So this one night, I and my uncle were watching Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma and were discussing how the quality of shows that appear on Indian television have deteriorated over a period of time, except for few ones like TMKUC. Also, against the American shows, Indian television has a long way to go.
In about 80s and 90s, Indian television had great quality of television in all categories such as drama (Buniyad, Swabhimaan), crime (Tehkikat, Surag, Reporter), mythology (Mahabharat, Ramayan, Alif Laila), comedy (Dekh Bhai Dekh, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Flop Show), women pride (Udaan, Shanti, Tara), teens (Hip Hip Hurray), kids (Disney Hour, Aladdin, Jungle Book), education (Turning Point, Surabhi, Bournvita Quiz Contest), reality shows (Movers and Shakers, Boogie Woogie) and so much more.
But come 2000s and all of that went away. And as the time progressed, it deteriorated further with storms of saas-bahu shows which were hyper dramatic, full of negativity and hatred, poorly written scripts and unrealistic set up, conquered Indian television. Negativity and hatred are very easy to sell. And that’s how these shows became popular and kept running for thousands of episodes.
There were shows that started off on a promising note of not being into that league, ended up in the same pile of garbage. For example, Kahi Kisi Roz was supposed to be a horror-cum-drama show, but the horror part faded away after first couple of episodes and what was left was just saas-bahu drama. Sanjeevani was supposed to be a medical science serial but the characters (doctors) in the show did everything else but to treat a patient. Compare that to a show “Lifeline” that was aired in 90s, was actually on doctors lives and day-to-day challenges they face in their profession. Very high quality show. Even in US, you have House, which is based on medical diagnostics and even the actual show sticks to the theme, along with other side plots. However, every episode of it spends 80% of the time talking about the diseases and diagnostics.
Big Bang Theory reaches the pinnacle of script writing. For me, to conceptualize something like that and then actually writing down a script on top of it which blends pure science and humor in a way that common man is able to understand, is difficult than climbing up Mount Everest. Numb3rs, that combines statistics into crime investigation in a very rational manner to solve criminal cases hits the ball out of the park when compared to stupid Indian shows like CID that has been running since decades for nothing. Indian television just doesn’t have space for something like BBT and Numb3rs. Even if it has, it’s just not ready to give that up.
A few days back, I read Harsha Bhogle’s Facebook post where he lambasted Indian media for highly negative attitude for something like sports. While he wanted to talk about all the positive things happening around Indian cricket, journalists were just not ready to listen to that and instead wanted some bites around things that will sell (negative stuff) because otherwise it won’t make it to prime time slot and they’ll lose their jobs.
For me, it’s a serious issue. Covering negative stuff is one thing, but hunting exclusively for it is far more serious indicator of where our television industry is heading.