Prime time remote control junkies like nothing better than wedding extravaganzas on the soap box.
Believe this. Television rating points zoom to newer highs when wedding specific shows and episodes are aired on television. Marriages might be made in heaven, but when they are celebrated on a daily soap, the audience seems to love it. A fortnight- long wedding celebration episode which was aired on Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, saw the show catapult to the numero uno slot with a TVR of 7.4. Ditto for Sapna Babul Ka Bidaai where the show peaked with high TRPs throughout the wedding special celebrations (of the lead protagonist).
Reality show queen Rakhi Sawant garnered a lot of eyeballs when millions of viewers were hooked to the lavishly mounted grand finale of the nation's first 'live' swayamvar in Rakhi Ka Swayamvar. It's another matter that Rakhi who played the coy bride to the hilt didn't actually marry on camera and only got engaged to Elesh Purjanwala (amid rumours of a second season of the same show with Rakhi).
Soap czarina Ekta Kapoor's shows have always showcased lavish wedding sequences. So in Kitani Mohabbat Hai's wedding track the story reached an interesting climax. And in her new soap saga Pavitra Rishta, a wedding sequence was shot in front of a live audience. The channel sent out wedding invitations to viewers through mass media and on-ground initiatives to bless the couple. An estimated Rs 1 crore was spent to create the set and give it a real-life feel. And after a live matrimonial show (Vivah), you have yet another new reality show, Perfect Bride where eligible grooms will hand-pick their brides on national television.
Indian television's love affair with weddings is apparent with a bagful of shows based on the wedding hoopla. Be it reality TV or daily soap operas, the wedding season is here to stay, and the audience is loving it. Over the past few months, most shows on general entertainment channels have veered towards the wedding route to grab maximum TRPs. Critics argue that shows based on weddings are instant hits with the audience because they cater to the Indian obsession with weddings. "In India, weddings are very much part of the tradition and culture. So people love to see weddings on television," says producer Rajan Shahi. Shows like Sapna Babul Ka...Bidaai, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, have held elaborate onscreen weddings sequences in the recent months and now joining the bandwagon are Mata Pita Ki Charnon Mein Swarg, Hum Dono Hai Alag Alag and Sajan Ghar Jana Hai. In fact, so grand were the celebrations onscreen in Yeh Rishta..., that the makers had to shoot the wedding sequence for over eight days. "Marriages add a lot of colour to the story. When one is making a family drama, it's natural to incorporate wedding sequences at regular intervals, because in Indian society, parents are always anxious about their children's weddings and it gives the family an occasion to come together," says actor Sara Khan, whose onscreen character recently celebrated her first wedding anniversary by retying the knot with her husband in a gala ceremony.
But then there are those who do not believe in incorporating wedding sequences for the heck of it. "I do not think wedding sequences should be used just for the sake of TRPs. Having too many shows on TV based on marriages at one given point, takes away the charm associated with such an occasion," feels actor Prachin Chauhan whose onscreen parents retied the knot to celebrate their 25th anniversary in Mata Pitah Ke Charno Mein Swarg. Shahi too agrees saying that wedding sequences should be incorporated "only if they take the story forward."
Reality TV too is banking heavily on the marriage mania. From Rakhi Ka Swayamvar to Perfect Bride, Indian television is paving a 'real' path to the marriage mandap. Actor Malaika Arora Khan, a celeb judge for a matrimonial reality show says, "reality based on marriages work because people like to see the drama unfold before their eyes". Amrita Rao who is judging one such show says, "This show highlights the plus and minus points of marriage."
Call it real, staged or simply entertaining, the small screen romance with the Big Fat Indian Wedding, seems pretty serious. For they are raking in the TRPs and revenues too!