Indian TV Soaps – Then and Now Essay

Talking about TV soap operas has now become a household gossip in India. Inevitably, one has to pass out some comments over the daily episodes of these soaps. We are aware of the reality that television has a greater potential impact on social development than ever before in human history but how much? We prove ourselves so meek in the sphere of reel world that it tends to even shape and mould our behaviors and attitudes. Now the question that strikes our mind is that is it the “pervasive nature” of these soaps that casts a spell on its viewers or is it audience becoming so addictive to it?

The answer will be obvious by taking a flashback on the journey of TV serials in India. The first ever TV soap opera of India was “Hum Log” (1984) aired on doordarshan which telecasted only 156 episodes for 17 months during the years 1984-1985. The series quickly became immensely popular and its characters became legends and a common topic of discussion. Hum Log was a story of an Indian middle class family of the 1980s and their daily struggles and aspirations. Its main aim was to entertain audiences but also promoted such social themes as gender equality, small family and planned family and national integration as well.

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At the end of each 22 min episode, a veteran Hindi film actor Ashok Kumar used to discuss the on-going story and situations with the audience in a unique style using Hindi couplets and rhymes. The study of Hum Log’s review showed that a high degree of “para-social interaction” occurred between the audience members and their favourite Hum Log character. Para-social interaction is the face-to-face interpersonal relationship that develops between a viewer and a media role model.

Being the first ever soap opera of India Hum Log achieved a reliable success and about 50 million individuals watched the average broadcast of Hum Log. Thus we view Hum Log as the first ever edutainment soap opera of India and also its positive effect on our society. Hum Log was followed by Buniyaad produced by filmmaker Ramesh Sippy following his poor performance at the box office at those times. It would be interesting to note that according to a 1986 survey conducted by Operations Research Group, a major marketing research company, gross box ffice collections at Delhi cinema theatres declined by 25 to 30 percent during 1984-85. This was the reason why Ramesh chose to join the soap operas as Hum Log had attracted the attention of Mumbai film industry towards it which earlier had a skeptic attitude towards doordarshan. In this context we see doordarshan emerging as the trend setter of social milieu and audience shutting up their view of skepticism against it. The following decade i. e. the last decade of the millennium came with much more soaps with varying contents.

Talking about comic serials we had Shrimaan Shrimati, All The Best and Ek Se Badhkar Ek, thrillers like Karamchand, Tehqeeqaat, and Janki Jasoos, nationalistic ones like Hum Hindustani, Sea Hawks, Swaraj and melodramas like Jazbaat and Swaabhimaan to name a few, all from doordarshan. Those were the days when people would throng to the homes of those having TV sets and very anxiously waited for these serials. History lovers had to wait till Sunday for serials like Akbar-The Great, Chandrakanta, Panipat Ki Aakhri Jung, Mulla Naseerud Din and Alif Laila.

These serials were successful enough to be liked by the audience and people mostly viewed them for entertainment and unlike today they were presented only once a week. Since the advent of Cable Satellite TV channels in India the Sony and Zee Tv being its pioneers; serial channels brought a new trend both in its color and content. With the rise of new millenium these channels started flooding themselves with serials depicting mostly Saas-Bahu relations and family intrigues (the brainchild of Ekta Kapoor) mostly from Star Plus and then it came to Zee TV and others.

The effect on audiences was so alarming that even many bollywood actors made their way into such soaps. Ekta’s “K” factor was the turning point in the history of soap operas in India. Ekta Kapoor not only presented Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhie Bahu Thi but very vividly narrated Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kasam Se it not only persuaded audiences but also shaped and moulded their perceptions, attitudes, behaviors or say revolutionized their whole outlook even in Kashmir. The effect of this feminisizing of serials on our female folks is still vibrant.

A sense of their dominance over males has inculcated in them, call it a charming spell of Ekta. Not only this, there is an unending gossip going on the next day regarding the last episodes looking like they are talking about their colleagues. This clearly exhibits the strong hold of these operas over the viewers and also the swaying of their socio-cultural existence. Keeping in view the changing tastes of audiences the Saas-Bahu soaps shut their shops almost after a decade.

Now we have soaps like Parvarish again the socio-edutainment content and other depicting the clash of cultures and romance in a melodramatic way via Bade Achche Lagte Hain on Sony TV produced by Ekta Kapoor starring her tamed “K-serial” stars Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar. The serial is currently a big hit. How? Again call it the celebrated genius of Ekta and also the then Paarvati becoming Priya and Mr. Jai Wallia becoming Mr. Ram Kapoor. By taking a review on the journey of TV soaps in India the answer is “YES”.

Yes these soaps have bewitched us and very easily dominate our delicate emotions as we very easily succumb to it. There is also no denying in our being addicted to it not knowing why. Ok, that was a flashback. So, talking about present soaps it is Parvarish of children otherwise Kuch To Log Kahenge but still there are high TRP rates over Bade Achche Lagte Hain. So No Way Out of these charming Soaps. Fazil Qayoom is a student at Media Education Research Center, University of Kashmir and a print journalist

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