2014 has been a year of experimentation for Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs). Some hits and misses apart, the genre introduced various innovations in storytelling and programming.
Many broadcasters felt that the market was getting fragmented and the viewer was spoilt for choice. The strategy for them was to look beyond the shiny floor shows and focus more on storytelling.
Though the trend of finite fiction shows commenced on television in 2013, it flourished in 2014. Gone are the days of soaps that aired on TV channels for two to three years with ‘rubber-band’ storylines. 2014 was when finite series came to the fore.
Producers and broadcasters are now adopting an international style of programming with finite shows that last for a certain time period and deal with concepts that do not need years to be told.
In 2014 while Star Plus launched finite shows like ‘Airlines’, ‘Everest’ and ‘Private Investigator’, Colors introduced ’24’ late last year, Zee TV got ‘Maharakshak Aryan’ and Sony Entertainment Television had ‘Yudh’. ‘Laut Aao Trisha’ and ‘Pukaar’ are still running on Life OK.
Most of the stories had a narrative that ran for 13 to 26 episodes (except for ‘Laut Aao Trisha’, which is 250 episodes). Moreover, even as producers became quality conscious, they started working on stories with limited episodes but presenting various themes.
Finite stories give broadcasters an opportunity to be more disciplined in terms of marketing efforts too. The fact that most finite series showcase new themes, they also bring in new audiences. For broadcasters, finite shows should be placed in between the staple infinite shows to develop an alternate viewing audience.
But broadcasters also get tempted to tinker with the finite format once the show starts delivering on ratings. For example, ‘Mahabharat’ on Star Plus was originally a finite show with about 120 episodes, but it was later extended by another 100 episodes due to the positive response from viewers.
Going ahead, though, finite fiction could be a game changer, especially with its amalgamation of an ingenious original script, great production value and talent. The recently launched channels Epic and Zindgai have all their shows in the finite format, already signalling a change.
Said Life OK EVP and GM Ajit Thakur, “The industry has taken big, bold steps and it is still early days for experimentation. Finite series, big-scale shows, faster narratives, matured stories—these are what define many of today’s shows and I am sure there is more on the anvil.”
A trend towards adaptation was also dominant in the year. It rose with ‘Saraswatichandra’, an adaptation of Govardhanram Tripathi’s novel of the same name. Then there 24′, an Indian adaptation of an eponymous international show, and ‘Tumhaari Paakhi’, which was adapted from Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s ‘Navvidhan’.
Some of the channels that launched adaptations of novels, international shows and regional shows in 2014 included Star Plus with ‘Ye Hai Mohabbatein’ (partly based on Manju Kapoor’s ‘Custody’), Zee TV with ‘Kumkum Bhagya’ (Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’) and Satrangi Sasural (adapted from Zee Marathi’s ‘Honar Sun Me Hya Gharchi’), and Life OK with ‘Laut Aao Trisha’ (from Spanish telenovela ‘Dónde está Elisa?’).
The year saw broadcasters and producers investing their time equally between adaptations and original work.
Speaking on the adaptation formula, Star Plus general manager Gaurav Banerjee stated, “Story selection is very important. We must ensure that the social context of the adapted work is relevant to our time and place, and if we can, then there is no reason why adaptations shouldn’t work. While Star Plus started the trend with an adaptation of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ in 2000 (KBC), I personally thought that ’24’ was very well made and the production values set a very high standard.”
Once the popular wisdom was you may not like doing regressive shows but the strategy may work and bring you good business. But that mindset has changed now. Broadcasters are paying increasing attention to progressive and positive storytelling, showcasing inspirational, powerful stories with the right social message.
The portrayal of women is changing for the better. 2014 was the year of the working woman. She is not tied to the house, nor is she one to shed copious tears after feeling tortured by a vicious mother-in-law.
Broadcasters are not shying away from showcasing single women take the lead and successfully balance their personal and professional lives. Whether it is Sandhya of ‘Diya Aur Baati Hum’, Shobha of ‘Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Yeh’, Ragini of ‘Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar’, Anjali of ‘Everest’, Ishita of ‘Yeh Hai Mohabbatein’ or Ananya of ‘Airlines’—the women are breaking stereotypes and fighting different challenges.
Multi Screen Media took this portrayal of women a step further by launching Sony Pal, a Hindi general entertainment channel catering exclusively to women.
“When I see some of our protagonists on leading shows, I see there has been a dramatic change in the portrayal of women, but there is also a lot that needs to be done. There is a great need to change social attitudes and as broadcasters we must help to make this change happen,” stated Banerjee.
The right formula for humour
While SAB has been positioned as a family entertainment channel doling out laughter through its shows, the year saw a lot of experiments in the comedy genre.
Colors’ ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’ grew stronger and continued to be the leading non-fiction show for most of the year and remained unbeatable as most other broadcasters’ attempts at comedy shows failed in viewership.
There was much hype about Star Plus’ ‘Mad in India’ as it featured a crucial character from ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’, but the show failed to take off and was removed within two months. The channel did not attempt anything in the genre after that and plans to build its programming according to a definite strategy.
Zee TV’s ‘Bh Se Bhade’ was a fictional comedy coming on weekends. However, the satire on daily issues failed to touch the right chord with the audience and was also taken off air within a few months of launch. The failure did not deter the broadcaster from attempting another comedy show, ‘Gangs of Hasseepur’, which got mired in a lot of controversies and was eventually pulled off air. Hoping to get third time lucky, the channel is now running ‘Neeli Chhatri Wale’, a light comedy also with a devotional angle which is doing moderately well on the ratings chart.
Zee TV programming head Namit Sharma said, “The key will be to deliver variety within a certain framework. We have offered the story of man and God in ‘Neeli Chhatri Wale’, which is a family drama with an X factor. The idea will be to keep offering variety within the criteria of family viewing.”
While SAB’s ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’ continues to be one of the top 10 fiction shows , Life OK took a bold step and launched its first sitcom ‘Comedy Classes’ whose performance on the charts can be termed decent after a month of launch.
Film stars on TV
Film stars making TV appearances for movie promotions are a normal trend, but this year the stars played various roles in different shows.
While Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan continued to rule in their non-fiction shows ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and ‘Bigg Boss’ respectively, a number of actors were also seen essaying different characters in fiction shows.
Bachchan made his fiction debut in a dark and intriguing role as Yudhishthir Sikarwar in ‘Yudh’ on SET, while Bhagyashree and Sonali Bendre too made their fiction debuts with ‘Laut Aao Trisha’ and ‘Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Yeh’ on Life OK respectively.
Anupam Kher made his comeback to the small screen with his own talk show ‘The Anupam Kher Show’ on Colors as did Raveena Tandon with her talk show ‘Simply Baatein with Raveena’ on Sony Pal. Akshay Kumar hosted ‘Dare 2 Dance’ on Life OK and veteran actor Raj Babbar returned to TV with ‘Pukaar’, also on Life OK.
It seems that film stars have figured out the economics of the Indian TV business. With TV content getting bolder and better in terms of quality and investment, they are also eyeing meatier roles on the medium.
While these were some of the major trends that ruled in 2014, there were also many smaller, underlying trends that might flourish in the year ahead.
The non-fiction genre witnessed some experimentation with Star Plus’ innovative singing reality show ‘Raw Star’ and Life OK’s dance action reality show ‘Dare 2 Dance’. Additionally, there was a moderate drift towards male-friendly shows, as evident from the launch of ‘Pukaar’ on Life OK and ‘Jamai Raja’ on Zee TV. Viewership segmentation was yet another trend marked by the launch of new channels like Sony Pal, Zindagi and Epic.