Indian television is meant for everything but entertainment. The same judgement can be passed on a few if not all, Bollywood films as well. The repetition of the overused love triangles, fairy tale stories of reincarnation, stories of revenge and if everything else fails, we definitely have our superstars who have a huge fan base and anything from them sells at the Box Office with a bang. With baseless stories, the movies casting these superstars have the power to earn huge revenue beyond imagination or anticipation. Though this is the prevalent trend in Bollywood, we can’t deny the fact that rarely the industry produces such marvels in the form of films, which are content driven and have a strong social or political message sub-layered in them. Such films make a remarkable impression among those who love content-rich films.
Though Bollywood manages to produce some of the masterpieces through content-driven and valuable message-implying films, the Indian television industry is even failing to match that standard. The Indian television shows are getting more bizarre with time and advancement in technology. The shows are ready to introduce any plot be it their favourite Bahu Simar, turning into a fly to take revenge, or a reinvented Porous who strives to protect India, much before the country in its present form was even invented. Anything and everything is welcomed in this fight for TRP and in becoming the vessel for propaganda.
As such shows are watched by the majority of the country, the non-English speaking people, the rural and urban poor and non-affluent middle class, they become the mass sector, where everything that can captivate popular imagination is thrust vigorously to appeal and glue the audience. The more the number of watchers, the higher are the ad revenues. Content goes for a toss and the golden 80s and early 1990s of Indian television laugh at the miserable condition of 21st century’s television genre.
While popular English shows, especially American shows like Friends, The Bold and the Beautiful or Santa Barbara were telecasted even in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, when the Indian cable television revolution was materialising and engulfing the large–section of Doordarshan customer base, such shows were not much popular with the youth, as their new avatars are with the youth at present in India, who aren’t in need of subtitles to understand the American accent.
There are few American shows, which enjoy loyal fan base in India. some of them are Big Bang Theory, House of Cards, Game of Thrones (perhaps the favourite of all), Grey’s Anatomy and Friends, of course, the most legendary sitcom of all times. It has been several years that the Friends went off-the-air in the US, however, it still enjoys huge popularity in India and is telecasted every now and then on Comedy Central.
Like the legendary Hindi and regional-language TV series of the 1980s and 1990s, the period called the golden era of Indian Television in terms of content and messages delivered through soaps and series, captivated its audience and transformed them into fans of Musaddilal and Tenali Rama, similarly, the English television series are now catching the fancy of the urban, mobile and wannabe youngsters, making them crave for a lifestyle that would divorce them from the quotidian existence of a parallel Indian television at the same time.
From Sherlock to Suits, to How I Met Your Mother – Indians, particularly the urban youth, today has a voracious taste for television shows, cutting across a varied range of genres. There’s just one, slight constraint: it shouldn’t be Indian. The question here arises, what is it that makes these shows so popular? What makes the Indian television soaps and series look so awry? Why is the English-speaking urban youth fed-up with the television soaps, which are now genderised? The answer may bring varied response but the meaningful content is certainly one thing, which the audience demands and the Indian television industry is unable or unwilling to provide. This denial of the Indian television industry to cater to the choice of the youth, to move beyond the mother-in-law vs daughter-in-law wrestling and emotional torture, raises a big question mark over its longevity, provided India is a country where more than 70 per cent people will be below 35 soon.
Even as the number of Indian shows with freakish turns continues to grow, it is a verifiable truth that the spectators won’t be satisfied with such average, run-of-the-mill projects meant only to promote films, a star and renovating a concept. Confused about what to do and how to find entertainment? Here is a piece of advice, stop watching the Indian television soaps or go watch the Game of Thrones- as it will bring back your faith in television.
A silent admirer of galaxy and star follower, given a choice between human or books, would prefer latter with a cup of cold tea. A Jamia Millia Islamia alumni and an expert political consultant.