Okay, by now we all know that post-Ballika Vadhu, the new formula for serials has three key ingredients: a traditional rural setting, a ‘social issue’ as the main theme and zero special effects (none of that zoom-in zoom-out).
These are what distinguish the new soaps from Ekta Kapoor’s K serials, which were about urban families, had lots of weird special effects but no special social message (unless you count women marrying and re-marrying and re-re-marrying as a bold comment on female emancipation).
The only thing common to both — they are ‘highly emotional’ family dramas.
NDTV Imagine has already started a new serial on the lines of the new formula — Bandini, set in a Gujarati village, with the redoubtable Ronit Roy playing the local autocrat.
There’s another one too in the pipeline (Jyoti) about a sacrificing young woman who devotes herself to her family and never thinks of herself. (Incidentally, this serial is made by the same team that makes Ballika Vadhu).
Now Colors (where Ballika Vadhu appears), is itself planning to launch two more such serials.
Both are about the girl child but each one looks at the girl child from a different perspective. Na Aana Is Des Lado is about female foeticide and Mere Ghar Aayi Ek Nanhi Pari is about a family craving for a daughter.
So have our entertainment channels suddenly developed a social conscience? You could also argue that isn’t it better to have a family drama revolving around a social issue rather than a saas-bahu conflict?
But the truth is that Ballika Vadhu is also about a saas-bahu conflict. If the saas (played by Surekha Sikri) was a kindly and doting mother-in-law instead of being the sour old crone that she is, where would that leave the story of the serial?
(Also, then Anandi would be quite a happy child bride, wouldn’t she, skipping about in her pretty ghagra choli and maybe going to school with her boy-husband?)
So you will excuse me for once again trotting out that well-known old French proverb: The more things change the more they remain the same.
Yet, it has to be said — Ballika Vadhu is different. And I guess that’s why it’s working with viewers.
The serial that I hope starts working with viewers is NDTV Imagine’s new sitcom, Ghar Ki Baat.
I’ve just seen a couple of episodes, but I found them entertaining and funny. There are hardly any good comedies on the entertainment channels (I still wistfully remember Dekh Bhai Dekh on Sony and the even older Filmi Chakkar on Zee; among the newer ones, it’s Office Office and Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai).
Since everything on television depends on the ratings, I hope Ghar Ki Baat does well. Because if it does, it will have a long innings on the channel and will spawn sitcoms on the other channels too.
Which is a good thing (isn’t laughter always better than tears?).
And finally. Have you seen Man Vs Wild on Discovery?
It’s one of the most thrilling shows I’ve watched, where the host (the rather oddly named Bear Grylls) battles the most difficult environments, giving a whole new meaning to the word survival. Not surprisingly, it’s the top-rated show on Discovery.
The channel itself has been on a winning streak for the last three years, emerging as the leader among the English channels. Good to know that good content can also work.