Kapil Sharma, Naagin effect, family dramas: The shows and trends that dominated Hindi TV this decade
A talk show championing social causes, a comedy star, youthful romances and long-running family dramas, eccentric characters and reality talent hunts, gods, emperors and icchadhari naagins — the Hindi TV-scape of this decade was peopled by a motley crew.
This is the first in a two-part story on what the years 2010 to 2019 wrought in the world of Hindi TV.
A talk show championing social causes, a comedy star, youthful romances and long-running family dramas, eccentric characters and reality talent hunts, gods, emperors and icchadhari naagins — the Hindi TV-scape of this decade was peopled by a motley crew. Even as shows from the previous decade, like Balika Vadhu, Pavitra Rishta, Kaun Banega Crorepati, Bigg Boss, Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma and Koffee With Karan continued to go strong, a newer batch of offerings were ready to take their place at the top of the TRP charts.
Among this decade’s runaway success stories was Comedy Nights With Kapil. Launched on Colors in 2013, Comedy Circus contestant Kapil Sharma presided over a celebrity chat and skit format that would prove to be a ratings juggernaut for the next three years.
Archana Puran Singh, who has worked with Kapil Sharma on both Comedy Circus and Sony’s The Kapil Sharma Show, describes the comedian as “a lovable person, who has this onscreen image of a naïve country bumpkin that people find cute”.
Of course, Kapil’s journey hasn’t been without its share of controversies. Amid talk of celebrity guests being made to waiting hours for the comedian to show up on the sets of his show, came a major controversy: Kapil’s longtime collaborator Sunil Grover quit after an altercation between the duo on a flight. In 2018, the game show Family Time With Kapil Sharma was abruptly taken off air after just two episodes.
But Kapil has bounced back. Currently, The Kapil Sharma Show enjoys a TRP of 1.8, making the comedian among the most sought-after small screen personalities yet again.
“The popularity of a show depends on how it cuts across the barriers of age and gender, and Kapil has done that,” says Archana Puran Singh. “Shows normally have an upward trajectory, then a plateau, and then go down, but Kapil’s show has been consistent on the TRP charts and defied normal viewing practices.”
Away from the wackiness of Kapil and his brand of comedy, a far more serious enterprise was soon making its mark on the small screen — Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate. Beginning in 2012, the show that addressed socially relevant issues (and championed change off-screen as well), became a Sunday morning fixture for audiences over its three-season run.
“Satyamev Jayate was much more than a show,” says director Satyajit Bhatkal. “We wanted to trigger a people’s movement on issues. The TRPs were secondary, as compared to what was happening on the ground level due to the show.”
Bhatkal says after an episode on alcoholism was aired, three-and-a-half lakh alcoholics had registered in rehabilitation programmes in three weeks’ time. Despite effecting change, the team decided to wind up the show. Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao and a few other members of the team went on to start the Paani Foundation.
“Satyamev Jayate touched so many lives, so many positive things came out of it,” says Bhatkal. “Aamir was also very particular that this was a space for his guests to open up, not him. He gave his 100 percent to every conversation.”
Meanwhile, another Bollywood star was tasting small screen success, in an entirely different genre. Anil Kapoor’s 24 — an official remake of the Kiefer Sutherland thriller of the same name — was roundly praised by audiences when it took off in 2013. Kapoor’s production house signed a 100-crore deal to secure the rights to the remake, and brought on board a stellar cast that included Shabana Azmi, Rahul Khanna, Anupam Kher and Sakshi Tanwar, among others.
“We worked hard and hoped for the best,” Anil Kapoor told Firstpost, of 24’s two-season run. “The audience enjoying and loving our show was the cherry on the cake — the cake being the thrilling ride that was 24 India.”
The actor, however, remained coy about whether a season 3 was in the works, saying simply” “You will know it when we do it!”
If a younger demographic was drawn to slickly produced shows like 24, then they also had youth programming on MTV and Channel V to tune in to. Campus stories that revolved around teenage love and aspirations — Kaisi Yeh Yaariaan, Sadda Haq, Dil Dostii Dance — got their young cast a sizeable fan following. Part of the reason these stories felt authentic to the target audience may have been because the actors themselves shared a warm off-screen camaraderie. Vrushika Mehta, who played Sharon on D3, remembers rehearsals that would last till 3 am, after pack-up was called at 10 pm! The cast would watch YouTube videos and pick up new choreography, bond over pranks.
Audiences also showed their appreciation for characters and concepts that weren’t run of the mill. A case in point is &tv’s surprise hit Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain! The show ran into some rough weather in 2016 when lead actress Shilpa Shinde quit, citing harassment from the producers, but has otherwise had a fairly smooth going TRP-wise.
Bhabiji actor Aasif Sheikh says he knew the show’s formula would prove to be a hit when writer Manoj Santoshi first discussed the concept with him. The magnitude of Bhabiji’s success, however, took him by surprise. “The small-town language and mannerisms have managed to connect with many Indians and hence, shows like ours have become a yard stick for other potential concepts along similar lines,” Sheikh says. “Small town language and dialects have their own in-built humour which has appealed to an urban audience too.”
If an intersex protagonist (played by Rubina Dilaik) propelled Shakti — Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki to high ratings (Dilaik says audiences accepted her character with open arms, and among the highlights of the shoot was a sequence depicting the transgender community worshipping the deity) then Jennifer Winget’s attention-grabbing turn as Maya in Beyhadh ensured the show became a talking point. Currently in its second season, Winget credits the show with giving her “a blank canvas to chart the course of (her) character”.
Romance in all its iterations continued to rule the small screen in this decade. From a remake of the Pakistani serial Dhoop Kinare (Kuch Toh Log Kahenge) to the much-talked-about Ram Kapoor-Sakshi Tanwar show Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, from the Preetika Rao-Harshad Arora starrer Beintehaa to Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon? and Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi, audiences lapped up love stories. Among those that enjoyed greater longevity was Ishqbaaaz, with Nakuul Mehta and Surbhi Chandna in the lead. To accommodate the narrative’s sprawling family (and all their attendant life events), Ishqbaaaz was spun off into a second show, Dil Bole Oberoi.
Surbhi says the show’s producer Gul Khan could always be counted on to do something “out of the box, which she did with the spin-off on TV for the first time. Other people took inspiration from there and today all the spin-offs are doing well.” Indeed, shows like Kumkum Bhagya and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai also took the Ishqbaaaz route and launched spin-offs of their own, with Kundali Bhagya and Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke, respectively.
Spin-offs aside, sequels also saw brisk traction in this decade. Sanjivani 2, Khichdi 2 and Kasautii Zindagii Kay 2 showed that nostalgia for their successful originals could translate into viewership for these newer versions as well. Sanjivani 2 is a relatively new entrant to the scene, but lead actress Surbhi Chandna says the original’s legacy (there was another successor to the show, in the previous decade’s Dill Mill Gayye) has been a boon. However, Surbhi adds, “What we are offering is different from the earlier show. We tried to go the Gray’s Anatomy way but I feel people are still to ease up on accepting a medical show. We are trying to balance it out with fun, interpersonal relationships.”
The sequels perhaps also proved that even as content diversifies, Hindi TV audiences will always retain a soft spot for the more “old school” shows.
Diya Aur Baati Hum ran from 2011 to 2016, and spawned a (relatively) shorter running sequel called Tu Sooraj Main Saanjh, Piyaji. Yeh Hai Mohabbatein launched in 2013 — and wrapped up this month. Along the way, it used every trick in the Hindi TV soap book to keep audiences hooked: time and generation leaps, protagonist deaths and resurrections, face transplants. As a testament to its success, it has been granted a sequel too (Yeh Hai Chahatein). YHM’s lead actress and one of the small screen’s top influencers, Divyanka Tripathi says the show’s long run had to do with its relatable protagonist, an everywoman. “I feel wonderful when viewers tell me about how Ishita (Divyanka’s character) affected their lives,” she says, lauding YHM’s creative team for churning out the myriad twists and turns that kept the plot going for six years.
If there was one trend in the past decade that challenged the hegemony of the family drama, it was the continuing rise of mythology and historical epics.
If Siya Ke Ram and Mahabharata proved the epics will always find an audience, it was Devon Ke Dev Mahadev that really cast an outsize shadow on the small screen. By the time it neared its end in 2014, a historical show — Jodha Akbar — had taken up its mantle. And already waiting in the wings was Naagin.
Ekta Kapoor’s fantasy drama brought snakes and mongooses back in vogue, with its female leads playing shape-shifting serpents seeking revenge. Currently in its fourth season and enjoying TRPs touching 4.5, there’s clearly no stopping this tale of icchadhari naagins. The ‘original naagin’, actress Mouni Roy, had told this writer in a recent interview: “The show was so widely watched… and it gave me a medium to showcase my talent. That’s when the calls for film auditions happened. Naagin was one of the biggest milestones in my career and I will always be grateful to Ekta Kapoor for it.”
Looking back on the trends and shows that made a mark on Hindi TV over the past decade, noted television writer Siddharth Dey says that there are common threads that stand out.
“Entertainment is ruled by the traditions of a nation. Our country thrives on naach-gaana at the drop of a hat, and that is seen in all our reality shows as well,” says Dey. He points to the success of Superstar Singer and the continuing popularity of Indian Idol, while observing, “The 2017 season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa went on for a whopping nine months, making it one of the longest-running reality shows in the world!”
Dey says that since these talent reality shows are (comparatively) not very expensive, channels vie for them. On the other hand, few take on the action genre, which is both expensive and exhausting. “Frankly speaking, in the last decade, only Colors has shown the gumption and expertise in creating an amazing property like Khatron Ke Khiladi,” he says. “Laughter also became an overnight addiction for the country with Kapil Sharma’s show. Soon, horrendously cheap imitations were available on nearly all channels, which fell flat because making people laugh is an art that’s as rare as watermelons without seeds,” Dey quips.
In his estimation, viewers’ preferences when it comes to television have not changed overmuch, because wholesome entertainment for the family is still the mandate. He says, “Till the concept of families will exist, shows like Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and The Kapil Sharma Show will rule the roost.”
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