Posted: 23 August 2010 at 1:41pm | IP Logged
article--On Deadly Ground
Indian television, in its experimental phase, bends towards paranormal activities to garner viewership
In a country like India, where grandma's spooky tales and ghost stories are a narrative tradition, and where the afterlife is a frequently discussed topic, it was rather surprising that Indian television channels had not cashed in enough on our beliefs. Besides, a sprinkling of fiction horror shows, no one really delved into the mystifying world of paranormal activities. The launch of Mano Ya Na Mano a couple of years ago did set the pace, but when it quickly went off air, channels continued with their tried and tested formula of daily soaps and reality shows. But with The Chair on UTV Bindass and Mano Ya Na Mano 2 on Star One, general entertainment channels are finally thinking out of the box and in the bargain, plan to dish out something unusual, and yet entertaining.
Although the first season of MYNM, a programme that showcased strange, at times unbelievable stories of people and places, was liked by the audience, the show couldn't continue for a long time because of the lack of stories, says Nikhil Mirchandani, business head, Star One. "It is all factual, but we fictionalise a bit to show it to the viewers. After a host of episodes, we need to find new stories so that people would be keen to watch. We cannot manufacture these stories. We had to take it off air in order to scout for more stories before getting it back," he confirms.
While MYNM 2 will continue to enthrall the audience with weird facts, UTV Bindass on its part will soon be launching a horror reality show. It's first-of-its kind reality show where 13 daring individuals tread unchartered territory in haunted locations across India and connect with the dead. With so many different stories to tell one wonders why there is a dearth of shows like these on our channels. "This genre is very difficult to produce. All depends on the treatment. Many people have tried getting into this space, but few have succeeded," says Nikhil Gandhi, business head, UTV Bindass. Mirchandani seconds his thought. "There is always a fear of sensationalizing such stories. So you have to be very careful and not hurt the sentiments of the people involved or those watching."
Research too plays a major role in shows like these, where a lot of time needs to be spent verifying facts, talking to locals, getting to know the history etc. "They are very personal stories of people or sometimes places. So you need to have a crystal clear picture about everything and everyone associated with it before you show it to the viewers," says Amrita Kak, creative head, MYNM 2. "And these should be stories that give a flavour of India, so that even people abroad get a feel of our culture." For audiences too, shows like these build interest because of its unpredictable nature. "When you are watching a horror serial you know more or less what to expect, but a reality show is always more intriguing," says Swati Ahuja, a banker.
Besides arousing interest, shows like these can also encourage debate. "Shows like The Chair at least give you something to think about," says Meiyang Chang, anchor of the show. "People like me from a medical background will always look for scientific proof, whereas there may be people who believe in ghosts and afterlife," he says. Also the biggest challenge for a show like this is to find the right participants. "You cannot put someone's life in trouble. Even before we zeroed in on the contestants we conducted medical examination on them. We even have a psychic who will be present at all times to help the contestants," confirms Chang.
The two shows will undoubtedly bring a novel concept to India, but their presence on two of India's youth channels is what surprises us. "It is the youth who is most interested in shows like these. The older audience already have a lot of programmes that gel with their sensibilities. If we have to get the youth back we have to show interesting concepts," feels Mishal Raheja, the anchor of MYNM2. Gandhi too believes that horror is something that has intrigued the youth. "It's an ideal situation then that a youth channel is broadcasting a show dealing with the supernatural."