I was nine when Kasautii Zindagii Kay premiered on national television. Despite being one among the countless Ekta Kapoor shows that had titles starting with K, it nevertheless stood out for me. In my juvenile head, its story of star-crossed lovers gave it the feel of a home-grown Shakespearean romance, different from everything else that aired on TV then. I remember watching it night after night until I could watch it no more.
Today, 17 years later, I have long moved on but Indian TV is stuck in time, more garish and painfully uninspiring than ever.
When Ekta Kapoor first announced Kasautii’s reboot earlier this year, the show’s loyalists (yes, they exist) rejoiced but a lot of us shuddered inwardly. In 2001, a show like Kasautii worked, not because of its great content, but essentially because Indian audiences did not have many options.
However, the world is starkly different today, so is the audience and their sensibilities. 10-minute long slo-mo character introductions and CGI flown ‘dupattas’ may have worked then but today they will be seen for what they are—utterly ridiculous—and will be called out too by the viewers who are largely a generation hard-pressed on time, that speaks its mind, is known for dwindling attention and cannot imagine a day-in without Netflix.
But Ekta Kapoor knows it already. Why do you think she launched her own streaming platform ALT Balaji otherwise? Trying to monetise the untapped potential in the Indian web space, she has been consistently populating it with original shows such as Bose and Home. If she can put out such content on the web, why discriminate against TV then?
It isn’t just Ekta though. Colors TV also has its own web-streaming platform called Voot, which features interesting originals such as Feet Up With The Stars and Stupid Man Smart Phone. Its television shows meanwhile are still lamentably limited to Naagin, which is now in its third season (the horror!) and Bigg Boss, now in its 12th season (says it all).
Interestingly, despite global web-streaming platforms wolfing a large share of the domestic entertainment space, TV still is the most popular source of entertainment in India for it reaches even areas where the internet hasn’t yet. It offers content in regional languages, a versatility which international media service providers are working towards.
But just because a clear divide is now emerging in who watches what, is it fair to feed off it? Make viewers in Jabalpur suffer through the ‘saas bahu aur saazish’ type content on TV while simultaneously aspiring to grab the attention of the metro junta with content-driven web shows?
So dear daily soap creators, here’s a request—use new shiny bottles all you want, but don’t serve rotten old wine. We may not all binge-watch Netflix or live in metro cities, but we can tell. Also, internet will eventually reach the remotest of India much like TV. What then?
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