Did Star Bestsellers do well at the time?
I don’t think so. Very few people watched it. Yes, the show was good and proved beneficial for us as filmmakers. Each episode was like a film, 40-45 minute short stories. All of us - Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali, Sriram Raghavan, Anurag Basu – hum sabhi ne yahin pe haath saaf kiye, and then we went on to make films.
It had fresh content and was a very different concept for its time.
They were one-off stories. Star Bestsellers was something new. All of us who contributed wanted to make films, our aim wasn’t to get into television. Television toh isliye kar rahe the ki ghar chalaana hai. So when we were doing TV, we were all trying to execute our work to fit the standards of film – be it writing, shot-taking or casting. So maybe the execution was good.
Those used to be weekly programmes, now episodes are made in a day. We would take two or two-and-a-half days to make 22-23 minutes of content. We gave time to the work, and that’s why it was good quality.
When, according to you, did the shift in Indian television happen?
I think it happened around 1999-2000 with Kaun Banega Crorepati and the saas-bahu serials coming up. I remember my show (Rajdhani) was taken off the air. Suddenly, these new serials came and changed everything. Earlier it used to be weekly shows, but suddenly everybody started making soaps.
When you’re making content in bulk, quality will go down. Suddenly television viewing, at least general entertainment, became completely female-oriented. The male audience moved away from TV. And then news channels became entertaining, so most of the men and evolved audiences started watching the news and sports.
This sort of shift has happened not just in television but in films too. One of the reasons is because society has degraded too. Cheap movies were made earlier too, but would the middle-class go to watch them? Today, movies like Grand Masti are made and they make over Rs 100 crore at the box office – it means that the middle-class goes to watch such movies in multiplexes.
Now I can see a kind of change happening in TV content. People are making slightly different subjects apart from typical saas-bahu soaps, like 24 (it’s not original, but nothing like this was being made on Indian television).
From HT Brunch, January 10, 2016
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