Shailesh Kapoor: Male Characters Set To Rule Hindi GECs?

06 Jun,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

It’s been a category dominated by female viewers and female fiction characters. Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs) have behaved more like Hindi Female Entertainment Channels for more than a decade now.

 

The stronghold of the women on the remote continues. But the other type of female dominance – that of female fiction characters – has been challenged. As per the latest Ormax Characters India Loves report (May 2014), for the first time since we started tracking character popularity in 2009, the top 10 fiction characters list has more male characters than female characters!

 

Three years ago, this would have been unthinkable. The contribution of male characters has traditionally been a token one, rarely crossing two out of ten. In the last two years, three out of ten seemed more gettable, but the female dominance remained. Last month, the balance finally tilted, with five male characters in the Top 10 and ten in the Top 20. And remember, we are talking only of fiction characters. The top 5 non-fiction ‘characters’ are all men in the same period of tracking.

 

What has led to this turnaround and what could be its possible implications? A significant part of the answer lies in the list of popular characters. The five male characters who made it to the top 10 list in May are Jethalal (Taarak Mehta), Maharana Pratap, Akbar (Jodha Akbar), Krishna (Mahabharat) and Inspector Daya (CID). The list offers a good mix of history, mythology, comedy and action-thriller genres.

 

Contrast this to the female characters in the top 10: Jodha (Jodha Akbar), Sandhya (Diya Aur Baati Hum), Ishita (Yeh Hai Mohabbatein), Anandi (Balika Vadhu) and Gopi (Saath Nibhaana Saathiya). Lack of genre variety is striking. Most of these characters, and others in the top 20 list, are women on a journey, facing challenges on the way. It’s a template that was created starting with Tulsi in 2000, and then redefined with Anandi in 2008. Over years, this template has been exploited to create hundreds of daily serials and characters.

 

The idea of a woman’s struggle-heavy journey and her eventual victory is a powerful one for female audiences, and shall remain so in the years to come. The problem is, of course, in the same-ness of execution. It’s as if the idea is so powerful that nobody seems to care about the quality of its depiction anymore.

 

The only female characters in the Top 30 who do not fit this template is Daya (Taarak Mehta) and Dadi Sa (Balika Vadhu). Everyone else is on a ‘journey’, all the time. And while the destinations may be different, the routes are strikingly similar.

 

Beginning to feel disenchanted by content that is highly relevant but unimaginative, female audiences have increasingly started preferring male characters. Mahadev’s dreamboat looks, Akbar’s attitude and Krishna’s life lessons are the new cool.

 

GECs would do well to act on both fronts. For one, they should capitalize on the growing interest in male characters by creating some differentiated ones. Amitabh Bachchan’s Yudh is well-timed in this regard. Two, they should consider pushing the envelope regarding female characters. We need women who take the road less travelled in their journeys, while remaining relevant to the mass audiences at large.

 

Up for the challenge?

 

TV Trails is a weekly column written by Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor

 

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