Joined: 04 October 2004
On the other hand, Bidaai, which had lost its numero uno position to Balika Vadhu for a few weeks, is a consistent performer as one of the two top-rated shows. Similarly, its sibling Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, which had an impressive debut as the third-most popular show, has marched ahead of Balika Vadhu and is currently the highest-rated show. Even after taking into account 15 to 20 per cent impact on ratings across shows for 37 days from April 18 to May 24 because of IPL, the fall in Balika Vadhu's TRPs has been quite steep. From a high of 10.16 TVR (stand- alone episode, average around 7 to 8 TVRs) three months ago, it is averaging around 4.3 TVR while both Bidaai and Yeh Rishta are better-placed with an average of 5.1 and 5.3 TVRs (last five-week average) respectively.
Why has Balika Vadhu, a strong issue-based show, lost almost 50 per cent viewership while the comedown for both Bidaai and Yeh Rishta is not more than 20 to 25 per cent in the same period? "When 50 per cent viewers exit from a show, it means that something is wrong with its story telling," feels Star's senior creative head, Vivek Bahl. He elaborates, "I think the problem with Balika Vadhu is that instead of tackling the issue of child bride head-on it has made Anandi into a cute little bahu." However, Balika Vadhu writer Purnendu Shekhar disagrees, "Every show goes through up and down phases. The fall in ratings, partly because of IPL, is not because of Anandi being on the sidelines for some time. Of course, the show is about child-marriage, but it also deals with other issues like child pregnancy, marital rape and widow remarriage, besides a host of other psychological factors that impact child marriage."
According to the show's co-director Siddhartha Sengupta, apart from IPL, the stretched mourning phase after Pratap's death had an adverse impact. He admits that Anandi has been on the sidelines for some time. "But it is not just Anandi's show and hence other supporting characters need ample space to take the story forward." he explains. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior actor who has been part of the show for some time says the major problem with Balika Vadhu is that it is still playing on the protagonist's childhood and innocence. He elaborates, "I think the audience has had enough of the child bride. She needs to grow up and speak for herself and her rights instead of crying helplessly at the drop of a hat. It worked very well in the beginning but not lately. Another problem is most of the action takes place within the set. Agreed it is a fabulous set but the serial needs to move out of the four walls and explore the exterior."
Producer-director Rajan Shahi of Bidaai and Yeh Rishta... is of the view that child-protagonist shows have lot of limitations. "Balika Vadhu is a beautiful show, but it cannot go beyond a certain limit of conventional storytelling," he points out. Adds Purnendu, "The kind of drama people are used to watching doesn't suit a child protagonist show." On the other hand, the advantage with Bidaai and Yeh Rishta... is that both stories are of families and relationships. "They don't deal with any serious issues. Instead they deal with moment-by-moment growth and journey of characters and relationships. There is no high-end drama and hence there are no major spikes followed by a long lull," reasons Rajan.
In fact, Yeh Rishta... hardly has any story and is more like a full-blown Rajshri film minus songs. Says Vivek, "When we designed the show, it was really an experiment because it has no storyline really! It simply mirrors the common Indian girl and boy as they near marriage and their journey post-marriage. For that reason, we really don't know what we will write on the show next week because there is no 'track' or 'drama' to follow." But its success, according to Vivek, is a combination of identifiable characters coupled with good writing and great execution that makes Yeh Rishta... click as a 'similar-yet-different' show.
Rajan says that he has seen shows going into a long stagnation phase after hitting peaks of popularity. "But the challenge is to retain the magic. Balika Vadhu has lost some of its magic but it has potential to make a comeback." In Vivek's view, the GEC space has definitely become much more competitive with most slots fairly evenly-distributed between channels, which indicate viewers' restlessness as well as willingness to try out new content. "This means it will be increasingly difficult for even top-line shows to retain their ratings. But we are proud that we have maintained Bidaai at such high levels despite it being a nearly two years old show. We constantly have to ensure that a show doesn't drag by even a bit at any stage or we risk losing even committed viewers - something that has happened with a huge show like Balika Vadhu pretty suddenly over the past few weeks," he adds.
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