Four years & counting...

Four years & counting...

Four years & counting...

As ‘Balika Vadhu’ crosses the 1,000-episode mark, srabanti chakrabarti examines just what makes this show different and more successful than the rest.

Five years back, the entire television industry was ruled by saas-bahu soaps. If you wished to produce a successful television serial, you would have had to rely on the tried-and-tested formula of Ekta Kapoor.But then, along came a serial that reflected much creativity on the part of the television industry which, this time around, had dared to think differently. As a result, what followed was a plethora of television serials that dealt with a range of new topics, some even socially relevant.

Balika Vadhu, a show on the channel Colors, played a critical role in changing the path of the Indian television industry from airing tiresome saas-bahu serials to those with socially relevant and other contemporary themes. Balika Vadhu recently completed four years and 1,000 episodes of successful telecast; no mean feat indeed.

Success formula

When it was first launched, not many considered that such a show would be successful. A serial set against the backdrop of rural Rajasthan, it deals with the subject of child marriage. It did not have any star cast to boast of when it first aired. But the Indian audience, tired with the absurdities shown in the saas-bahu soaps, embraced Balika Vadhu with open arms; this, in turn, created a road map for success, not only for the show, but also for the broadcasters — Colors.

So, what was it that made this serial such a big hit? Perhaps the simple storyline written by a team of writers including Purnendu Shekhar, Gajra Kottary, Rajesh Dubey, Usha Dixit and Raghuvir Shekhawat played a major role. “Typically you will see writers complaining about the production team; the primary complaint being that of how the true emotions of the story were not portrayed on screen. But with Balika Vadhu, I don’t think any of the writers would have had any such issue. Instead, the production team has been able to portray the story even better. Credit is also due to the broadcasters for daring to start such a show when the channel was being launched,” says Purnendu Shekhar who has been writing the script of Balika Vadhu since its inception.

Smita Bansal, who plays the soft and adorable mother-in-law of Anandi, agrees with Shekhar, “It is a great journey for all of us. I feel that the two biggest factors for the success of this show was the script and the dedication of the cast towards it.”

The story is about Anandi, who is married at the age of eight to Jagdish. She goes into a very conservative and strict family headed by Kalyani Devi, a strict matriarch. The story revolves around her years of growing up, her love for her husband and the challenges she faces from time to time. The show has highlighted the problems of child marriage, thereby sending a very strong social message as well.

Balika Vadhu has a few veteran and some other new actors as well, such as Surekha Sikhri, Satyajit Sharma, Anup Soni, Smita Bansal, Farida Jalal, Bhairavhi Raichura, Avika Gor (Anandi) and Avinash Mukherjee (Jagdish).

Understandably, all of those associated with the show are very happy. Says actor Anup Soni, who plays Bhairon in the show, “When I started with this show, I used to have very few scenes with fewer dialogues. Most people thought that my role was to keep quiet and stand in the sidelines. Most of my colleagues and friends thought that the role was a cameo. But I kept my faith in the makers and the show. Today, people compliment me for standing by my decision. My biggest high was when Ashutosh Gowariker praised my performance in the show.”

Smita echoes Soni’s feelings on believing in the show and says, “I can say on behalf of the rest of the cast that the biggest reward for working in this show is the team work and fond memories attached to this show. I don’t think anyone has had any regrets till date.”

Like most serials in India, Balika Vadhu too has undergone a leap. After a much-publicised nation-wide hunt for the grown-up Anandi, Pratyusha Banerjee was chosen. The show now deals with her relationship with Jagdish. Says Shashank Vyas, the actor who plays the adult Jagdish in the show, “It was like a dream come true for me. I still pinch myself everyday to check whether this is reality or not! For me, it is an exam. Working with so many powerful and experienced actors and living up to their expectations is a big challenge. It is a real privilege for me to be a part of the 1,000th episode of this show. I wish to be part of the celebration for the next 1,000th episode as well!”

Adds Pratyusha Banerjee, who was selected through a nation-wide hunt via SMS voting, “I never thought that I would be part of this historic moment. Crossing 1,000 episodes in four years is no joke. I think the credit goes to the production team and writers.” For Pratyusha, it was a really tough job mainly because Avika Gor had become a household name by playing the young Anandi.

So, what’s next for the show? Anandi and Jaggu have now divorced. The grapevine suggests that Masa will play a key role in finding a new groom for her, and actor Siddharth Shukla, who plays the charming Shiv, will be the new man in Anandi’s life.

Let’s hope the show continues to be interesting and does not get into the loop of infinite marriages, as seen in the famous Ekta Kapoor ‘K’ serials!

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