Navneet Nishan —Tara from the 90s show of the same name — says television has drastically changed over the years. “It was more unstructured, but we made so much out of such less resources,” she says.
Karan Grover of Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli echoes the sentiment. “We are pumping in more money and shooting on a grander scale, but creative bankruptcy is seeping in,” he laments. Grover attributes this to producers’ tendency to borrow from films and other shows. “The audience seems happy watching the same stuff packaged differently every time,” he says. But Ratan Rajput of Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo sees the industry as a dynamic, experimental medium. “When ‘saas-bahu’ problems were considered big, they inspired many shows. Then we spoke about social problems in rural areas,” she says.
“The premise of TV has changed,” asserts Niki Aneja Walia of Andaaz and Astitva...Ek Prem Kahani. She points to the start of Zee TV, which is celebrating 18 years on air. “The focus before was on a forward-thinking woman. Then it shifted towards the ideal household woman, and slowly she became a ‘bechari’. It’s really sad.”
Walia claims that current shows set in villages are nowhere close to the real India. She says, “85 per cent of women today are working, but even the other 15 per cent are educated. They may be housewives, but they know how to surf the Internet and manage their accounts.” She recalls a scene from an ongoing daily, where a woman poisons her mother-in-law. “Who does that anymore? Today, issues are confronted. If they can’t be solved, the woman and her husband will move to another house,” she reasons.
For Nishan, these shows are on air only to cater to the rural segment. “The urban viewers have all moved on to reality shows!” she says.
But reactions to reality TV are mixed. “I did Nach Baliye 3, then decided I don’t want to be judged. Besides, I don’t like the concept of creating reality,” says Grover. Rajput, though, is keen to experiment. “I prefer fiction but I’d love to try my hand at a reality show,” she says.
Walia, however, doesn’t favour this trend. She says, “Channels are avoiding repetition of cast, so these actresses have nowhere to go once their show is over. They land up in reality shows. It’s quite scary.” She aptly sums up the situation in the industry: “Today, stories are duplicating each other. No one gets to do a drama on one channel and a comedy on another at the same time. End of a serial is end of career.”