Posted: 25 September 2010 at 1:34pm | IP Logged
October 3, 2010
The concerns of rural India are suddenly all over the small screen
By Jisha Krishnan
It is a good thing that Ektaa Kapoor has set her eyes on the film industry; Indian television can finally free itself from the K-spell. The process, discerning viewers and actors believe, has already started.
Back to the beginning, when husbands didn't change wives more frequently than designer suits, protagonists didn't sign cheques for Rs50 crore and the dead did not resurface as abruptly as they had disappeared.
There has been a concerted effort to reclaim the good ol' Doordarshan days, when one identified with humble characters and their struggles. The remake of India's first TV soap, Hum Log—called Hum in its new avatar—is all set to hit the small screen soon. Meanwhile, Shah Rukh Khan has been mulling over revisiting Abhimanyu Rai of Fauji. Wagle ki Duniya is also likely to get a makeover.
"I got a bound script—now that is a rarity! Plus we are shooting in real outdoor locations in Bihar. There are no sets, nothing artificial," says Mona Wasu, one of the lead actors of Hum. She has stayed away from the saas-bahu sagas, as "there's no fun in doing them".
If the dipping TRP ratings of soaps were any indication, the audience was not having much fun either. A change was long overdue. "We are going back to the era of meaningful entertainment," says Ashvini Yardi, programming head, Colors. "Soaps today are no longer about kitchen politics; they focus on real issues."
Rural India and social issues are becoming big on the small screen. "What we see on TV today is a lot closer to reality. The characters are people you can relate to," says Smita Bansal who acts in Balika Vadhu, the soap that is believed to have been the catalyst of this change. The story is the strong point in the new rural show; the casting, the sites, the make-up and even the language are based on the concept, says Ashvini. "It is no longer an era of make-believe palatial bungalows, unidentifiable characters and hedonistic opulence. Today's television is all about authenticity and meaningfulness," she says.
The setting may be rural, but the issues strike a chord with the urban crowd, too. Just like how the onscreen adaptation of R.K. Narayan's Malgudi Days, set in a small, fictional town, won the hearts of thousands.
Buniyaad, Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne, Nukkad, Circus, Hum Panchi Ek Dal Ke, Udaan... the stories and characters are still cherished. "I remember watching most of these serials on videotape, as we were based in Dubai then," says actor Roshni Chopra. She had been longing to do something as meaningful, when Desi Girl came along—a reality show, which had eight city girls rough it out in a village in Punjab.
"We got to see a different India, a new perspective on life," says Roshini, who emerged the winner of the show after seven weeks of picking cow dung, ramp-walking with buffaloes, cooking on traditional chulhas and the works!
The show is said to have garnered good TRP ratings, at a time when song- and dance-based reality shows have reached a plateau. "We identified a trend towards rural programming and thought of turning it into the backdrop for a reality show," says Nikhil Madhok, head (marketing and communications), Imagine.
However, there are also TV actors like Apoorva Agnihotri, who refuse to accept offers from serials that are made in "rural settings".
Perhaps, it is time to celebrate Indian television's journey back home. "Not yet," says veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, still known for his Bharat Ek Khoj. He cited the example of a serial that claimed to be against child marriage but ended up encouraging it. It showed two children married to each other and later becoming perfect life partners. "The story is contradictory to what the message is supposed to be," rues Benegal. Someday perhaps the story will be in sync with the message. And the journey back home will be complete.
Of 134 million TV households in the country, 70 million are in rural areas and 64 million in urban areas. Hindi continues to be the language with the highest reach and audience, accounting for 43 per cent of the total broadcast universe.
The rural development ministry is set to launch a 24/7 channel aimed at rural India. It would be based on Doordarshan's Krishi Darshan, and cover subjects such as land, water and sanitation. The channel will also have dance and music reality shows, but with a rural feel!
London's Handel House Museum is all set to honour Jimi Hendrix on his 40th death anniversary on September 18. The museum will hold an exhibition of the American guitarist, singer and songwriter's memorabilia and organise a tour of his former flat at 23 Brook Street. Among the items on display will be his handwritten lyrics and a jacket and hat worn by him in performance. A fitting tribute to the musician indeed.
An album of previously unheard tracks by Michael Jackson is due out in November. Tracks will be chosen from among the numerous hard drives Jackson left of completed songs and recording collaborations.
Ten tracks will make up the new album. According to Jackson's former manager Frank DiLeo, the vaults contain more than 100 songs, including collaborations with Akon, Will.i.am and Ne-Yo.The forthcoming album will be the first in a ten-album, seven-year deal inked by the Jackson Estate and Sony BMG following Jackson's death. The deal will also see the release of classic album re-issues and greatest hits collections.