Gehraiyaan indeed: GEC Perception in a Deep Hole

25 Feb,2022

 

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Shailesh KapoorEarlier this month, the Deepika Padukone starrer Gehraiyaan released on Amazon Prime Video. Over the last two weeks, the film has been incessantly analysed, intellectualised and dissected by the critics and the audience alike. It’s a subject of social media posts, memes, op-eds, the works. The film has found such attention largely because of the stardom of its female lead. The same film with a lesser star would have only got as much notice as any of the more than 100 Hindi films that have released direct-to-OTT in India since early 2021.

 

At an estimated audience (Ormax tracking) of 6.5 million on its first weekend in India, Gehraiyaan is by far the biggest Hindi film on Amazon Prime Video. In its first 10 days, the film has been watched (at least 30 minutes) by 13.6 million people in India alone. It may only amount to about 1% of India’s population, but it is a sizeable number from a streaming (paid) perspective.

 

But here’s the thing: this number is less than the number of people who watch any of the Top 10 Hindi GEC shows everyday. Yet, there is no interest and conversation around the fiction content on Indian television anymore. There are fan clubs on social media alright, but outside of that, the general media chatter on GEC fiction is close to nothing.

 

While Bollywood was always a media favourite because of the larger-than-life stardom it offers, there’s no such evident lure in the streaming category. Yet, even mid-range streaming shows, with no saleable faces, are being critiqued and discussed like mainstream content. But new GEC launches enjoy no such privileges. When did you last see a fiction GEC show trending on a social media platform?

 

Conversations around the imminent demise of linear television continue. While these conversations borrow principles from the West, and have little grounding in India’s social reality, not getting any press at all is a genuine concern Indian television must deal with today. GECs still rely heavily on advertising revenues, and even as TV continues to deliver big viewership numbers, media trading conversations are shifting to digital with every passing quarter. TV channels cannot afford to be out of the news altogether. Even in the industry trade websites, much of TV conversations over the last couple of years have been about NTO and news ratings. Most such stories don’t have a positive ring to them.

 

So, Indian television is not suffering from a viewership problem (at least not so far), but it definitely has a huge perception problem to deal with. Flaunting viewership numbers can help them circumvent this problem, but only till a certain point. It’s only human nature that brand managers and media planners like to associate with content and media they consume themselves, or see others around them consuming and talking about. The consumption had stopped many years ago, and now, even the conversation is dying.

 

Can mass television come out of this hole? Or it must surrender to the ways of the digital age? The next few years will give us the answer.

 

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