A Plot for Change

A variety in programming can quash the criticism that Indian television shows often face.

Can Tamas and Bharat Ek Khoj television shows of the '80s co-exist with contemporary ones such as Bade Acche Lagte Hain and Balika Vadhu? Yes, believe the speakers at the just-concluded Screenwriters Conference held at Mumbai's St Andrews Auditorium.

According to Saurabh Tewari, producer, Nautanki Films, viewers' taste changes with time. But if there is space for programming of two kinds to exist, that should be encouraged. "When we were growing up, we had shows such as Tamas and Mirza Ghalib. At the same time, we also had commercial shows such as Buniyaad and Hum Log, which did well. Why can't we have a similar pattern now?" he said, urging for a change in the business model.

Producer Sukesh Motwane agreed. "There can be a variety in programming but one needs to focus on the timings of the shows. For instance, weekends would be a good time for historicals and non-fiction shows since most people are on a break."

More than a decade ago, the soap-opera culture was introduced on the Indian television. When the format clicked, more and more channels adhered to it. The popularity kept growing and the saas-bahu sagas became an inseparable part of the audience consciousness. Even as a debate rages on about television content, there is no denying that television remains one of the most powerful mediums of entertainment in the country. With satellite television growing rapidly, it is getting bigger and better.

Indian television, at present, is driven by the television rating points (TRP) system. If content-driven shows are brought back, they may have to face a tough TRP battle. The practice of introducing new characters, twists and dramas is part of the TRP race. Gautam Hegde, who writes shows such as Saath Nibhana Saathiya and Madhubala, believes all the shows should not be planned keeping TRP in mind. "If there is a Monday to Thursday programming for TRP-driven shows, the weekend shows can be educative and enriching," he said.

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