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New-age protagonist women dominate telly soaps

14-April-2004
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New-age protagonist women dominate telly soaps

The new-age woman is here. And television is all set to give her the red carpet treatment. Whether it is the spirited Saaksshi Singh, who battles against male chauvinism as an undercover operative in an anti-terrorist squad, or a determined Pallavi Joshi who tries to emerge out of a sedentary married life, or a middle-class Lavanya who stands for what she believes in, soap opera queens seem to be growing out of silk-laden fineries and the proverbial peppermint quarrels. The female protagonist has not just jumped off the silk sari squad; she has developed a mindset that questions the traditional patriarchal values of a male-dominated society. And, for all those who thought that, that beauty is a sure quotient for television TRPs, Jassi has quite redefined the standard formula.

Experimentation is evidently the name of the game and channels are spinning the reel around fresh formats and out of the box ideas. Says PRP Nair, Senior Vice President, RK Swamy, BBDO, “I think it’s great that channels like Sahara, Sony and Zee are thinking of formats that are beyond the proverbial kitchen politics. If you were to compare the ratings of the K serials in the current day, to what they used to gear in the past, you would find that there is a marked difference in the high’s that were seen then, and the high’s that are seen now. Audience fatigue is gradually setting in, which is what shows like Lavanya, Saaksshi, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam etc can capitalize on.”

He adds, “All of the new shows revolve around a female protagonist that distances herself from household squabbles. The standard formula is evidently losing its touch and its time to look for new and invigorated formats. This is exactly what entertainment channels are trying to do, in the form of shows such as Kehna Hain Kuch Mujhko or Lavanya. To a certain extent, some credit must be given to Jassi, as she spearheaded the thrust towards different formats.”

Manas Misra, Associate Vice President, Initiative Media agrees. He asserts, “The fact remains that Saas Bahu isn’t as much in currency, as what it used to be. This is why you have female protagonists emerging who differ from the standard Balaji mould. Television is a re creation of what’s happening on celluloid. When you have movies that deal subjects that have been seldom touched in filmdom, you would see a similar spin-off on the small screen as well. The protagonist just isn’t what she used to be. There is a thrust towards protagonists with a bolder shade, or a character sketch that differs from the K serial make.”

Misra adds, “Characters reflect the changes that are occurring in society. Today, women are more career minded and independent and the household is not the only place that they are restricted to. Hence when they are looking for plots, they are essentially seeking something that’s not restricted to kitchen politics.”

Meanwhile, from Star’s side, there aren’t too many qualms about the new shows or the portrayal of the female leads. Says Shailja Kejriwal, Creative Director, Content and Communication, Star Plus, “Prime time gears the maximum viewership and the trend of launching new shows in this slot has been continuing from quite some time now. Shows like Kehna Hain Kuch Mujhko, Saaksshi (the TRP’s are yet to come), Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam and Lavanya may have spun off but none of them are really expected to create a dent in our share of ratings. Shows like Kyunki, Kahaani, Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand continue to deliver top ratings. The fact remains, that the trick does not lie in launching new shows. Every show has to deliver in content, which is something that can be attributed to Star’s success.”

When asked about the changing definition of the female protagonist, Kejriwal states candidly, “All our female protagonists (be it Tulsi, Parvati, Karishma, Kashish or Saroj) have been radically different from each other in thought and action. Which is why they are all icons in their own right. The K shows as you call them, have brought in high ratings for more than three years, in a row. In the week March 28-April 3(the latest as of now) Kyunki had a TVR of 18.8, Kahaani with a TVR of 17.8, Kasauti with a TVR of 15.1(these three shows have completed more than 3 yrs), Kahin to Hoga (at 11.00p.m) with a TVR of 10.2 and Kumkum (the top show breaking records in afternoon) with a TVR of 15.1. This would display how popular they are.”

Undoubtedly, one would have to give Star its due. To make a success of shows that run three years at a stretch must not be an easy task. But from the point of the competing channels, experimentation is the name of the game. As Nair puts it, “All it takes, is another hook to entice the audiences.”

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