Is Indian television missing out?

PALASH VOLVOIKAR
India has its idea of online streaming in a bunch as well. Hotstar is one of the very few online platforms that have (somewhat) taken off and all it has done till now, is show us the same content as the normal TV does. It did manage to revive one of the best received quality television shows in the history of Indian TV, Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai, but it will need to keep going at making original content and ensuring that it is different and better than what mainstream TV has to offer, like how TVFPlay seems to be doing.

It is said that we live in the golden era of television, and that is a statement which is tough to counter. Television, a once not-so-serious platform has now started to match the production quality of big budget films, and often surpass it. With the advent of blazing fast internet and the ability to take content to the remotest corner of the world, streaming services like the Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have helped push the quality of television content to a point where there is so much of the good stuff, that we are falling short of time to catch up with it all. In a world where television is at its all time best, Indian TV seems to be lagging behind by light years. So, what’s going wrong?
First of all, Indian TV has been using the same old format for ages. To begin with, the saas-bahu plot makes up for a majority of the chunk of our productions. Right from the early days of this millennium, to now, little has changed there. No matter which channel it is, there has to be at least a couple of series which have saas-bahu drama in them. If the drama wasn’t painful enough, our sitcoms don’t do too well either. Reality shows get so bad that you can easily mark them as a combination of dramas and sitcom, with little or no reality in between. There are a few problems which have bugged all these formats for a long time now, and it seems like we aren’t focusing on solving any of them.
First of all, everything we do with our television seems to be utterly sensationalistic. Basically, our TV series have little story, with the puniest of events being dragged out over hours of screen time. There is not even a bit of subtlety in any aspect of it, with everything from the acting to the music being over-pronounced. Sure, we are a nation that loves the extravaganza but overdoing it in every aspect is one of the prime reasons why Indian TV seems to be stagnating in quality. It’s a sad thing that we can’t name even a single show that will hold up to the quality set by global television.
Now, I’m not saying we don’t make good series! There have been quite a few watchable and enjoyable shows in the history of Indian TV, but they have been buried under the weight of incredibly mediocre television which is massive in volume. Modern day Indian television might not have caught up, but online content surely has. We have quite a few good web series going on, particularly on YouTube, and they seem to be gaining enough traction to point out the fact that India needs a shift in its approach to television content.
If we notice, television series without much of a story and obviously mediocre production quality still manages to get long runs, with some going over thousands of episodes while content with relatively better quality struggles to last. Anything that starts off as a break to the format eventually ends up joining the mainstream, because that simply seems to be what is making all the money.
India has its idea of online streaming in a bunch as well. Hotstar is one of the very few online platforms that have (somewhat) taken off and all it has done till now, is show us the same content as the normal TV does. It did manage to revive one of the best received quality television shows in the history of Indian TV, Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai, but it will need to keep going at making original content and ensuring that it is different and better than what mainstream TV has to offer, like how TVFPlay seems to be doing. TVFPlay, despite not having been a television content company, still manages to make original quality content that breaks away from the stereotypical Indian television, at least to an acceptable limit, which just goes to say that it’s not really an impossible feat.
So what am I trying to say here? No, I don’t want India to come up with its own Game of Thrones. I just want us to explore. The many genres, the many styles, and many ways of telling stories, and there is no doubt that we are capable of creating content that matches up to the best shows in the world. So why don’t we give it a shot? The Indian film industry seems to be squiggling to make room for something radical, iconic, and more presentable to the rest of the world. So isn’t it time that Indian television did the same? It’s never too late. After all, as we like to say in India,“der aaye, durust aaye.”

May 26th, 2017

Posted In: entertainment

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