Indian television serials revolve around stock themes - the simple Indian girl and her hopes, dreams, joys, love and sorrow. Add a dash of revenge, conspiracy, murder and even rebirth - the latest in the assembly line of plots emanating from the world of TV soaps, and you have a gripping drama that sometime runs for months at a stretch.
Every time there is a new soap on the screen, the directors promise something new. But at the end of the day it is one and the same, says a cross-section of viewers surveyed at random by IANS. Fatigue is setting in and it is time for the "little box" to take on a more meaningful and serious role in terms of content, they say. <b1>
Neha Gadi, a 20-year-old Delhi-based student, feels that in the quest for showing something new to the audience, serial-makers begin their show differently, but gradually return to the run-of-the-mill themes to ensure the show's longevity.
"New shows are advertised in a way that makes us believe that it has a new concept. But when the directors fail to carry forward their idea beyond a certain point, they start using the same old ideas to prolong the show. It would be wiser if they would end the show when the idea is conveyed," she said.
Viewers complain that almost every show focuses on the deeds of either the understated female protagonist or that of a conniving woman. They feel there are other issues - more concrete and sensible - that could be highlighted through TV serials.
Mallika Pradhan, a 27-year-old marketing executive, said: "If it is not the 'saas-bahu' sagas, anything that shows women as underdogs in their 'holier than thou' avatars or as conspirators seems like the only available choice for people to base their shows on. There could be more shows highlighting other sensible issues instead," Pradhan said.
Directors agree but blame the audience for the situation.
"There are seven to eight storylines that TV serials are based on and they are repeated only because the audience happily accepts them. If we try making something different, it usually doesn't work," explained Waseem Sabir who has directed shows such as Saat Phere, Remix, India Calling, Four and is currently directing Balaji Telefilm's Koi Jaane Kya Kya Hoga, which is a sequel to Sony TV's Kya Hadsaa Kya Haqeeqat.
According to the director, the television rating point (TRP) is the predominant factor in the TV industry to identify the ideal content of a show. If the content is able to draw maximum viewers, the formula becomes a hit and a flop if it does not.
"It is a ball game of TRPs. If the show does not get desired TRPs, it is mostly pulled off air and the idea is considered a flop," Sabir said.
Sabir believes that the youth form a minor percentage of the total viewers. "At least 80 per cent of viewers are housewives and maybe retired men. The youth forms around five to six percent of the total number of viewers. In such a skewed state, we are compelled to focus on what the former category wants to see."
Shashi Dewan said housewives like her are looking for a way to pass the time. "During the day, I don't have much to do at home. So, I watch the television. During the day, even some of the news channels are full of programmes like 'Saas, Bahu and Saazish'. So, if that is what is mostly shown, it is not our fault," she said.