Crime takes over telly
ALChougule : Mumbai, Fri Jan 11 2013, 11:37 hrs
Fifteen years ago when B.P. Singh launched CID on Sony, the ex-DD cameraman-turned-director-producer never imagined that his fictional whodunnit would last so long and eventually become the face of crime programming. Many attempted to duplicate the format, but none succeeded like CID, which survived the onslaught of daily soaps, reality shows and a decade when 'K' shows clearly ruled the tube.
It's only in the last two years that the tide turned favourably for crime genre. From a single show on a channel, the crime genre grew to three — CID, Adalat and Crime Patrol — on the same platform. Yet no one really bothered to give it much thought, till Crime Patrol hit the top of 10 GECs shows with 6.78 TVR in week 9 (February 26 to March 3, 2012). The following week, it again topped the list. Since then, along with CID, Crime Patrol has consistently been in the list of top 10 GEC shows with close to 4 TVR. While expressing concern over falling ratings of reality shows with every successive season, a senior channel programmer in an informal chat recently predicted that in the months to come, crime genre could possibly give serious competition to reality shows in weekend programming.
Basing his programming wisdom on rock-solid performance of Crime Patrol and CID, as well as Adalat's steady run over a year, the programmer probably pre-empted the trend. At the beginning of 2012, there were only three crime shows on one channel, today there are seven on four channels. The new ones include Arjun on Star Plus, Hum Ne Li Hai Shapath and Savdhan India on Life OK and Shaitaan on Colors. So, is crime the buzz word in weekend programming? Or is it just a phase that broadcasters tend to cash in on for a share of pie?
I don't see it as a buzzword or a game changer, but a simple and typical programming trend that keeps repeating every few years. When Kyunki Jab Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi clicked, everyone started making similar shows. Why did no one think of making a crime show before February 2012, though CID has been there for 15 years?" asks Crime Patrol's series writer and director S. Subramanian. "More than working on anything out-of-the-box, or attempting a game-changer, everyone keeps track of what's working for others. That's the reason why you have similar shows across genres and channels, both in fiction and non-fiction categories, including crime now. Crime reality has caught everyone's attention because Crime Patrol has been doing phenomenally well," he elaborates.
According to actor and Crime Patrol host Anoop Soni, programming is like fashion. "It changes every few years. Something that's catches people's fancy becomes a trend, be in fashion or programming," he chuckles. Elaborating further, he adds, "Most popular shows have had copycats, be it KBC, Indian Idol and Balika Vadhu. That's the thumb rule of Indian mentality. Had Crime Patrol not delivered, there wouldn't have been similar shows on other channels." Anupama Mandloi, senior programmer and content head, Fremantle India Television Productions, one of the production companies behind Savdhan India, doesn't deny that Crime Patrol has been like a wake-up call. "It was generally believed that since news channels cover crime, GECs would not get traction for this genre till Crime Patrol proved everyone wrong. Any GEC that wishes to offer variety in content will eventually address different genres. Crime is one such genre," she explains.
The need to address a particular genre, says producer B.P. Singh of CID and Hum Ne Li Hai Shapath, arises when it shows potential to get eyeballs on more than one platform. "A happening genre creates space for itself that can easily be exploited by other GECs because of their common target audience," he adds. But more than crime fiction, the action is currently concentrated in crime reality genre. What makes this seemingly dark, and at times graphic depiction of crime (not suited for an ideal family viewing), an engaging fare? According to Anupama, it is not easy to create a successful crime fiction show like CID. "It's always more difficult to create a crime fiction brand, which has a distinctive premise and inspirational characters. But crime in the reality space allows for a variety of stories, offers a vicarious thrill for viewers and creates an environment that is topical and socially relevant," she reasons.
Social relevance is probably an important reason. In the past decade, there's been a sudden spurt in crime against women, children and senior citizens. The phenomenon has been so disturbing that news channels are full of crime news, even newspapers that once relegated these news to page five has moved to making front page headline. This is now getting reflected in GEC content as it makes topical and engaging, though vicarious and dark, entertainment. The advantage with crime reality is the genre within genre it covers — love stories going sour, blackmail, hit-and-run, whodunnit, psychological evils and so on — that are mostly dramatised re-creations of real stories. As Singh says, "Audience is watching crime shows because crime is headline news now." An observation seconded by Anupama, who concurs, "Crime and criminals are aggressively present in our world view today. It is natural that crime would find representation in fiction and news."
Crime, as the saying goes, never pays. But for GECs, it seems to do just that.