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Television demands Kitchen Politics

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By: Sneha Hazarika
Monday, April 16, 2007

Divyanka Tripathi was into adventure sports and had a gold medal in rifle shooting but now is famous as Vidya, a girl married to a mentally retarded man who is used to harassment and constant mental and physical torture from her sister-in-law in 'Banoo Main Teri Dulhan'. Rajshri Thakur a k a Saloni of 'Saat Phere' constantly fights with all the conspirators around her throughout. Even Smriti Irani feels proud of Tulsi who still fights for her rights staying in the super rich Virani clan.

Vidya, Tulsi and Saloni, the characters are so very popular, just because they are vulnerable, just like the majority of country's middle class women. Maybe that's why they are accepted immediately once they come on screen. The moolah they bring to the channel shows their importance. A mere ten second commercial airtime costs in lakhs to the advertiser who wants to advertise his/her product in the breaks that these shows have.

If the show has a title which directly relates to a common woman, for example 'Maayka', 'Betiyaan', 'Paraaya Dhan', it is been seen that it becomes easier for the channel to attract majority of viewers. The programming Head of Sahara One Sundaram tries to explain the game. 'In fact, only soaps with woman as the central protagonist or marriage centric titles works. Because, TV targets female audiences who are at home, whether urban woman or rural', he says. However producer Ajay Sinha, who has long running shows like 'Astitva', 'Hasratien' to his his credit as well as the current 'Ghar Ek Sapna' feels it's an alarming situation. He states, 'Just as the saying goes -As you sow so you reap, a large section of our population is illiterate and today's woman is still far away from mental progress. That is what we are showing in our serials today - kitchen politics, conspiracies, female torture etc. It's doing no good'

The situation maybe alarming but nobody dares to go against this trend fearing losses. A show with such a non regressive subject or title is considered as a wrong choice or a wasted effort. Shows like 'Lucky', 'Virasat', 'Jeetain Hain Jiske Liye' are yet to be considered by viewers. 'Durgesh Nandinii' where the protagonist is stronger than others is still waiting to get the minimum expected TRPs. So, can they really be considered as failures? 'Any subject sells when it has female torture and harassment. A serial clicks which shows a woman being beaten after which she fights back', admits Sundaram.

Kavita Barjatya of Rajshri Productions, whose 'Wo Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki' is getting great reviews, sharing her views says, 'A show doing well or not depends upon the content of the show or the storyline. Moreover TV revolves around woman-centric stories unlike the silver screen which has and will be dominated by men.'

But then amidst all this, there have been shows like 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa', 'Indian Idol' and 'Bigg Boss' which have done well. Reality shows work because they give a break to the viewers who constantly keep watching the same characters almost every day. Moreover, women may not be the only target viewers for such shows but they do cover most part of the target viewership", explains Kavita Barjatya. Maybe there is a universal interest involved here. The emotional quotient attached to them also probably contributes to their success.

Producer Ajay Sinha has a different theory. According to him, 'These reality shows never manage to gain TRPs more than our daily soaps. The channels too don't take much risk in them because they present them just as a seasonal flavor'

Now even more and more shows on kitchen politics, harassment and torture are being planned by hundreds of production houses that are eager to get into this cut throat competition. This has left people with mixed reactions. Whereas some people are surprised, producer Ajay Sinha is worried. 'They are going to stay for the next 100 or 50 years at least'. However, Kavita Barjatya is confident. Reacting on this she says, 'The future is strong as we all are deep rooted Indians. Yes some change is round the corner'. As for us, we can only wait and watch.

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