The small screen is once again in the generational leap mode. Innocent children turning into mature adults and grown-ups into old hags overnight are making a rapid comeback on television.
Be it STAR Plus' Sapna Babul Ka... Bidaai or Colors' Balika Vadhu, both shows have planned a seven-year and five-year leap respectively in their coming episodes. The bosses claim leaps are a natural progression in the story and not a survival plan.
Balika Vadhu writer Purnendu Shekhar says he had decided from the very first day that the protagonists of his story - Anandi and Jagdish, who get caught in the social evil of child marriage - will eventually grow up in the show.
"My characters had to grow up. Till when would they have remained young? Our show is completing 500 episodes on July 1; so we decided to bring in the change. Otherwise, even before the show was approved by the channel, we had decided that in due course, we will show that children suffer the repercussions of child marriage even after they grow up," Shekhar told IANS.
"We are taking a seven-year leap in the story of Bidaai. I don't think we should call it a generation leap. It's more like the second season of the show," Rajan Shahi, producer of Bidaai, told IANS.
"I have been very clear that I will not stretch any of my shows just to keep them going. But for Bidaai, I felt our writers still have a brilliant story to tell and so a second season came in as a natural idea."
It was Ekta Kapoor's top-rated shows Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii and Kasautii Zindagii Kay that had set the trend for decade-long generational leaps. But many producers and channels are now reviving the formula to keep their best shows running.
Other shows that have adapted the 'generational leap formula' this year include Imagine TV's Bandini, Kashi and Devi, STAR Plus' Hamari Devrani and Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, Colors' Uttaran, Zee TV's Jhansi Ki Rani and STAR One's Miley Jab Hum Tum.
What is interesting is that the moment there is a generational leap in these fiction shows, spectacles, hair whiteners and walking sticks become major parts of the screenplay. That does the trick of making many young actors look old on screen, unless they choose to walk out of the show.
Their bright and colourful clothes are replaced with simple and sober saris and salwar-kameezes to suit their increased age. Child actors who play protagonists on shows are mostly replaced by adult actors.
Nine-year-old Sparsh Khanchandani was replaced by much older Tina Dutta as Ichchha in Uttaran, while Kritika Sengar recently stepped into the shoes of child actress Ulka Gupta to essay the role of Rani Lakshmi Bai in Zee TV's Jhansi ki Rani.
Avika Gor, currently portraying child bride Anandi in Balika Vadhu, will be replaced by an older girl. According to sources, it will be a Jamshedpur-based girl named Pratyusha Banerjee.
Asked if it was hard to explain to 12-year-old Avika about the change, Shekhar said: "She (Avika) understands. She is a smart girl and didn't throw any tantrums. But whoever comes in as her replacement has big shoes to fill in because Avika did a great job."
Whether Balika Vadhu and Bidaai will retain their position among the top five shows on Hindi generation entertainment channels is something that remains to be seen until the stories take the generational leap.