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Wider reach of TV attracts film-makers and varied storytellers

MUMBAI: For the past few years, content on Indian television has gone through several changes with a number of film-makers venturing into the small screen.

The wider reach of TV has attracted several storytellers ranging from Anurag Basu’s ‘Rabindranath Tagore Series’ and Ramesh Deo’s ‘24’ to Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Yudh’ and Nikhil Advani’s soon-to-be-released ‘P.O.W: Bandi Yuddh Ke’.

“It’s TV’s big reach that attracts storytellers. It is not a medium that is dominated by star cast. Big stars have struggled to get eyeballs because of a weak story, while there have been successful shows with a new star cast, but a good storyline. Hence, star cast doesn’t matter for Indian TV audiences,” said Star India EVP and Star Plus GM Gaurav Banerjee.

TV audience is a larger group and more forgiving as they give more opportunities to get the craft right. TV is also said to be the medium that gives prominence to the writer, director and creator, said Banerjee. Films, on the contrary, have gone into the marketer’s domain as they are more about first day, first show.

Banerjee was speaking at a special panel at Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival. The panel was discussing the evolution of storytelling on TV.

Director Nikhil Advani—who has ventured into TV with ‘P.O.W: Bandi Yuddh Ke’, which will be aired on Star Plus from 7 November—stated that he had his doubts while making the show.

Nikhil Advani“I thought I would get a call from Gaurav about the content or star cast, but I never got that call. So, if I get that kind of support, then why wouldn’t I get into TV? When it comes to TV, you have to surround yourself with great writing and good actors. I have done films like ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, but for me working on the show was a daily challenge,” Advani said.

According to ‘True Detective’ director Cary Fukunaga, who was also on the panel, one of the reasons for film directors to make a transition to TV is that the producer and the director get an opportunity to do a long-form story on TV, which is not possible in film.

Gaurav Banerjee

Pointing to the snobbery that permeates the criticism of Indian TV content, Banerjee said, “I think the detractors of Indian TV shows have the privilege of living with TV and the opportunity to follow international shows. But we broadcasters mostly talk to Bharat, the vast majority of our TV-viewing audience, not to India. For most of these viewers, TV is as recent as the last 5–10 years. These are the households that really matter for the mind space, and that is where storytellers like Ekta Kapoor or stories like ‘Diya Aur Baati Hum’ have made a real difference.”

Banerjee sees no problem with fantasy shows like Colors’ ‘Naagin’ and Zee TV’s ‘Brahmarakshas’, because people in the West also follow shows like ‘Twilight’ and ‘Games of Thrones’. For him TV has been instrumental in shaping public consciousness in India. Considering shows like Aamir Khan’s ‘Satyamev Jayate’, Ramesh Sippy’s ‘Buniyaad’ and recently Nikhil Advani’s ‘P.O.W’, the impact of Indian TV shows has been visibly strong over the years.

The panel concluded that, being only around for two decades, TV in India is still trying to find its hold within the market, which is reflected in the various experiments in formats from daytime soaps to seasonal shows.