Web show trend: Family dramas make their way to digital platforms
Thrillers, mysteries, sex comedies, so far a staple of the Internet, are making room for family-oriented shows, until now the steady diet of the television audience. What are the factors driving this change?
Streaming shows have exploded in India in the past couple of years, and the growth rate looks exponential. Until now, most of these catered to the urban young viewer, with thrillers, mysteries, and sex comedies being the staple; at present, a clutch of family-friendly shows has appeared on the digital platform, attracting a viewer base earlier completely dominated by television.
Shows such as The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family (starring Kay Kay Menon, Barun Sobti); Yeh Meri Family (starring Mona Singh); Babbar Ka Tabbar (starring Manu Rishi, Anshuman Jha); Home (starring Annu Kapoor); or (Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain), among others, are aimed at an untapped audience, offering them a definitive end and creative stories.
Anshuman says that digital content makers have realised the potential of “huge family audiences”. He cites his own show: “It was intelligent and contemporary, where a young girl talks about a hickey (love bite) in front of her parents at the dining table. The time has come when everyone will jump on to the bandwagon as far as family shows are concerned. Most television audiences are slowly switching to web space.”
Free Internet and more web-savvy elders are major factors. Anshuman says, “Our parents’ generation has also started consuming stuff [online] and will relate better to a family show as opposed to a thriller, mystery, or a dark show. In the past few months, it’s only been thrillers and sex comedies, mysteries. And that’s how the whole wave began. People who’ve been addicted to saas-bahu shows, or typical Indian TV shows, will slowly get attuned to this whole space.”
Kay Kay, who plays the foul-tempered Vikram on the web, feels that the limited episode run of a web series is a plus point. “I’m interested in all stories that have an end,” he laughs. “For me, any story that doesn’t have an end is not my cup of tea. [TV] doesn’t have an end; it’s obvious, it just goes on. The fluctuations are as per TRP and not creative storytelling.”
The screenplay of the show also intrigued Kay Kay. “We’ve had exposure to sweet families, families that want to kill each other, but here’s one family that has all the problems, but at the same time, it deals with it in a different way,” he adds.
Mona Singh is happy to see people “embrace the web”. Famous for the TV show Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin, Mona says, “I was sceptical about how long the middle-aged audience would take to get comfortable with the web. Earlier, I thought it was only for the youth. Most of the stuff people were watching... people were abusing, talking about sex. I thought ‘Oh, web is only about being bold, drinking and all of that (laughs).’”
“Web is taking a risk by making such shows. Such shows are not being made on TV anymore. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, we as an audience used to watch such shows on TV. But now, TV has gone down to something else,” adds Mona.
Actor Neena Gupta, who wrote the story for Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain Season 1, feels that on this platform, one is not “tied [down to] one year or two years”. She says that shows such as hers — it has 15 episodes — “is a very easy thing to do now. I feel more and more people will do this now.” About the longevity of the new trend, she says, “Family [shows] will always work, because the most important thing for any person is the family. There’s happiness, sorrow in the family; so these things will always work. The family [show] audience is always there. They could only watch TV; now they have enough options.”
Expressing a similar view, Tanveer Bookwala, producer of The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family, believes that “it’s a great time to be a storyteller”, because viewers who were loyal to TV now have options “multiplied beyond their wildest dreams”. He says, “In this growing OTT (over-the-top) space — unlike TV, which is one size fits all — there’s programming for all kinds of people.” However, he adds, “To say that there’s a shift (in viewership)... not at all. An audience that watches TGIDF could very well be the same audience that Sacred Games, too.”
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