GHAR KI BAAT
TALE OF TV SERIALS
TV in my house is a domain exclusively under control of my wife. Never felt challenged as I am not a TV buff in the first instance. I get my own limited access to remote during cricket season. Musicals like ‘Sa-Re-Gama’, ‘Indian Idol’ are the programs we share common interest for. So, we are in complete harmony when it comes to TV viewing.
Indian TV scene, both in terms of hardware and software has appreciably evolved in the decades that have passed by.
Here is my take on it.
Advent of TV in its black & white avatar brought families together. Excitement of owning a TV and novelty value gave rise to a wave of cohesion not only amongst family members but even ‘have not’ neighbours who were welcome. A government entity, Door-Darshan enjoyed state-sponsored monopoly and churned out sarkari stuff. Its repertoire included entertainment elements along with special programs for farmers and labourers. ‘Chhayageet’ was most popular entertainer followed by Sunday evening movies. Very soon, serials came on screens. Each one had specifically allotted life-span in multiples of 13 weeks. Around this time, Colour TV piggy-backed on Asian Games and to become instant hit.
Even with its ‘first born’ advantage, Door-Darshan, failed to keep pace with time. Government liberalised its policy to allow private channels. They came in hordes and quickly dug their heels in. Invasion of TV space by private players augured well for audience as it brought variety, class and quality. Ever so ambitious, channels went on to explore possibilities of foreign collaborations. Advent of reality shows on Indian TV screens was the outcome of these efforts. Now, family dramas had reality shows for company, striking a balance. Thanks to Bollywood, music based programs enjoyed special patronage.
Production houses were conscious of ‘soon-to build up’ competition arising out of open skies policies. They wasted no time attracting creative talent to generate a steady flow of entertainment. Now, advertisers came knocking on the doors of popular channels. Raking in precious revenue, the channels braced to fight the wars of TRPs. Purse strings were loosened for higher spends on actors, costumes and sets. Lavish mounting, opulent settings and gorgeous costumes became the norms.
However, generating fresh ideas for new programs every 13/26/52 weeks was becoming too much of bother. Every new program needed its own sets, props and costumes. Recovering costs was becoming tricky. This prompted the channels to seek other options. They found their salvation in daily soaps which was an established tradition in the West.
Daily soap started mainly in the form of family dramas. A story-line that could stretch to a few months at least, was needed. Capital costs could be amortized over daily episodes lasting months. A bunch of writers would be commissioned to take the story forward week after week adding twists, turns and even jumps. In their desperation to extend lives of serials, channels allowed illogical and irrational turns in the stories. They even brought dead characters back to life.
Content, in this rat-race started losing out to frivolities. Saner elements amongst viewers were appalled but then their numbers were too small compared to overall tally that included uneducated and rural folks. Channels continued stretching their serials to unimaginative and even senseless levels. An organised tohubohu ruled the stage.
A new twist in the tale came in with the arrival of Zindagi channel. Gradually but surely it made in-roads in most house-holds. I was dismissive of the hype attributing it to its Pakistani origin. My wife decided to explore the channel. Before I could even yawn, she was singing paeans for it. She loved the ‘freshness’ of the serials beamed on the channel. Her persuasion worked and I joined her in viewing some programs. I was pleasantly surprised. This channel follows old door-darshan pattern of ‘limited episode’ stories. These exude captivating charm with its freshness and clean presentation. Opulence and ostentations are very much there but content with its honesty of narration comes out winner. Tameez and Tehzeeb oozes out of their style of story-telling.
This channel has achieved phenomenal success and endeared itself to Indian viewers. Key to its success is freshness, supported by clean and unpretentious narration. It is time our Indian channels too, give a thought to this phenomenon. Let their writers unleash creativity with fresh stories rather than flog dead horses.