Anil Thakraney: The Great Desi Soap Factory

12 Jul,2013

By Anil Thakraney

 

In a two-part series, I shall examine the key challenges confronting the Hindi GECs, as well as the road map for the future. Today, let’s examine the current scenario.

 

As I mindlessly surf the channels, I realize that not much has changed in the last decade plus. For years together so many critics and viewers have been carping about it, but it all seems to have fallen on deaf years. Almost all of the Indian television soaps are still stuck with the same old family dramas, the same old kitchen politics. Each year one channel or another launches a new serial that comes with the promise of freshness, it even starts nicely, but by the tenth episode the story regresses into a family natak, laced with plenty of cat fights.

 

To understand this situation, let’s assume for a minute that the channel chiefs know what they are doing, that they aren’t stupid. The easy explanation is that audiences for television soaps essentially constitute housewives, and that these ladies like to watch gharelu khitpit. Well, this could be true to an extent. But then, housewives in America also like to watch Homeland and Prison Break, and by that logic, surely bored housewives out here would like to consume high octane stories. So to blame the viewer, as in ‘we are only dishing out what she wants’, is unfair. Think about this: The same housewife, when she goes to watch movies, prefers zippy, edgy, offbeat content… family dramas are a thing of the distant past in Bollywood. So why would she not want novelty in her soaps? The real problem is that so far, the Hindi entertainment channels have refused to take chances, they have played safe, and this has led to photocopy content across board. So it’s a problem of lack of courage.

 

However, in the recent past, winds of change seem to have started blowing. Anil Kapoor is busy doing the desi version of 24. Amitabh Bachchan has begun shooting for a fictional TV show. Anurag Basu wants to create a new TV serial. Ekta Kapoor, the queen of family dramas, has launched the historical Jodha Akbar (though the family squabbles continue here too, not surprising that, Ektaji can’t avoid those!). Soon, other big stars, movie producers and directors will join the party, and that can only be great news for the Hindi GEC audiences.

 

So can we look forward to an entertainment revolution on TV? Er, not really. Because the change, even if it happens on a large scale, will present its own set of problems and challenges. On Monday, we’ll discuss these, so have patience. When the subject is soaps, even I must be allowed to serialize the article. 🙂

 

PS: Nice press ad from Apple. Good body copy, something that’s now extinct in India. I like how Apple has distilled its entire philosophy into simple words, so that the aam aadmi can connect with it. Another example why Apple is such a loved brand.

 

 

Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney

 

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One response to “Anil Thakraney: The Great Desi Soap Factory”

  1. Bhavin says:

    I agree with you, but the viewers (read housewives) have not evolved with time. if you remember, there were shows like Astitva, which was different from the usual kitchen politics, never garnered Ratings more than 1, as against the Saas-Bahu Shows, then. This was around 8-10 years back. And today also, please track shows that are delivering less than 1 TVR. These are all the shows that are not the regular Saas-Bahu shows. I think you have checked only the top shows and concluded that Kitchen-Politics type of shows are being served to the consumers.

    With regards to your reference to housewives going for Movies of different genres, i would like to ask one question “is your statement backed by some data or is it just your opinion?”

    Also when the shows change track on the 10th day (going back to Cat Fights). please observe the ratings of these shows. the first 9 days of the show was delivering less than 1 TVR and 10th day onwards, the same show starts delivering more than 2 TVR.
    And its a game of TVRs.

    Finally, I am also of same opinion as you, when i watch shows on english entertainment channels, but the fact still remains that the viewers here have still not evolved with time.

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