Buck up, Indian TV

Be it conventional storyline or over-the-top characters, Indian television shows haven’t yet come up with an unconventional script that can resonate with the aspirations of younger audience, hooked to popular English shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Supernatural. And it was not surprising when youngsters expressed their views on the finale of English television series, Game of Thrones Season 5, on social media.

One wonders if any Indian television show will ever receive such an overwhelming farewell from the audience who are bored of run-of-the mill shows? And the question here arises is what makes people so crazy about pop culture? Is the Indian
television losing the race against the Western content-driven dramas?
When Metrolife spoke to a few young TV series enthusiasts, the outcome offered a mixed-bag.

Ashwerya Singh Panwar, 23, is an avid English TV series fan. Drawing a comparison between the two she says, “Indian TV shows are usually second-hand work. The stories and the plot are mostly taken either from popular Hollywood movies or a TV series. Why would anyone watch that?”

“I really like Supernatural, Game of Thrones and Gossip Girl. Apart from not being confined to conventional family issues of daily soaps in India, these shows are also very innovative and have a gripping storyline,” she tells Metrolife.

While content of these English series offer food for thought, taking titbits from everyday life and situations, 22-year-old Priyakshi Baruah feels Indian shows are high
on culture resemblance, something English shows can never offer.

“I was following Ye Hai Mohabbatein till a few weeks back. I don’t disagree with the fact that traditional rona-dhona is rampant in all Indian TV shows, but one cannot deny that the cultural resemblance is much more than popular English series like Friends or How I Met Your Mother.” She also feels the issues highlighted in Indian shows are close to reality. “These issues are very much a part of every second family in the middle class household.”

Leaving the content debate aside, if one looks closely at the vast cultural gap that exists between India and the West, it is not difficult to fathom how these English shows are impacting the mindset of Indian teenagers who get easily swayed by the glamour and lifestyle depicted in them, and adopt them blindly.

As Panwar says, “It all depends on at what level one takes them personally.

Undoubtedly, the chilled-out environment and the easy-going way of life portrayed in these shows makes one go in a fantasy world. But one should always remember that the same pattern will be difficult to follow in our country.”

In its early days, Indian television offered many interesting serials like Hum Log, Buniyaad, Hum Paanch, Saans and Dekh Bhai Dekh, among others to keep the
audience glued, while mirroring the socio-economic change the country was
going through.

Dipping into nostalgia, Rajat Bhandari, 23, recollects how he was once a dedicated follower of Indian TV shows. “Earlier, we used to have some excellent TV shows like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Khichdi, Remix and many more. Along with being extremely comical and engaging, I could relate to these shows a lot,” he says.

Underling the fact that content of these shows is no good, Bhandari says, “I feel even the directors of these shows are aware that their content is not engaging, and that’s why they don’t advertise much about it. Why else would we have
a Life OK’s show advertisement on Star Plus?”

For Srishti Sharma, 23, English shows don’t draw boundaries for their female characters. They depict the coming-of-age women in their shows who are assertive and know their priorities than just portray as someone who spends her entire day in plotting and scheming – a common characteristic of women in Indian shows.

 “Being an avid follower of almost all English TV series, I feel that the restricted way in which girls are expected to be in an Indian society, makes these shows a major attraction amongst young girls. There is openness about love, sex and getting drunk... to name a very few,” she says, adding this is why the youngsters relate to these shows more.

Even though 24-year-old Mannan Gupta watches Indian TV shows like Balika Vadhu, Sasural Simar Ka and Comedy Nights with Kapil with his mother, he wants them to go off-air “as soon as possible.”

“They just go on and on. Unlike English TV shows we don’t have a concept of seasons. So the story just stretches with regular drama. It gets extremely boring at times,” he says. “I miss the times when we had shows like Hum Paanch and Dekh Bhai Dekh. “They were such a delight to watch!” he remembers.

Really then, it’s high time Indian TV revives its old charm. The youth demands more diversity and innovation and that’s probably not a difficult task to achieve.

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