Have 24 and Yudh made way for better television entertainment?
Even though both thrillers received a mixed response from couch potatoes, Bollywood has set the ball rolling to revolutionize Indian television entertainment. Here’s a look at when and how the transformation was initiated and what is in store for the TV audience.
In 2011 film actor Anil Kapoor, riding high on the success of his international stints (Slumdog Millionaire and American version of 24’s final season), returned home and announced with gusto that he wants Indian television to go the American way. More than a decade ago, Amitabh Bachchan had already kindled the metamorphosis of Indian television programming – by hosting a TV show, Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of international show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?).
The Jhakaas actor’s plan was slightly different though. He wanted to adapt 24, America’s most-watched TV series, for Indians. It’s been a few years since then. Season one of 24: India aired last year and is being rerun currently.
So, did Kapoor succeed in changing the audience’s taste in TV entertainment? The answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Udayan Bhat, Executive Producer of 24 and Operations & Business Development Manager at Anil Kapoor Film Company, says, “We may not have got the desired TRPs but people who watched 24: India appreciated the production and overall effort to create a quality series.”
Indian television shows, specifically fiction, for a long-time had stagnated in concepts, creativity and production. Stories of the popular programs were mostly unending family dramas, set in outlandish houses, whose residents were of extreme melodramatic nature, and the shows lacked visual finesse. Not only 24, but Bachchan’s Yudh also got rid of the rulebook for television entertainment. From writing to production to actors to performances to visuals, they attempted something that was not seen on Indian television before.
“Abhinay (Deo, 24’s director) was very clear that he wanted the show to look very cinematic and didn’t want to go into the TV space. But we were also told to keep the look somewhat similar to the original 24 because it has the same story plot,” says Tanay Satam, who along with Jay Oza shot the thriller. The duo was highly inspired by the visual treatment employed in BBC’s Sherlock Holmes.
While Tribhuvan Babu, Director of Photography of Yudh, says, “In the initial brief, Anurag (Kashyap), Ribhu (Dasgupta), including the channel wanted the show to look international and not look like a Balaji TV show. And I was like this is simple. So I decided to approach it the way I would approach my films.”
Further Babu speaks about the audience’s reaction to Yudh. “It’s been mixed reviews. I am completely humbled ‘coz I am getting positive messages in the middle of the night from people I don’t even know. They have liked that we have tried to create something different on television. Then, there are a lot of fraternity people who have appreciated it and many who have said that it doesn’t work for television. I respect both. But the most positive outcome has been that a lot of men watched the show.”
Bhat too agrees. “Unlike the traditional serials audience, people from all walks of life have watched 24. My chartered accountant, who wasn’t even aware of Colors channel, got hooked to the show. So it’s been a very positive feedback. A new audience that had shunned TV emerged with these shows.”
In November 2014, the cast and crew of 24 will commence shooting the second season, which apparently unfolds in Dubai.
Meanwhile it seems 24 and Yudh were a wake-up call for television/channel producers. “For starters it has brought back the finite show concept (fixed no. of episodes). Stories outside the kitchen and family politics are being made now. Both thrillers were highly experimental so it appealed to a small section, but every channel is now trying to create new content that pushes the envelope yet has mass-appeal,” says a source from a popular General Entertainment Channel.
This year Zee launched ‘Zindagi’ channel to air some of the popular Pakistani shows like Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Aunn Zara, Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain et al. Star Plus kicked off weekend programming with Airlines, a series revolving around the aviation industry. Then Life Ok dared to conceive a bold show about incest, Laut Aao Trisha.
Looking at the variety of television shows on Indian shores now, Bhat says, “The advent of multiplexes led to the birth of a new kind of films. During the single screen theatre era a film like Delhi Belly or Kahaani would have never been produced or released. In the same way 24 and Yudh have done that for television.”
Interestingly, the transformation also brought back focus on Indian youth, a long ignored audience by the television industry. MTV, Channel V and UTV Bindaas have converted from music channels to a platform for reality and youth-based programs. Filmmakers like Nikhil Advani, Rohan Sippy, Shoojit Sircar and Anurag Basu, have been putting their expertise to raise standards of programs for the pretty-and-handsome-young-things too. They have joined hands with MTV and Hindustan United Lever, to create a slew of tele-films for young Indians.
Another section of the world, actors too consider the new kind of television entertainment as a blessing. Karan Mally, an actor and a casting director, who will be seen in a series backed by a Bollywood biggie says, “24 and Yudh have certainly created more opportunities for actors. The traditional serials weren’t exciting enough to be a part of, but the show (I am doing) is not like the saas-bahu sagas. So I thought it would be nice to do it while I wait for the right film offer to come my way.” The young actor refrains from revealing the name or details of his forthcoming show though insists it’s of superior quality and made just like a film.
While there hasn’t been announcement of any new shows that will bring a Bollywood biggie to the small-screen, several people are in talks to create new and interesting series for television. Rumor has it that TV-director-turned-filmmaker Vipul Shah is conceptualizing a show starring popular names from Bollywood. Meanwhile, despite a lukewarm response to 24, Anil Kapoor is in negotiations to adapt two more American shows for the Indian TV audience.
And as Babu says, “We are hoping that with 24 and Yudh Indian television programming will change. Of course, it will take time and the initial projects will face the brunt of it. But I foresee for the next two-three years a season of mini-series across channels. Ashutosh Gowariker’s show, Everest, is coming out on Star Plus soon. I am really looking forward to it.”
– Rachana Parekh
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