A dupatta flying, wind blowing, hero catching the heroine every time she falls, her dupatta stuck in door, knobs, latches, hooks, handles and watches, diya flickering every time there is a “sankat” at home, dramatic triple turns, sanskaar, a big bindi, heavy finery- is all that our childhood consisted of. Ekta Kapoor dominated our households more than the neighbours. The signature Balaji tune was all we remembered. Having putting an end to great television content like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Hum Paanch (also coincidently produced by Ekta Kapoor), Office-office, Byomkesh Bakshi, a good amount of great entertainers were taken off TV. Instead, we were hit with shows like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahani Ghar har Ki, Kabhi Sautan Kabhi Saheli, Kayamat and Naagin. The deteriorated content of her television soap operas didn’t just ruin the reputation of India’s shows internationally but also have created rift in Indian homes. People even go as far as to say that her shows are primarily responsible for the deterioration of saas-bahu relations.
And this is when AIB and TVF arrived in 2012. What started as sketches, spoofs and podcasts escalated to something big when both the production houses started making web series. The youth of India sighed a breath of relief when such great content although at a very small scale started getting produced. It was like a breath of fresh air and a much needed break from the over-dramatic TV serials. Pieces like Permanent Roommates, Pitchers, Chai-sutta chronicles, Honest Indian Weddings, Honest Indian Flights, etc. brought the existence of relatability among young people. Then slowly the other channels like Y Films, Timeliners, Girliyapa, Scoopwhoop, Buzzfeed India came in with their content and filled the hearts of young people with inexplicable joy. It was that defining moment where the frustrated Indian youth that blamed Ekta Kapoor for ruining their childhood shifted their base entirely to online forums.
The main difference in the two platforms i.e. television and web, is the approach they have to their shows. The TV setup believes in stretching the show for at least 5 years while the web setup believes in ending the show in 5 episodes. When they limit themselves to 5 episodes, they are able to focus on the central characters and plot in their storylines and do not focus on crappy fillers to just stretch time. Those 5 episodes are made with such perfection, edge and the perfect amount of crisp that the audience is left asking for more.
When the web is basking in the glory of Tanya and Mikesh’s love story from Permanent Roommates’ complex relationship, our Indian TV regressed to new lows. Indian TV has always focused on caste, creed, gender, colour, race, and ethnicity even in urban setups whereas Tanya and Mikesh coped up with each other in long distance relationship and then decided to live together. They had parents who were willing to get them married at their own convenience. The focus was more on the type of personalities they were rather than the materialism that surrounded them.
In TVF’s Pitchers, we see the 4 leads struggling to get a funding for their start-up whilst balancing their former jobs and personal lives. At the other side, we had something like Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi on TV, which saw the male lead starting his own stock-broking company and in just 2 years buying a mansion in Mumbai! That too, in passion for revenge.
In Y Films’ Ladies Room, we saw Dingo and Khanna, two distinct personalities, exploring life together, while Indian TV brutally tended to separate two friends mostly if one is seen as physically attractive and the other is not or if there are financial gains for one.
And now when we have our own Netflix originals namely- Lust Stories and Sacred Games which talk about modern day issues, Indian TV is stuck with ridiculously annoying plots of Naagin and Kasauti Zindagi Kay with their season 3 and 2 coming respectively. We have so many phenomenal web series like School Days, Bang Baaja Baarat, Sex chat with Pappu and Papa but why is it that the soap operas still work? Because no matter how crappy or repeated the story line is, Indians cannot see direct love or admiration being projected on the screen because Indian homes install a TV to have ‘family time’ and cannot afford to show their children things that are deemed uncultured. They want to see puppy love between the protagonists which includes dupatta getting stuck in buttons and watches, gazing each other mesmerised and falling for each other through shy smiles.
Although the Indian youth is now more liberal on issues because of these series, we are still left with a major task: to change the Indian Television content not only for the betterment of actors but also for the betterment of society as a whole so that we elevate intellectually on a daily basis and so that we make it more inclusive.
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