The New Hindi GEC Fad: Supernaturally Yours

20 Nov,2015


What started as an experiment about a year ago has now gained in size and momentum. Hindi GEC fiction, often criticized for being behind times, is going through a phase that’s taken the viewers by surprise. It’s a phase when some of the top serials are relying on the supernatural – ghosts, spirits, black magic – to drive eyeballs.


Now, this should not make much sense. Till not too long ago, the genre was understood as one that connects the ordinary Indian women to the world outside, giving her the confidence to learn what she otherwise can’t. What was routinely called “regressive” in the media was termed positive and confidence-building by the target audience. Shows that helped women navigate their relationships better were runaway hits. Where does supernatural even feature in all this? Channels may choose to put it on-air, but why is it actually working?


Simply put, I believe the consumer is “compensating”. She’s compensating herself for having watched one type of content for almost 4-5 years now, which is based on broad constructs of navigating relationships. After a while, you are bound to get a feeling you have seen it all, and every new show is a version of an existing one or a fairly recent hit. Most new launches have not worked and shows launched in 2009-12 continue to rule the roost (an earlier column on this topic is here).


The consumer is looking for variety;for something that she hasn’t seen before. That’s an eternal human need. When Sasural Simar Ka (SSK) first put supernatural content on-air, the viewer saw it with a mix of skepticism and intrigue, sometimes even as unintentional humor. Other shows have tried it subsequently, and recently, none less than Yeh Hai Mohabbatein (YHM), the epitome of contemporary Indian fiction for many audiences, took the supernatural route.


Then we have Naagin, which launched recently as a weekend show and has gone on to become a blockbuster hit in its first three episodes. The snake theme has always interested Indian audiences, be it through cinema, television or cinema on television. Naagin is one of the best-produced Indian content pieces on this subject. With a full-throttle promotional campaign backing it, Naagin’s success is a rare case when all the right boxes get ticked together.


But Naagin is a weekend show and weekend content promise escapism and relaxation. But on weekdays, the infestation of supernatural content is bizarrely interesting. Consumers don’t even know what to call this sub-genre of sorts. They are beginning to assign the word “horror” to it, which captures the ridiculousness of it all.


But if it’s working, it’s working, right? That’s where the note of caution comes in. Both the big shows where it has been used (SSK and YHM) were on-air as regular fiction shows without a supernatural element for almost two years before they experimented with this sub-genre. Some new shows have tried going the supernatural route early in their life stage and it has not worked.


What does this tell us? That if you have characters who are already popular, and the program has built a sizeable audience base around their popularity, a supernatural track can help manage viewer fatigue by providing the unknown element. But it will not help build a viewer base from scratch, unless it’s a show like Naagin, which delivers what it promises – unabashed snake-y entertainment.


Am I suggesting that all hit shows with popular characters will benefit from a supernatural twist? Not really. It’s a fad, and another show or two go this route, we would begin to see viewer rejection instantly. She’s already not impressed, but watching it as something off the beaten path. If it becomes the beaten path itself, then this mini-trend could die a rather abrupt death.


Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.

Today's Top Stories