Real time on Television: The small screen is in the midst of a paradigm shift – Harneet Singh

Progressive storylines, modern treatment and realistic characters are bringing in fresh energy to teleserials. It’s no longer just about the sagas and the saazish of the saas, bahu and the betis. With story lines tackling issues like cancer, female empowerment, remarriage, single parenting, television has come a long way from the days of kitchen politics and people returning from the dead. Today’s bahu is not just content to make the best kheer in the family but, like Sandhya in Diya Aur Baati Hum, the country’s top-rated show according to TRP ratings, aspires to be an IPS officer, and is encouraged to dream big by her uneducated husband Sooraj. Or, like Aarti and Yash in Zee TV’s Punar Vivaah, happy to discover love after their first marriages don’t last. No wonder television producer, Ekta Kapoor says, “Television soaps are, in many instances, more progressive than films.”

Nitin Vaidya, business head, Hindi channels, Star India, the country’s No. 1 GEC (General Entertainment Channel) according to the latest TAM ratings, and the channel which came up with popular soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, says, “Innovative formats in the programming strategy are the need of the hour as identical narratives fail to impress the audiences of today. We have also observed that although the family continues to be at the centre of all the shows in Hindi GEC, the focus has shifted from just dealing with family problems to dealing with social issues.”

Social issues have always been a mainstay of Colors channel’s magnum opus Balika Vadhu. Initially, the serial was panned for notching TRPs by exploiting, and thereby propagating, a social evil like child marriage. Writer Purnendu Shekhar says it took a while for people to get the irony of Anandi’s situation. “When we started, people said we were glorifying child marriages. They couldn’t see the irony that this child had no idea of what is happening to her life. When you go to a doctor, he first diagnoses the disease and then treats it. Similarly, we had to first talk of child marriage and then show what it does. In that sense, regression is the first step to progression.”

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