision will have its headquarters in Kochi and would be free for viewers in India and the Middle East. It would, however, be a pay channel in the United States.

Indo-Asian News Service

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