Ratings race kills quality

Devapriyo Bhattacharjee on what ails television soaps

The classic school of scriptwriting suggests that every story must have three basic parts — beginning, middle, and an end — without which it is not complete. But the melodramatic daily soaps on Indian TV channels have a beginning that people forget in the middle and wait for the end that never comes.

Experts feel the ongoing competition among various channels for television rating points (TRPs) has led to a situation where quality has taken a back seat. "There was a time when there was only one television channel and there was no fight for TRPs," said the veteran filmmaker Ravi Chopra whose epic serial Mahabharat created history with its viewership.

Chopra said the constant creative interference from the channels affect the process of making of a serial. "Channels dictate terms to various production houses regarding the creative content, which affects the quality most. Besides, in our times, only experts with a vast experience were asked to make serials whereas now the private channels do not look for such expertise," Chopra said.

Filmmaker Aziz Mirza, who made TV hits like Nukkad and Circus said: "Since we did not have the technology, we used to work more on the scripts and the presentation. We tried to give it a soul so that people could relate to it.

"But, I don’t find any soul in today’s soaps. They are full of camera jerks, fast cuts and all unnecessary gimmicks that can never cover the flaws in the script. These unending serials do the society no good," maintained Mirza. Production houses no longer want to experiment, lamented Siddharth Malhotra of Cinevista, which produced some remarkable serials like Gul, Gulshan, Gulfam, Katha Sagar, and Junoon in the 1990s. Malhotra said producers should also take the initiative in giving TV channels a set of options.

"We as producers should be responsible and stick to our own ideology. One should not succumb to the pressure of a channel. If we think of a concept or an idea that is new and creative, we can surely convince the channel about it."

Eminent filmmaker Ketan Mehta, whose serial Mr Yogi was widely accepted by audiences, said the television industry was going through a vast change.

"The change is positive and there are more opportunities. The industry is going through a major transition and when this is over, I think, things are going to settle down. But as far as the present condition is concerned, I accept the fact that there has been a huge degradation of quality. But at the same time I am confident that things are going to settle down in the future," Mehta added.

TV actor Amit Behl, who debuted with Shanti, said: "Soaps give us money. I do soaps when I run out of money. It gives us fast money but no creative satisfaction. To keep myself creatively satisfied, I do special serials, and act in films."

Anooj Kapoor, senior vice-president SET India Pvt Ltd, said: "The ‘saas-bahu’ melodrama has created a problem in various families. Since, India is a country where the joint family is still in vogue, we as professionals in entertainment should keep the social structure in mind when creating content. — IANS