The Dark Age of Indian Television?

08 Jul,2016

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

History is defined by eras, and it’s no different for the entertainment business. If you look at Hindi cinema, for example, every decade has its own story to tell. The ’70s was the glorious decade, offering a mix of sensible commercial cinema and a new age movement called parallel cinema. The ’80s, in contrast, was the Dark Age, with meaningless potboilers dominating for most part, and music that would make you cringe today.

 

In the ’90s, Indian cinema found its family audiences back, offering tradition wrapped in modernity. In the new millennium, the language of Indian cinema started becoming young and semi-Western, as if to compensate for the overdose of tradition in the ’90s. In the decade we are in, the identity is still blurred, but we have four more years to go, and a unifying idea will surely emerge.

 

If we look at the Indian television business, the history is much shorter. We are only in our fourth decade. The ’80s can be called the Golden Age, when, despite limited content hours on offer, the quality was par excellence. The best minds in the country were involved with creating television, and the storytelling was on the lines of the cinema of the 70s in many ways.

 

Some may argue that this view of ’80s television being glorious is an erroneous one, because there were no options at that time and you were bound to like what you get. If that had been the case, those shows would have been forgotten by mid-’90s. But those of us who lived in that era fondly remember it even today. And in any case, history has to be judged for how things were at the time of it all happening.

 

The ’90s saw the advent of satellite television and a much wider variety, including international content, on offer. This variety would be the defining theme of this decade, as the plethora of choices took attention away from the content for a while. Yet, the content remained interesting, albeit less consistently than the 80s.

 

Barely had the new millennium started when we saw the advent of daily soaps. July 3, 2000 is when Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi went on-air. It was new-age television then, even though many failed to recognise its significance at that time. It mirrored the traditional tones of the cinema of the ’90s, but without the modernity wraparound. Many call the last decade regressive, but for the audiences that content targeted, it was a window to a vibrant world they had never seen. A world of big joint families, ceremonies, opulence, designed clothes, jewelry et al.

 

At the turn of the last decade, when this soap machine was running out of ideas, Indian television got a fresh lease of life with the advent of social, semi-realistic storytelling, led by Balika Vadhu.

 

And then, that was it. And here we are, in a decade that’s well on its way to become the Dark Age of Indian television.

 

To Be Continued…

Part 2 of this column will feature next week

 

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