If you watch any TV serials at all, you must be familiar with the ‘disappear-reappear’ phenomenon so beloved of our serial producers and directors. Often, characters suddenly ‘die,’ usually in mysterious accidents (only to come back some episodes later, thanks to the amazingly creative contortions of the serial’s scriptwriters).
Or they go into a coma (also to come back some episodes later; but in this instance without too much fuss, since apparently people keep waltzing in and out of comas in real life too. So it’s no big deal if TV characters suddenly go into a coma — with hair and makeup always intact of course — and then equally suddenly sit up and ask with wide-eyed wonder, “Main kahan hoon?” / “Kya hua?”).
But here’s a question: why and when do such devices (death, coma, time jumps, amnesia etc) come into play in a serial? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to answer (actually, if you’re a rocket scientist, you probably won’t be able to answer). But even if you watch TV serials rarely and distractedly, you’ll know that these devices happen when the serial in question starts declining in popularity.
So why am I not surprised that, in the last few days, there’s been a big buzz around Anandi’s ‘death’ (Balika Vadhu)? Will she actually die? Will she come back to life? What will happen to the story if she dies? More important, what will happen to viewers if she dies? Will they go into a coma too? (Out of shock or relief, who can say?) What is certain, however, is that Balika Vadhu will see a spike in viewership. This is the serial that helped Colors become the No. 1 entertainment channel, but in recent weeks, it has slipped on the ratings charts. Once the nation’s top-rated show, Balika Vadhu is no longer even in the top five. According to the latest figures, the current pecking order is as follows: Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai (Star Plus), Bidayi (Star Plus), Pavitra Rishta (Zee), Uttaran (Colors), Na Aana Is Des Lado (Colors). Interestingly, the latest figures also show that Star Plus has (finally!) wrested the No. 1 slot from Colors — after 22 weeks.
So, is it about Anandi’s ‘death?’ Or is it about regaining ratings?
Discovery Travel & Living finally premiered its ambitious Living With A Superstar series last weekend. Apparently, it’s the first of many and the channel will be ‘following’ other celebrities too in due course. Sounds like a great idea, but frankly, the only reason the current series will work is because of the choice of subject. Shah Rukh Khan is India’s biggest movie star. He’s also India’s wittiest movie star. And he’s India’s least politically correct movie star. Having someone like that for such an intense show (where the camera follows you around all the time and you have to talk about yourself, your family and your life at length) is the best the channel could have hoped for. It’s what makes the show work. But will it work with any old celebrity? I have my doubts…
And finally. It was good to see hockey getting such focused coverage on television. And all the India matches had great viewership too. But was it just because this is the World Cup? Maybe. Whatever the reason, it was really good to see hockey back on the radar.
Very soon though, it’ll be back to cricket — and how. The IPL just seems to get more and more glamorous every year. Will we one day see item girls singing and dancing right there on the field even as a game is in progress? It’s a small step away — we already have performances before the matches and cheerleaders during the matches.