Whoohhh! What a happening week this was for television. The bespectacled Plain Jane, Jassi, divorced her ugliness. Kareena snipped her tresses and slipped in those body-fitting pretty suits. Dr Simran, donned grey for the new generation. And Puja, decided to give up her career for the sake of her sister's happiness. But what about the Tulsis, Parvatis and Kashishs that appear on television and rule the TRP's? They are still busy with business as usual and that includes fighting, solving conundrums and proving their identity and gossiping and wishing ill. Though TV was in a lull for a very long time, it now seems, as if some magic wand has brought to us a lot of activity in a very short time. TV soaps have perhaps never moved so fast in so short a time. The extended prime time, ie 2100 hrs to 2300 hrs saw an unparalleled amount of action but it was as if this storm left the long running saas-bahu K series untouched.
Sweet-n-sour's the flavour of the season: On a factual note, Mamta Patnaik, Creative Producer of Kareena Kareena ascribes the success of the show on its protagonist Kareena. ''Unlike all the saasbahu soaps, the protagonist Kareena, appears to more natural and near to the real life. The USP of her character is that she's just like any other girl; she could be both erroneous, she could be over-excited or hyper-nervous by turn. If required she would not even mind lying or blaming someone else for her fault.'' Informs Raman Kumar, man behind Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Tara and now Millee which will come on Star Plus in April, ''The character of Millee is packaged as a fun loving, emotional and yet a bold girl. She's a rebel. The story is not a tear jerker.'' That is the whole point. The family situations need to be fun and not full of tension with all kinds of petty politics. In a way the K series should have been clued in and realised that people have had enough of internal family conflict. The death of Ansh in Kyuki on Star TV should have been the trigger for a new beginning but that was not to be.
While TRP's were steady till recently for Balaji's K series they have shown a fall in the recent months since big ticket programmes like Indian Idol came on board. A new class of viewers seems to have emerged that wants something beyond the soaps and is willing, if need be, to forgo the soaps as well. There is a hunger for realistic stories on TV. A need is clearly felt for plots that can look real. Says Diya Singh, director and producer of Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, ''Jassi came as a breath of fresh air at a time when serials were teeming with diamond-dripping or teardripping bahus and bhabhis. With her girlish giggles and clumsy gestures she knocked off not only flowerpots and files but also the stereotypes. Though the particular genre of viewers loved her in an instant, those couch-potatoes too fell for her gradually.''
So is Balaji losing its sheen? Media analysts believe that Balaji soaps have become very predictable now. For instance Kyunki on Star has taken a full circle. In a way Karan is now walking on the same path as Mihir did, the same two-woman formula. The moment Karan will marry Tanya, Nandini will come out of coma. Whereas, other dailies like, Kareena, Astitva and Jassi are fast moving, thus, any day a better viewing option.
Says Amita Kapoor, a housewife, ''I think all the K soaps are dead already. Ekta should rather take them off-air.'' Adds Poonam Sharma, IInd year student of College of Media Studies. ''I don't find these soaps interesting any more. It's all about similar disasters. What were exciting twists and turns once now look banal.''
Though Nivedita Basu, the trusted lieutenant of Ekta Kapoor, differs. ''I think niche programming will rule. And saas-bahu soaps are here to stay for another five years, at least. Make no mistake the K series is a phenomena in their own right. Even we at Balaji have not been able to produce anything even nearer to them.'' 2005 – happy days are to stay: Viewers however seems to be saying a big NO, to all those heavyduty dramas. The recent lukewarm response to launches like Kavyanjali and Kaalchakra underline the hunger for feel good shows. What the viewers want is to see some realistic television. A good script in touch with reality and punched with a shot of humour will work.'' Says Vinita Nanda, producer of Taraa popular soap of yesteryears, ''Viewers tends to be loyal to a particular genre of programming. Like post Tara, there was an era of this bold and very urban programming. Which was then replaced by the conservative and traditional family-based sagas. Now again viewers are game for something new. Also, at this moment, Indian television is geared and structured to support all sorts of programming. Be it fact or fiction. Viewers are ready to accept a lot of different things.'' Is Balaji listening?