Lost Cause

Dying Genre

Lost Cause

Western Import :  ‘Different Strokes’  was and still is  extremely popular among  children in India.

The most common complain parents have against their children is that they spend hours together watching television. That too, content which is not appropriate their age. Be it movies splashed with violence or song and dance programmes with skimpily-clad women, kids nowadays are exposed to all the wrong things. Programming on the small screen, is anything but children-centric. All that works in the name of TRPs is reality shows like Splitsvilla!

But why ignore this class set of audience? After all, during the good-old Doordarshan days, we always had programmes reserved for kids and had summer vacation specials. Not just that, DD even ensured that children were exposed to shows from the West like Different Strokes, Johnny Sokko, His Flying Robot and even Spiderman. Somehow with the advent of private channels, shows for children have taken a backseat. There were a few exceptions like Indradhanush and Kachchi Dhoop, but they have been far and few between.

The lack of good kids programmes on general entertainment channels can be due to two broad reasons — business returns and the advent of specialised kids’ channels. In the 80s and early 90s, there were no dedicated channels for children and they had to be happy and content with whatever was dished out in the general entertainment channels. But with privatisation of the small screen, a lot of international operators came into the picture. BBC, Disney, Pogo and Hungama, started broadcasting kids’ programmes throughout the day.

Coupled with international exposure that the Internet and a global economy provided, these channels became instant hits with today’s generation. Producer Ratna Sinha, who is known for her shows like Babul Ka Aangan Choote Naa  and  Do Saheliyan agrees and says, “Channels like Disney and Hungama today have something for all age groups — right from a toddler to an adolescent youth. It is natural that kids would be attracted more towards them.”

Adds Rakesh Paswan, who metamorphosed from a writer to a producer through the new show Baba Aisa Var Dhoondo has a valid point. “When  we had serials like Indradhanush and Kachchi Dhoop, people did not have any other option. They were forced to watch DD and even programmes like Krishi Darshan had high viewership! Today even kids channels have so many options. There is a cartoon channel, there is an educational channel, there is a drama channel, a sports one, the list is endless.”

Many industry insiders say that when you get readymade programmes from foreign channels, why take the trouble of creating new ones. And there is no doubt that the quality of the foreign programmes, in most cases, would be better than what our people would conjure up. If language posed a problem for some programmes, the solution of quick and easy dubbing is always there. (That’s why you see Spiderman talking to Mary Jane in Hindi sometimes!)

The other reason, one feels, is somewhat co-related. Because foreign channels managed to grab eyeballs of most of the children in the country, the business of making Indian serials for children became less lucrative and more difficult. Thus most producers decided to stay away from taking to making something for kids and concentrated on the more staple and sure-to-succeed family dramas. Of course, talent hunt shows featuring children are being created, but they were meant for audiences across all age groups, not just kids.

Sinha has another valid point about the lack of shows made for kids. “Few people know about the fact that I had produced a kids show, Chee and Me, earlier. Today, no one produces a children’s show because the whole concept of prime time entertainment has changed. Today prime time starts at 7 pm. Shows like Sasural Genda Phool, Chhoti Bahu and their likes are all broadcast between 7 to 8 pm — a time slot that was reserved for the kids shows earlier.”

Roopali Guha, producer of Uttaran adds, “We are very lucky that we have the option of having general entertainment channels without having to do kids programmes. That would mean new competition for us. But to be fair to today’s kids, they watch a lot of knowledge-based programmes on National Geographic and Discovery. The kind of production values and programme quality today’s kids expect, only these international channels can provide. However, given the chance, I would not mind doing a teenage love story.”

Considering the specialisation that everyone is moving towards, one does not see a future where too many programmes for kids will be produced, at least in the general entertainment channels. The other side of the argument being, do they need to?

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