Joined: 08 August 2005
|By A L Chougule|
A suspension of disbelief has always attracted the young a lot more compared to the portrayal of day-to-day life and its share of problems. Good old DD knew this and kepts its viewers happy with shows like The Sword of Tipu Sultan, The Great Maratha, Chandrakanta, Alif Laila and Dastan-e- Haatim Tai, which were TRP toppers. Sattelite channels that steered clear of fantasy shows and period dramas earlier have now taken a leaf out of DD's book and are trying to cash in on the popularity of this genre of serials among the youth.
What worked on private channels initially were boardroom and bedroom dramas of business rivalry and marital conflict, which were followed by family dramas later. But in the last two years, there has been a gradual change in these channels' programming. While women are still the prime target of all channels, they are now focusing on children and youngsters with shows like Prithviraj Chauhan, Dharam Veer, Rajkumar Aryan, Arslaan and Alladin.
Nearly five years ago Zee TV had experimented with a fantasy show called Thief of Baghdad, but it didn't work. Prior to that, the channel had also experimented with mythology with disastrous results. However, Star Plus managed average ratings for Haatim on weekend band four years ago. Two years ago, Star launched Prithviraj Chauhan in a daily format on weekends. The success of the historical show was a clear indication that the market was ready for variety entertainment, thanks to the growth in cable and satellite homes from 45 million in 2005 to nearly 70 million today. Also, during this period a new generation of viewers joined television. As Jyoti Sagar of Sagar Arts says, "Prithviraj set the trend for period and fantasy dramas for the young audience."
Producer Sanjoy Wadhwa of Saath Phere fame, who had made Thief of Baghdad for Zee TV and is currently making fantasy-cum-costume drama Rajkumar Aryan, is of the view that television business is cyclical. "Mythological serials, costume and period dramas did well on DD because its reach was far and wide compared to satellite channels. But with the expansion of cable TV market, these shows are back on satellite channels for two reasons. One, channels are willing to experiment with new ideas and two, they are able to market these shows," he explains.
According to Sony's creative head Sanjay Upadhyay, women comprise about 80 per cent of general entertainment viewership, while the remaining 20 per cent are children and youngsters, who hardly watch family dramas. "This category of viewers are largely hooked on to kids' and youth channels. The best way to attract them is by telecasting stories of valour, bravery and fantasy heroes," says Sanjay.
But it's not easy to make these shows. Family dramas can be planned in a jiffy and launched within a month. "But it takes almost nine months to one year to plan a period or fantasy show," says Shakti Sagar who is the chief director for Prithviraj Chauhan and Arslaan. "Pre-production work is too time-consuming. It takes about nine months to set up a show because work on sets, costumes, props and special effects takes a lot of time," he adds. However, despite all the painstaking efforts and technological progress, period and fantasy dramas still look tacky.
Jyoti says these shows cost a lot and though "channels are willing to spend more but it is still not enough to produce a classy product." Sanjay, on the other hand, agrees that our shows look tacky compared to Western shows. "But the audience goes more with the flow of story and the characters and the production values are given less importance," he points out. With viewers not complaining about less than desired production values, producers and channels are happy catering to the new set of audience.
Actors are a happy lot too. Says Mukul Dev who has never enjoyed doing daily soaps but has had great time doing suspense and adventure shows and is currently playing the main villain in Arslaan, "I enjoy doing action and adventure shows because there is lot of variety and the stories have lot of suspense and unpredictable elements."
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