What is holding back Indian fantasy fiction on television?

Even as international series such as 'Game of Thrones' & 'Vampire Diaries' have huge following in India, homegrown fantasy fiction series have lagged behind. We explore

e4m by Collin Furtado
Updated: Jul 7, 2014 3:42 AM
What is holding back Indian fantasy fiction on television?

Fantasy fiction has managed to find audiences in India and has been received well – be it on television (international series such as ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Vampire Diaries’) or movies (the ‘Krrish’ franchise). However, when it comes to Indian fiction shows on TV, they have mostly failed to move beyond kids viewership and have garnered low ratings.

Now, MTV is set to tap the youth viewership with its new fantasy fiction series in Hindi, called ‘Fanaah - An Impossible Love Story’. ‘Fanaah’ will be similar to the successful international show ‘Vampire Diaries’ and will feature werewolves and a supernatural backdrop, but built on the Indian teenage life.

‘Fanaah’ will join the handful of Indian fantasy fiction shows, which include ‘The Adventures of Hatim’ and ‘Baal Veer’. As per recent data sourced from TAM subscribers, ‘The Adventures of Hatim’ had received a rating of 2.1 TVM in Week 26 of 2014 (June 22 to 28) and stood fourth on Life OK’s programme rankings. This is quite low when compared to the 4.9 TVM ratings it received in Week 4 of 2014 (January 19 to 25), which was by far the highest ratings it received during the year so far. Similarly, ‘Baal Veer’ scored ratings of 2.1 TVM in Week 26 of 2014 and stood fourth on SAB TV’s programme rankings.

However, these ratings are nowhere close to the ratings of soaps or other genres of shows on television. So, why then are channels continuing to release such fantasy fiction shows and who is watching them?

Balakrishna PM, COO, Allied Media, Percept Group remarked, “I think, the affinity has been there, but is there actual growth in terms of huge numbers of viewership? That is only something that one can assess only after seeing a few trends. So, on a very macro level, I can say that these shows are being launched with more frequency, which means that there is some traction of viewership growth.”

On the other hand, Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins Multivision, a production house that produced Indian fantasy fiction series such as ‘Thief of Baghdad’, ‘Rajkumar Aryan’ for NDTV Imagine and ‘Shaurya Aur Suhani’ for Star Plus, stressed that there is a large audience that watches fantasy fiction. He said, “It all depends on genre to genre. So, something happening on MTV, where the base audience is different, the nature of the show will be more like a niche show for teenagers. But when you come to bigger fantasy shows on a GEC, then across the board viewership is there. It all depends where you are positioning your show. But the audience is quite ready and hungry for such shows.”

Commenting on the growth of Indian fantasy fiction, Sumeli Chatterjee, Head – Marketing, Media & Insights, MTV India & MTV Indies said, “If you’re talking about fantasy fiction series in India, we don’t really have many names in this category. But if you look at fantasy movies, there have been a lot of interesting movies that have been launched of late. Whether you take the ‘Krrish’ franchise or any other franchises that have come and also international franchises such as ‘X-Men’, ‘Twilight’ or ‘Transformers’, they are definitely tickling their (the audience in India) appetite for the fantasy or supernatural world.”

Speaking on the audience profile of Indian fantasy fiction shows, Balakrishna noted, “These are largely viewed by kids and the younger age group; below 10 years age group will be watching these shows to a large extent. That is not to say that there are no other audience watching.”

Giving a production studio’s view point, Abhimanyu Singh, CEO, Contiloe Entertainment said that specialised costumes and visual effects make the genre expensive to produce. Thus, there has been criticism of amateur production standards and tacky special effects.

The question arises as to whether such shows generate enough ad revenues. According to Balakrishna, fiction fantasy series are more about youth brands. “Most brands understand that India is young country, so if the programme shows promise and there is actual reach of the programme and viewership, you will find so-called ‘no view’ brands also sponsoring. Currently, I don’t see that kind of traction on numbers (ratings) for any show. They (fantasy fiction shows) would not be able to claim the kind of rates that prime time, or for that matter other fiction programmes, are able to generate,” he added.

With MTV’s new show ‘Fanaah’ looking to expand the audience base for Indian fantasy fiction shows, there is excitement in the genre. It remains to be seen whether the expectations are met and whether the show can successfully compete with shows in other genres, thus paving the way for more such series.

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