When Can India Expect Quality Entertainment On The Small Screen?
Priyanka Chopra was on the receiving end of criticism launched at her like a quiver of arrows for her exaggerated American accent, among other things, in the first season of her debut on the American small screen as the formidable Alex Parrish on ‘Quantico’.
Admittedly, it had irked me too. But whatever the critics may say, there is no denying that ‘PC’ as she is amiably referred to in the film industry had made it. And made it big.
After the dissection of PC’s anatomy in the show gradually dissipated, my focus shifted to the larger picture. The script, the story, the impeccable execution of a fast-paced cat-and-mouse cop show with multiple interwoven layers, time –leaps while jarred relationships both past and present unfolded simultaneously made for a compelling watch.
A TV show binge-watcher, I have often marveled at shows like Homeland, The Americans, NCIS, Game of Thrones, Narcos and so many others that have nailed that one essential ingredient in keeping their audience hooked – a nail-biting storyline.
So it is quite a mystery why the menu on our Indian small screens leaves a lot to be desired. Why is it that we cannot match our ‘phoren’ counterparts in conceptualizing and executing riveting scripts instead of the regressive Saas-Bahu odysseys that are as mind-numbing as they are misogynist?
Why is it that the TV shows we are subjected to circle around the same archaic family sagas with heavily bejeweled women conniving and manipulating their way in and out of family feuds and the lives of the men they worship?
Why can’t we have an Indian emulation of Homeland helmed by a desi Carrie Mathews – a woman in the lead, cutting out the irrelevant, exaggerated drama and keeping the focus purely on a fast-paced, compelling story? Why does an Indian actress have to become a cross-over actor batting for a foreign team to become a part of quality television such as Quantico?
Doesn’t this clearly resonate the lack of such quality entertainment in our neck of the woods?
The ever-increasing demand for gripping Television content in India has been evident for many years now with the number of American TV show downloads, consumers of Netflix, Torrent websites and video- streaming escalating every year. The content on Netflix in India is limiting and offers only Bollywood movies while Hollywood has both shows and movies to offer.
It’s a gaping hole in opportunities for TV producers in India. Why aren’t they weighing in?
Till the early 1990s, before the advent of cable TV, shows like ‘Chitrahar’ and ‘Rangoli’ on Doordarshan ruled our lives. Even today I hear stories from my parents and grandparents about how they used to be glued to their television screens during the limited time that they were allowed in front of the television by their parents. ‘Hum Log’, ‘Buniyaad’, ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’ were some of the early frontrunners that drummed up the TRPs and were hot favorites at the time.
Before long, cable TV entered the bull pen and opened the gates for shows like CID, Crime Patrol that still remain some of the few popular, engaging shows on the Indian roster. But those were few and far between.
It wasn’t long before the wrath of Balaji Productions rained down hard on Indian television and banished it into a rude exile of banal soap operas that we are still stuck in. While the rest of the world jumps ahead in leaps and bounds.
It is no wonder that we seek greener pastures in Pakistani serials that soothe over the monotony and prosaic story-telling somewhat, delivering content void of superfluous frills and keeping the story gripping and to-the-point.
Even countries like Korea are seeing a spate of quality small screen creations with shows like the hugely popular Descendants of the Sun that has hit it out of the park with its on-point ensemble cast, impeccable story-telling that superbly weaves in romance, action, suspense, tragedy and a strong female protagonist portrayed in an equal footing with her male counterpart has all found immense favor among the Asian consumers.
While we have succumbed to shows like Bigg Boss and Kapil Sharma’s Comedy that have inarguably soared as far as TRPs are concerned, we ache for original, gripping story lines of our own that can put us on the map and at par with our counterparts abroad.
It is time to put to bed the misogyny and regressive content that our mothers, grandmothers and aunts are lapping up for lack of knowing any better.
It is time to tap into our abundant collective, creative intellect.
It is time for another kind of ‘Make in India’.