In 2008, when general entertainment channel Colors, was launched by Viacom18 – a joint venture between Viacom Inc and the Network18 Group, there was much promise of a new spectrum of emotions and entertainment. While there were high profile reality shows on offer, the one serial that caught everyone’s attention was Balika Vadhu, a story of Anandi, married off in a rich family as a child. The show will complete 1,000 episodes today (May 14), a feat not many shows have accomplished in the Indian television industry.
Balika Vadhu show caught everyone’s attention because of its simple story and real emotions. Anandi captured the hearts of millions, making it the No 1 show at that time slot. Talking about Balika Vadhu, former programming head of the channel, Ashwini Yardi recollects: “It is the only show I said yes to in 30 seconds. Balika Vadhu is a cult show that portrays the journey of a child bride into womanhood. Even when the channel was launched, the show wasn’t promoted or marketed as much as the other shows. So, it has achieved everything on its own.”
Child marriage isn’t something new, many young girls and boys are forced into it even today and the government and activists have tried to curb this social evil. Through the show, the writer and the channel wanted to convey the side-effects a child marriage can have on one’s life.
“The realism in the characters and storyline is what made the show connect with its audience. We have never compromised of the plot and concept of the story to gain TRPs. Balika Vadhu is the first show which raised a social issue as its main plot on a primetime. And we wanted to educate people as well as entertain them,” says Purnendu Shekhar, the writer of the show.
Agreeing with Mr Shekhar, Prashant Bhatt, fiction head, Colors says: “The story is the hero. The concept of the show decides how the look and treatment of the show will progress. So much so that the cast, the sites, the look, the makeup, even the language is completely tied to the concept. Balika Vadhu brought about authenticity, consistency and meaningfulness and that has worked. Today, Anandi, Sumitra, Dadisa, Bhairon and many others are household names solely because of the way the characters have been portrayed; the actors literally live their roles. The dialogues and its delivery has raised the bar completely. In totality, the show is an honest effort from our end to highlight issues to a mass audience and its acceptance is a great high for us.”
Monaz K Todywalla
Of the 197 weeks of being on-air, it’s been the No 1 show in the slot for 172 weeks. According to Monaz K Todywalla, general manager, Madison Media, the reason why the show has worked well for so long is: “The simple storyline of Balika Vadhu, in its early days was a refreshing change from the high drama soaps that existed. The show started off a new trend of addressing social problems that exist within the fabric of the country; people empathize with the story of a young girl who was married at a young age – the twists in her life deal with problems that women in India face. More importantly, because Anandi doesn’t play a victim, but fights odds to emerge a winner.”
Deepak Netram, vice president, Lodestar UM, reasons why Balika Vadhu has been able to cut across masses. “The show was a milestone in the GEC space. It redefined a lot of trends and was a winner for the channel for a long time in many aspects. The show targeted a certain TG and that’s the audience many advertisers want too,” he said.
OTHERS IN THE 1000+ EPISODES CLUB
Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi – April 2005
Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki – Aug 2005
Kasauti Zindagi Ki – May 2006
Kumkum – April 2007
Woh Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki – June 2009
At 1,000 not out, Mr Shekhar shared that it wasn’t easy to keep freshness alive in a daily soap: “When I had written the show for Doordarshan in 1992, the show was supposed to have only 25 episodes. I feel till the time the viewers continue watching and enjoying the show, we’ll continue to write.” For the DD version, the young couple were supposed to grow-up in the fourth episode itself, whereas on Colors the show took a time-leap in the 517th episode.
Jaahnavi P Paal
But not everyone believes that the show must be allowed to continue till the ratings become negligible. TV analyst and columnist, Jaahnavi P Paal rues that Indian soap operas tend to lose the plot and drag. I guess the same has happened with Balika Vadhu too. Today, many avid viewers of the show have lost interest in it. Maybe that’s why it has lost its number 1 spot. I’m a firm believer that a show must end at a proper time instead of being dragged.
However, there’s no denying the fact that as a serial Balika Vadhu changed the trend with its interesting and unusual concept. Social awareness through primetime benefitted the show as well as the channel.