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  Entertainment   TV  14 Dec 2016  Life of TV hangs on a wire?

Life of TV hangs on a wire?

THE ASIAN AGE. | SOMUDRA BANERJEE
Published : Dec 14, 2016, 12:11 am IST
Updated : Dec 14, 2016, 12:14 am IST

Telly industry insiders ruminate over the golden period of Indian television and the current state of regressive content.

The panelists at the talk.
 The panelists at the talk.

What happens when a group of actors, writers and producers meet on an afternoon in a cosy café? A lot of coffee and conversation. Considering they all came from the television fraternity, they preferred to spill a few beans about the industry.

In the alphabetical order, the panellists for the warm talk session (organised by The India Diaries) were, Anchal Sabharwal of Saas Bina Sasural and Tamanna fame, the veteran actor Ashiesh Roy, creative director and producer Nivedita Basu, ex Big Brother and Bigg Boss contestant Priya Malik, Priya Wal of Remix fame, actor Roopal Tyagi, Sushant Singh and actor-turned-writer Vishal Watwani.

Speaking on the change that the Indian television has undergone in the past decade, all of them unanimously agreed the quality of the content has depreciated. However they put the blame partly on a faulty TRP (Target Rating Point) system and partly on the audience. “If you ask me why we still don’t make shows like Buniyaad, the answer is simple, we don’t have the same audience,” says Sushant. Apart from acting in several serials and films, Sushant is best known for his crime show Savdhaan India. He is also the honorary secretary of CINTAA (Cine and Television Artists association). According to him, the earlier audience for television was sophisticated, but today they have moved to Internet. They watch shows on the Internet now. “It’s not that we didn’t try,” adds Vishal. “The fact that a series like P.O.W. — Bandi Yuddh Ke failed, says how much our Indian audience care for good content,” Vishal remarks.

P.O.W. is a television series developed by filmmaker Nikkhil Advani, adapted from the original Israeli series Hatufim, which was also adapted for the American television as Homeland.

But, why can’t we have our original content? “People who put in money are extremely clear about what they want,” says Nivedita and they have figures to prove it, she adds. Recounting several moments, Vishal and Nivedita spoke ruefully about original projects that often get outright rejected in the board meetings.

Sushant, however points out, it is the Hindi television industry that is in a sorry state. “Some phenomenal work has been happening in Marathi, Bangla or even some of the channels in Southern India,” he points out. According to him, the problem of regressive content has a deeper implication.

“Although we love to speak of our culture and our sanskriti, I am sorry, the most uncultured belt is the one where I come from, the Hindi belt, I am a jat from U.P. If you ask an orthodox Hindu guy in UP to recite two lines from Kabir or Tulsidas’s poetry, they will keep shut. They don’t know their own roots. Even Ramayana for that matter, they don’t know much. All they know is that a woman should give her vote and rest of the time should sit inside their home, they shouldn’t go out after 7 o’clock. What women shouldn’t do, apparently our culture only talks about this,” he adds in an obvious tone of sarcasm.

Hinting on the current political demography, Vishal explains, “We had an election 2014, the government we selected was out an out right wing party who have a very orthodox and patriarchal view of life and society — these are the people who voted and these are the people who want such kinds of shows.” However, he clarifies that the television channels are not motivated politically but the people who voted for the current government are the ones who are driving the TRP.

Anchal thinks that it is unfair to call the industry regressive. “TV has defined its audience and to say it’s regressive is something I don’t understand. If you don’t like it, you have so many options to change your channel to. It’s that simple. It’s all about what people want to see. And if there’s a Sasural show, which people like to watch, I don’t see it as a problem,” she explains.

However, most of the other panelists didn’t quite agree. “Compared to today’s shows, when we look at saas-bahu serials of the last decade, they seem way ahead of its time — they seem much progressive,” says Nivedita. “In fact,” adds Vishal, “The saas-bahu serials were the reason why women took over the remotes in the drawing room.”

What could be done to make Indian television better? “Stop casting actors from the gym. Cast actors instead,” quips Ashiesh to which the entire panel broke into laughter.

But Sushant gives a reality check, “Nothing is going to change anytime soon. For those who want to see good content go to Internet. I know it sounds terrible for us, but that’s the truth.”

Tags: bigg boss, sushant singh rajput, anchal sabharwal, nivedita basu, vishal watwani, trp