By Charul Prabhakar:
Who was to know that swayamwars were going to be the next ‘in’ thing?
Well, I did. Come on, let’s face it, we all did. How can the melodrama-craving audience not bounce at the idea of a reel life, self-claimed and ‘dignified’ media ki beti Ms. Sawant getting married like a good, obedient Indian girl with moral values unlimited?
I remember how much I used to love television when I was a kid. From Byomkesh Bakshi to Hip-hip Hurray, from Movers and Shakers to Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai, Indian television evolved magnificently and there was hope for something even better. And now here we are, the phase I like to call, with as much subtlety as I can muster, Hopelessness.
Let’s take a look at the Indian television scenario today- If you think that you can write award-winning, critically and commercially acclaimed Hindi sitcoms/shows/soaps, then here’s the spoiler. If you are creative and brimming with original ideas, think that television can be used as a medium to promote enduring artistic value and consider ‘Buniyaad’ and ‘Tamas’ as brilliance in drama- pack your bags and go home. Because Indian television is not even remotely close to that.
To-the-point, smart and straight-in-the-face scripts/stories do not work for the contemporary Indian audience anymore. Whosoever said “Brevity is the soul of wit” must be turning over in his grave.
The Indian audience today doesn’t really care about ‘intellectual stimulation‘ or ‘nuanced narratives‘. Let’s face it, wouldn’t they be reading a good book otherwise? They are in a constant rush: making tea, packing lunch, attending calls, bickering with the domestic help, completing office work and loads of other miscellaneous activities. Would they be able to follow complicated, nuanced and intersecting storylines that way? Yeah, sure! That is why the camera has to repeat and stress a shocking twist at least thrice- “Kya, Kya, KYA?”; a song has to be played to glorify the tragedy, a ‘lalala lala’ in the background for a romantic or joyous situation and a new entry has to be focused on through a swift zoom-in. Otherwise, how else would we pay attention?
Talking about what is ruling the roost, the same old sagas since the last 10 years, which I like to call, in short, ‘The Great Indian Joint Family, Wedding, Extra-marital affair, Divorce and Tragedy’ Well, it does make a point. Everything starts with the joint family, and ends with the – Oops, it never ends. Anything remotely different from that just sinks and how. Even the reality shows are family-based now. ‘The Perfect Bride’, the God-forsaken concept of swayamwars on TV, even ‘Boogie Woogie’ has the whole family performing on stage. What’s with our obsession with families and weddings anyway? Are these the only sources of happiness in life? If you agree, it is just sad.
Even if someone attempts to make a ‘youth-centric’ show, say a ‘Dill Mill Gayye‘ (a show based on the lives of a group of budding doctors), it comes down to the female protagonist getting married a season later to someone she does not really like and the one she does like turns up one fine day after having vanished a long time ago. So like that, the youth just vanishes from the show leaving it with the same old, predictable and sloppy storyline. The youth today is ambitious, career-driven and adventurous. But the shows that cater to the young? They seem to be far, far away from it.
At the risk of sounding romantic for that era, I confess how I miss youth-centric shows like ‘Dekh Bhai Dekh’ (even that was a show for the entire family), ‘Circus’, ‘Just Mohabbat’ and ‘Hip-Hip Hurray’. As students pursuing BMMMC (Bachelors in Media and Mass Communication), I hope that one of us would actually land up on the silver screen or behind it and put up a show worth applauding. One that leaves a statement on everyone’s lips- ‘That show must go on‘.