Having grown up during the 80’s and the 90’s I have seen the growth of the television Industry. From the fledging days of the Doorshan to the current times where we have multiple choices for the kind of programs we want to see. Humlog, Buniyaad,Mr. Yogi, Mungerilal ke haseen sapne, Malgudi Days, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Tara, Aahat, Neem ka Ped,Fauji, Chanakya, Bharat Ek Khoj, Byomkesh Bakshi, Shanti, Swabhimaan, etc are probably some of the most popular show ‘s that most of the folks growing up in late 80’s and the 90’s can identify with. This was an era where the Indian audiences sought or rather were provided with the option of moving beyond the audio medium (radio) and get access to an audio visual medium other than cinema. The concept of home entertainment had germinated.
The 80’s were primarily the stepping stone for the Television industry. This was a period which saw a simplistic mix of programs which were focused on catering to the Indian middle-class, their values and aspirations.
Serials were penned by some quality authors, writers, playwrights, screenplay writers or adaptations of some good pieces of literature, historical shows, mythology, family dramas, comedy and chat shows. Production houses made an effort to cater to this by hiring quality writers like rahi masoom reza, Manohar Shyam Joshi, Gulzaar, etc wrote some of the enviable material to be then converted to serials. Film directors like Pankaj prashar, ramesh sippy, BR chopra, Girish Karnad, Mahesh Bhatt etc made programs which really had soul. But with the cable invasion post the 1990’s the Zee revolution began. Things were not too morose , Things were still good then content became contemporary showing the divide between the urban class and the rural. This proved to be a fresh lease of many actors and writers struggling to make it at Bollywood made it big here. Experimentation with newer genres like horror, romance, short stories, musical competition made the audiences swoon and lap up most things on offer. TRP’s for the then new bee channels soared to new highs.
But post the late 90’s and 2000’s I believe the decline started. The concept of women dominating the home entertainment section was proven was further solidified by the success of “Kyun Ki “ and others such mindless capers like Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, Kasauti Zindagi ki, Kusum, Kumkum etc..the list is endless and the stories mostly revolving around joint families. The clutter of serials is now so much that eve remembering the names of each need a computer application. Barring a few most programs but a charade or costume exhibitions with pretty faces making the cut as TV celebs. Men and other family members probably need to look for other avenues. The era of the intellectually challenged TV has began. I’m certain that most sane people would prefer to see a rerun of an old sitcom/ a cricket match rather than to watch soaps which really just have the foaming agents and nothing else. Worse even today’s youth is really keen on content like “Emotional aatyachaar” and “Big Boss’ rather than watching something smart and sensible. I’m at times awed by the shocking behavior of the people (women) who can afford to watch a program which comes 5 days a week and hardly moves in terms of the script or the story. It’s all about the clothes and the glamour. Now models and wannabe’s can opt for serials instead of movies. This has spawned the growth of many channels and production houses which focus on making business instead of feeding quality programs. Yes there have been a few finds in the likes of Rajeev Khandelwal who did surprise me when he made his transition from TV to the silverscreen with the brilliant “Aamir”. But examples like these are far an few.
It’s really simple a game, you either bombard the viewers with a family drama, comedy or give them a dose of reality. Song and dance fest are also part of it. Gulzaar who was the creator of some of the best TV series specially on Ghalib commented that he was asked to submit his resume to get work from the serialwallahs. That’s a shocker considering Gulzaar being one of the most respected personalities of Indian cinema.
What’s really wrong is the change of sensibilities of the audiences. The Indian women majorly housewife’s and elderly women are not the only culprits. It’s actually the working women who are from smaller towns also are a prime audience. It’s true that the women characters are now central and that is the reason the male following drifted away to other fact based programs. But anyhow the characters like karamchand/Byomkesh/Waagle are no longer there. Blame it on the material oriented society, glamour scores over quality content. Cults are still being made with “Roadies” and new TRP benchmarks set. . There were a few glimpses in the early 2000’s but it seems totally vague and inappropriate to watch TV programs which currently are on air. I hope for the good old times to make a comeback.