Storytelling for impact: Navrangi returns in a colourful second series for web

BBC Media Action’s one-of-a-kind drama which examines sanitation issues alongside other life and love in the neighbourhood – has launched on YouTube

Published: 19 May 2022


NEW DELHI - BBC Media Action in India today has launched Life Navrangi (Colourful Life) - a seven-episode web dramedy on faecal sludge management (FSM) on YouTube.

Life Navrangi is the second season in the Navrangi series, a follow up to the successful 26-episode television drama Navrangi Re! (Nine to a Shade), broadcast by Viacom18 on three of its channels and OTT platforms in 2019. Both series have been supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Life Navrangi and its key character Vishwas, a young journalist, once again played by Aamir Ali, is all set to entertain, educate, and jolt people out of their doom scrolling - and into greater awareness around sanitation issues as part of the storyline. The heroine of this show is a runaway bride, Saloni, a budding YouTuber, known better as #SimplySaloni. They team up to launch a YouTube channel, on which they tell real stories (as opposed to fake news) that make a difference to people’s lives.

Life Navrangi navigates relevant and interesting issues – plans and difficulties about owning one’s dream home, making a mark in one’s profession, dealing with debt and a marriage threatening to fall apart. Its storylines also highlight various facets of FSM such as regular desludging, indiscriminate dumping of untreated faecal sludge that contaminates water, building the right kind of septic tank without cutting corners and preventing hazardous cleaning.

This issue is critical to health and the safety of water in the country. India’s urban areas produce 120,000 tons of faecal sludge every day. However, only 33 per cent of houses are connected to sewer systems, and around 38% use septic tanks. While India has made considerable progress in building and using toilets, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, 70 percent of the sewage generated from urban India is not treated. This is dumped indiscriminately in water bodies, empty spaces, and agricultural lands, posing a serious health threat to the ecosystem.

Proper faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) is a convenient, adaptable, and inexpensive method of complementing centralised sewerage networks while helping to protect health and the environment.

The series aims to increase improve people's awareness, understanding and engagement on these issues, with arcs that build on strong female characters and cross socio-economic and cultural divides. Several characters occupying different points on the sanitation value chain and add to the twists and turns in the story. Gender norms are a constant subtext, breaking gender stereotypes and examining non-traditional career options for women; the storytelling also addresses the harmful role of mis and disinformation.

Watch highlights from Life Navrangi - life, love and sanitation in an Indian community

Archana Vyas, Communications Lead, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation India, said:

Life Navrangi is special because it is telling a story while walking the tightrope between entertainment and achieving social impact. BBC Media Action has effectively delivered high quality content which informs, educates, and entertains audiences. By partnering with them, we are actively enabling India to take the next step in its sanitation journey and achieve its SDG targets by 2030.”

Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor, BBC Media Action said:

“We realised we needed to capitalise on the power of storytelling to enhance message delivery when it came to FSM. It is a result of our continued effort to make the invisible, visible and increase the risk perception around the issue of faecal sludge management (FSM) and contamination of water.

“The series reflects small town India’s conservative values, dreams of wealth and success - limitations notwithstanding, and a determination to live on their own terms. The plot points in the story are about owning one’s dream home, making a mark in one’s profession, the true meaning of ‘being smart’, dealing with debt and a marriage threatening to fall apart. Our narrative breaks gender stereotypes and includes characters from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Correct FSM services become a metaphor for a more organised way of living, managing resources and relationships, and achieving one’s goals.”

Professor Srinivas Chary, Director, Urban Governance and Environment, Admin Staff College of India (ASCI) and CEO, Wash Innovation Hub (WIH), said:

“FSM is not only an infrastructural issue but also a socio-cultural issue. It is critical to acknowledge the need for FSSM because it has a considerable impact on public health, climate, and water pollution. Navrangi Re! opened our eyes to the role of media and storytelling in combatting this public health crisis and we welcome this second series with new and exciting storylines.”

Directed by Debatma Mandal, Life Navrangi was shot in Bhopal and consists of seven episodes, each of 22-26 minutes. The drama has a stellar cast featuring thespians such as Aamir Ali, Krishna Mukherjee, Tiku Talsania, Swaroopa Ghosh and Dolly Minhas, and young talented actors such as Krishna Mukherjee, Rohit Gujjar and Rohit Pargai. The show also includes actors from Bhopal, which has a rich theatre and performing arts tradition.

Aamir Ali, who reprises the role of Vishwas, said:

“I love my role – that of a disillusioned TV anchor, who’s quit his plum job, because he wants to tell real stories, as opposed to fake news. I, with my female lead, launch a channel called Tedhi Medhi Kahani (Quirky Tales) – and you’ll see what happens when we do our stories. For me, this show has been a turning point, because I know while I entertain, I’m also talking about not just messages on sanitation but about values that our audiences will relate to and act upon!”

Krishna Mukherjee, who plays the female lead, Saloni, said:

“I am a runaway bride, bubbling with ambition to ‘settle down’ in my career! My character, in fact, all the female characters in Life Navrangi have been crafted carefully from a gender perspective so that viewers can relate to their situations and struggles. The power dynamics between male and female characters is very interesting and it was a fabulous opportunity to play a role that I truly believed in.”

Produced by Bodhi Tree Multimedia for YouTube, the show touches upon many aspects of FSM, all hidden in plain sight and packed between stories about real characters with real aspirations and anxieties.

Life Navrangi airs on YouTube every Thursday, starting 19th May 2022. Sign up on YouTube.


About BBC Media Action

BBC Media Action is the BBC’s international charity, and we believe in the power of media for good. Last year we reached more than 130 million people across more than 20 countries, sharing trusted information that protects health, bridges divides, challenges prejudice, and saves and changes lives. We have been in India since 2001, and in that time have pioneered the use of narratives for social impact with seminal and highly successful television dramas such as Jasoos Vijay (about HIV and AIDS) and more recently AdhaFULL (on gender and adolescence) and Navrangi Re! (on urban sanitation).

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