Sucheta Dalal :End of a defining decade on TV the almighty small wonder
Sucheta Dalal

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End of a defining decade on TV, the almighty small wonder  

January 5, 2010

 As one stands on the cusp of an end and the beginning of a new decade, in a country where television is promised as an election sop and its health minister terms it as a contraceptive, one better believe that size does not matter, reports PTI.


From shaky, snowy, blurred pictures on bulky TV sets to digital quality output on flat screens, the tube world is something to look out for now.


Though it has been around for 50 years now, the last decade has so far been the most defining in its history. It was during this time when TV gave its big brother, Bollywood, a run for its money and also set new trends.


This silent revolution began one night quietly at 10:30pm on Star Plus, in the early 2000s, when a complete nondescript cast and crew went on air with their serial 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabi Bahu Thi'. And as they say, the rest is history.


The soap went on to become the longest-running serial in the history of television. It single-handedly changed the course of TV and definition of entertainment in the country.


The homely, docile but assertive desi bahu, Tulsi, played by then small-time actress Smriti Irani soon became a national obsession. Edits and obits were being written on her on-screen hubby Mihir’s (played by Amar Upadhaya) demise in the serial. Audiences forced the serial's producer Ekta Kapoor to resurrect his character. And again another new trend was born.


Terming the last decade as the "most significant" for the TV industry, Smriti Irani says today it is offering a lot more job opportunities as well as variety to the audience. "In terms of creativity, production values (over) the last ten years have been extremely significant," Ms Irani told PTI.


TV was not offering solace or bread to these little-known actors alone. Bollywood mega-star, Amitabh Bachchan, in search of megabucks and the limelight which had deserted him then, reinvented himself with Siddhartha Basu's game show 'Kaun Banega Corepati' in 2000. The KBC show revived Mr Bachchan’s movie career too.


Like his other movie dialogues, Big B mouthing 'Nau Baj Gaye Kya...?' and 'Lock Kiya Jaye...?' once again caught the fancy of an entertainment-crazy nation. Needless to say, the show became an instant hit and went on to become a pioneer in the concept of non-script shows. Some years later, stars like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan also aped him.


If Mr Bachchan graced the small screen, its ruling stars like Rajeev Khandewal, Amnaa Sharif, Mona Singh and Amar Upadhaya were busy trying their luck in the big world of Bollywood. The success story of the Indian TV industry which started with the launch of Zee TV, the first private channel, was carried forward by Sony and Star. Their regional brethren too mushroomed and the entertainment-starved audience started facing a problem of plenty—from daily soaps to reality shows.


Sameer Nair, chief executive of NDTV Imagine, says that the highlight of this decade has been the spurt in regional, sports and news channels. "Content is evolving. We are still doing daily soaps with reality shows which are not based on song-and-dance anymore," he told PTI.

As Mr Nair said, it was not only the number of general entertainment channels (GECs) going up. Indians, who till then were used to bland news, very much akin to dull documentaries, suddenly woke up to a new phenomenon called 'breaking news'.


As the news channels beamed images of an ageing MK Karunanidhi being dragged out of his house in the dead of the night, twin towers in the US coming crashing down on 9/11, the life and psyche of a common Indian was all set to undergo a sea change forever.


While the TV phenomenon did wonders for people like Ramdev Baba and Rakhi Sawant, it was also instrumental in bringing the perpetrators of the Jessica Lall murder case or the very recent Ruchika molestation case to book. Who can forget the tiny Prince who fell into a bore well and had the entire nation glued to the TV praying for his safety?


One major reason for TV's growing popularity as per Smriti Irani was the variety it was offering. "While earlier, the viewers had few choices, today there is a variety to choose from," the 33-year-old actor said and added that the number of consumers and therefore advertising content on TV has gone up considerably.


Another highlight was the successful broadcast of the IPL (Indian Premier League). But as new trends came and went, audiences stuck with shows like celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor's 'Khanaa Khazana' and 'CID', 'Boogie Woogie' and 'SaReGaMaPa'.


Meanwhile, channels like Discovery and National Geographic too were doing good work, finding viewership.


As is always the case, everything is not hunky-dory in the small world. Charges of obscenity have forced closure of seven channels, several others are facing notice for 27 controversial reality shows including 'Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachhao', 'Raaz Pichle Janam Ke' and 'Sach Ka Samna'.


Still, Ms Irani feels that presently, there is a lot of stiff competition in the TV industry. "As one and all are trying their luck here, like fortunes change every Friday in Bollywood, fortunes change here every Wednesday, when TRPs are out. Right now, there is no one star, one show, or channel which enjoys all attention," she said.


Call it an idiot box or anything else, today, small is the new big. One may love it or hate it, no one can ignore TV.
— Yogesh Sapkale


-- Sucheta Dalal