New Delhi, August 15: Two weeks ago, we told you about the close fight between Sony and Star Plus and how it has changed what we watch on TV. The battle has seen the introduction of a host of new shows and fresh faces. |
Now, there's more to the story. Firstly, most of these new arrivals are somehow ''ordinarily extraordinarily''— be it Jassi or Nikki (Dekho Magar Pyar Se, Star Plus) or Ayushmaan (Sony) - Jassi and Nikki in their appearance, Ayushmaan in his unusual intellectual skills. Secondly, characters like Pooja (Yeh Meri Life Hai, Sony) have big dreams. And thirdly, all of them belong to middle class families, unlike the Gautams, Prathams and Aryans of the K serials.
Suddenly, television seems to have developed a strong fascination for the middle class. The creative zone appears to have shifted from the conference rooms of millionaire businessmen to living and dining rooms of the average urban citizen.
There are the ongoing Astitva, Lavanya and new arrival Reth on Zee. Star Plus has Kesar and Dekho... and even Saara Akash.... And on Sony, its Hum 2 Hai Na, Ayushmaan, Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin and Ye Meri Life Hai.
Even Ekta Kapoor, the mother of all extended opulent, family sagas, is now depicting the lives of people like us. That her middle class soaps like Kehna Hai Kuchh Mujhko and Kesar were not very popular is another story. Fact remains she has felt the need to reinvent herself. In her forthcoming soap for MTV, she tells the story of a young girl who comes to the big city and goes to college.
It's an interesting turnaround for the woman who started the trend of business family potboilers — where men never talked of anything below Rs 1 crore, the women were draped in silks and heavy jewellery even while in bed. She and other producers have defended serials on the lives of the super rich on the ground that these shows were inspired by 'real life' and represented the values and aspirations of the viewing public.
Before Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi was first telecast in July 2000, serials about middle class life had been successful. One has only to think of Saans and Kora Kagaz (Star Plus), or Zee's very popular Amanat. More recently, directors like Ajay Sinha and Vipul Shah are making serials middle class dramas even as the K serials top the charts. However, Sinha's Astitva (Zee) which tells the story of a middle class doctor, has been struggling to attract the viewers' attention in spite of its good quality.
Says Sinha: ''My concept of a good story is something which makes sense to me. Something that is simple and close to reality. My stories are about the common man because he is my audience and his intellect has to be respected. Lots of people in India have appreciated Astitva. So as long as the audience enjoys my work I will continue working without following what others do. I believe in keeping freshness next to reality.''
Shah who made the daily Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka and Naam Gum Jayega says: ''Even though I make soaps about rich people, their message and the ideology is always middle class.''
Another very successful flagbearer of this genre, Neena Gupta, however, has switched sides now, acting in the blockbuster Des Mein Nikkla Hoga Chand. However, she is remembered for her natural, middle class dramas like Saans and Dard.
While Zee never went overboard with the ''rich family sagas'' Star Plus has been strictly identified with the super rich Kyunki, Kahani and Kasauti...The fact that it is introducing a show like Dekho... suggests it is trying to widen the variety of its shows.
It may have been forced to seeing Sony's success in promoting the middle class. Sunil Lulla of Sony claims that the ''middle class is the backbone of the mass market and has a significant market and viewership. Most people who watch TV are from middle-class families and the storylines are very near to reality. All our shows are about ordinary people with extraordinary aspirations and this is something which every ordinary individual dreams about.''
Tony and Diya Singh, whose Jassi has given the middle class a respectable brand value say they don't believe in upper class or any class. ''We believe in innovation and a good script. It's not like we won't do any saas and bahu shows. Our basic thing is a good story and how best we can portray the characters.''
— with Sonia Wahengbam