The Great Lockdown, triggered by the rare disaster Covid-19 pandemic, affected lives and livelihoods across sectors. In fact, with the threat of a third wave still looming large, normalcy hasn’t returned in many parts of the country. The restrictions, however, didn’t have much of an impact on television industry. Moreover, it reaped rich dividends while the rest of the world continued to suffer.
With most people getting confined to the four walls of their homes, they didn’t have too many choices to spend time other than watching TV shows. While many channels struggled to generate content at these difficult hours, public service broadcaster Doordarshan, in a smart move, aired its hit old classic serials – Ramayan and Mahabharat. Even as these mythological shows were shown on umpteen occasions earlier, this time they shattered all viewership records. Many industry experts, who dismissed watching of televisions as a thing of the past a couple of months ago due to factors such as growth of the Internet, social media and increasing sales of android phones, had to swallow their words.
The scene reminded many the reign of small screen when there was only one channel Doordarhsan and watching new releases in theatres was an occasional treat. People would glue to the ‘idiot box’ to watch Buniyad, Nukkad, Hum Log, Khandaan – some of the finest shows on air. This was an era when TV was the only source of every household’s daily doses of news and entertainment.
Cut to 2021. Now, we are living in an era of binge-watching with all sources of entertainment just a touch point away. This certainly leaves no room for television to survive. But several surveys, made in post-pandemic phase, tell a different story.
Despite the constant onslaught of streaming platforms and rapid expansion of digital world, television is set to remain the prime choice of average Indian household as well as the advertisers for a long time to come, reveals a study.
Eminent writer Pradipta Nanda who has hit Odia serials like Duhita, Uttardai, Damini and Gayatri to his credit says television, post 1980s, emerged as one of the prominent media and the magic is still on. “Since then, a lot of change has taken place in subjects and presentation depending upon the viewers’ demand. Though not many people are happy with the quality and presentation style of serials churned out these days, it is only a reflection of the makers’ lack of interest in original stories. But if you look at the brighter side, TV has created a pool of artistes and given the opportunities, they can bring in positive changes in the society. Though social media and streaming platforms have posed a challenge, I am sure they can never be the substitutes to television,” adds Nanda.
Former Assistant Station Director of Bhubaneswar Doordarshan Kendra Tapash Bose heralded a new era in television spearheading hugely popular Kalyani, an entertainment-based health programme of Government of India. Quality content and performance were his thrust area. Before him, no one ever thought that a health programme could be presented in such an entertaining manner. Bose is not quite happy with the content of the shows dished out to the viewers these days. “In those days we had lots of constraints both technical and logistic. But we didn’t compromise with the quality of content and the involvement of the cast and crew. We considered viewers as the ultimate judge of our works. Unfortunately, this is not the case now. We have advanced a lot technologically and there is no dearth of talents in Odisha. Despite that, viewers, in the name of entertainment, these days are made to watch shows on snakes, black magic and other superstitions. No wonder, the interest of the viewers is waning,” observe Bose who was instrumental in helping many get their much required break in television.
Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalay alumnus Pradip Dash has helmed several popular mega serials including Abhujha E Mana, Tulasi, Dasi, Uttardai, Basundhara, Force Garuda, Adhikar and many others. “Doordarshan was the one and only channel when I started out in the TV industry in the early 1990s. Not only me, many from my generation will admit that the foundation of our success was laid at the Doordarshan Kendra of Bhubaneswar. I have learnt a lot working in DD programmes and am proud of being groomed at a place which I call my second home. There was only one window at that time but what I learnt there stood me in good stead when I started working with other private channels. Now several entertainment channels operate in Odisha creating a lot of openings for the fresh talents. However, the quality of content has taken a beating,” shared Pradip seconding Bose.
“While working in DD’s Duhita we used to receive a sack full of post cards containing viewers’ comments. Can we think of getting such responses these days,” he asked.
Senior actress Bijayini Mishra, who appeared in popular mega serials like Dusamaya and Damini, has been active in small screen for nearly 40 years. She says, “After working in the 80s and with the present set up, I observe that we now tell substandard stories to the viewers. I regret to say that the makers are now more into making revenues than offering good content to the viewers. The actors now speak Odia dialogues with generous doses of Hindi. I don’t get the scent of the soil in stories, so the plots seem alien to me. Famous Odia classics are no more adapted to give quality content to the audience. The bonding of the past among the artistes is missing now. Earlier, the cast and crew of a project used to have get- togethers on several occasions even after the shooting was wrapped. But I miss that kind of camaraderie with the project I now work with.”
Lunch pad to big screen
A galaxy of film stars got their big breaks in small screens before being catapulted to the glitz of showbiz.
Shah Rukh Khan tops the list who have really made it big in the Tinsel Town. Three years after appearing in Doordarshan serials like Fauji and Circus, he made it big with Deewana in the Hindi film industry.
Late actor Irrfan Khan comes next in the list. Before making his presence felt at international level, the Lunch Box actor began his career in TV serials like Chanrakanta, Chanakya and Bharat Ek Khoj.
Like Khans, late Sushant Singh Rajput also first appeared in TV shows Kis Desh Mein Hai Mera Dil and Pabitra Rishta that gave him recognition. Then he made his debut in Kai Poche! and there was no looking back.
Vidya Balan’s first Hindi film was Parineeta, an adaptation of Sharat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel of the same name. By then, she was a popular face in television for her serial Hum Paanch.
Ayushmann Khurana is one of the most dependable actors in the Hindi film industry at the moment. However, he got recognition following his appearance in TV reality shows like Roadies 2. He too was a VJ on MTV and Channel V: Pop Stars
R Madhavan was a heartthrob in his prime which he still is. But before that Maddy won hearts of millions of households in TV serials like SeaHawks, Ghar Jamai, Banegi Apni Baat and Saaya.
Vicky Donor actress Yami Gautam who tied the knot recently is one of the most sought after actresses in the industry. But not many fans know about her dominating presence on the small screen in Chand Ke Paar Chalo and Yeh Pyar Na Hogi Kam before she ventured into the film industry.
The medium, back home, also offered a solid platform to popular celebrities like Mihir Das, Sidhant Mohapatra, Anubhab Mohanty and Sabyasachi before they became household names.