Re­turn of Tvra­jas

Move over the eter­nally suf­fer­ing daugh­ter and the schem­ing mother-in-law. De­spite their mid­dle age spread, men are back on In­dian soaps.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Nishat Bari

De­spite their mid­dle age spread, men are back on In­dian soaps.

The weepy women of In­dian tele­vi­sion have made way for the dash­ing older men. A portly Ram Kapoor plays a mid­dle-aged ty­coon in Bade Ac­che Lagte Hain, Mohnish Behl plays the quiet and brood­ing Dr Ashutosh in a re­la­tion­ship with a young in­tern in Kuch Toh Log Ka­henge, and Ronit Roy is the guardian of jus­tice as a lawyer in Adaalat. Samir Soni bat­tles his demons in the male-cen­tric show Parichay. One of In­dian tele­vi­sion’s long­est run­ning shows, CID, on air for more than 14 years now, is fronted by Shivaji Satam. To top it all, queen of the wo­man-driven soap, Ekta Kapoor, is work­ing on yet an­other mid­dle class se­ries, where the male lead is an every­man.

Peo­ple can watch the same story only so many times, says Kam­lesh Pandey, 60, who has adapted Pak­istani writer Haseena Moin’s story Dhoop Kinare for Kuch Toh Log Ka­henge. Tele­vi­sion has reached a sat­u­ra­tion point and the au­di­ence feels a psy­cho­log­i­cal need to have strong male char­ac­ters they can look up to, he adds. “TV of­ten re­places real gos­sip for women as they like to look at other women, their clothes and jew­ellery and talk about them.” But he be­lieves the time is ripe to in­tro­duce the silent, mys­te­ri­ous man to tele­vi­sion as this is the kind of char­ac­ter women get at­tracted to, even if he is slightly neg­a­tive. “Mohnish is the new silent, brood­ing face on TV,” he says. The au­di­ence is also crav­ing al­ter­na­tive gen­res like crime, thrillers, hor­ror and le­gal sto­ries, all of which will lend them­selves well to male leads, says

Adaalat pro­ducer Ab­hi­manyu Con­tiloe. “Pankaj Kapoor in the de­tec­tive show

Karam­c­hand was so iconic,” he adds. While pro­duc­ers are cre­at­ing new con­tent for an au­di­ence ex­hausted with com­mon kitchen themes of gos­sip and schem­ing, Tele­vi­sion Rat­ing Points ( TRPS) still re­main the main fo­cus. Some shows like Ekta Kapoor’s Bade Ac­che Lagte

Hain have hit the bull’s-eye, clock­ing TRPS rang­ing from 3.2 to 3.9, oth­ers haven’t fared as well— Kuch Toh Log Ka­henge has man­aged a rat­ing of only 0.9. It’s been a month since the show went on air and an­a­lysts have given it six months to prove its po­ten­tial. As sev­eral soaps com­pete with each other for higher rat­ings, the older, bank­able stars are be­ing brought back with big ticket roles.

Shailesh Kapoor, CEO and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Or­max Me­dia, thinks the ac­tors bring a lot of cred­i­bil­ity and eq­uity to the show. The act­ing is of bet­ter qual­ity. “These are not TV per­for­mances, where ev­ery di­a­logue has to be punc­tu­ated. It is real,” Ekta Kapoor says. It helps the show open well and sus­tain it­self over a pe­riod of time. Ban­dini, which aired on Imag­ine

TV from 2009 to 2011, was the first soap in a long time to have a strong male lead in the form of Ronit Roy who played Rishabh Ba­jaj in Kasautii Zindagi Kay dur­ing the hey­day of saas-bahu soaps.

It works both ways. Known faces stand out in the clut­ter, help­ing the show gain a wider au­di­ence, even out­side the tar­get group. Strong male leads bring in an additional male au­di­ence, as well as women out­side the tar­get group of 35 to 50 years. Sau­rabh Te­wari, pro­ducer and former pro­gram­ming head of Imag­ine

TV, points out that 18-30-year-old women find Ram Kapoor cute so the show gets an additional au­di­ence there as well. Ravin­dra Gau­tam, Bade Ac­che

Lagte Hain’s di­rec­tor, says peo­ple re­late to the mid­dle-aged char­ac­ters— they’ve mar­ried late and have started fall­ing in love. “I per­son­ally know a doc­tor and a navy com­man­der who fol­low the show.” Ekta Kapoor’s next soap takes it fur­ther. It will talk about a mid­dle class mar­riage 10 years down the line and ad­dress the ques­tion: “How do you wake up with the same per­son ev­ery day?”

Sea­soned ac­tors add to the char­ac­ter in a way a new ac­tor rarely can. Says Shailesh Kapoor, “Bade Ac­che

Lagte Hain sur­vives on the spe­cial mo­ments be­tween its lead­ing ac­tors that a new ac­tor can­not match.” Like the time a newly mar­ried Ram Kapoor or­ders enough food for two peo­ple for his own break­fast and of­fers to or­der more food for his wife. “An or­di­nary scene like that

is trans­formed into some­thing else.” Tele­vi­sion also be­comes a sec­ond in­nings for many. Mohnish Behl is faintly dis­ap­pointed with the TRPS of Kuch Toh Log

Ka­henge but main­tains the char­ac­ter in­ter­ested him. Not only are the two leads of the soap 18 years apart, they are strik­ingly dif­fer­ent. His ma­tu­rity is in sharp con­trast with the child­like man­ner­isms of Kri­tika Kamra—he is re­strained and smiles shyly, she sulks like a lit­tle girl and plots ways to catch his at­ten­tion. “Peo­ple are sur­prised that I am look­ing pretty good in the show. As an ac­tor I would like to get a higher vol­ume of work but how many such roles am I go­ing to come across? I may get the main vil­lain’s role, or the fa­ther of the boy or girl, but the nar­ra­tive would even­tu­ally shift to the young ro­mance,” says Behl, ar­tic­u­lat­ing the quandary of the age­ing male ac­tor.

Male-

ori­ented scripts have been few and far be­tween. Shivaji Satam has played ass­sis­tant com­mis­sioner of po­lice ( ACP) Prad­hyu­man in crime show CID for close to 14 years since Jan­uary 1998. It started as a show air­ing Mon­days to Thurs­days and is now a week­end show from Fri­days to Sun­days. But that is no in­di­ca­tion of a de­cline in pop­u­lar­ity as it con­tin­ues to get an av­er­age TRP of 3.5. “Not a sin­gle day have I got bored of play­ing the char­ac­ter. CID has sus­tained till now be­cause the char­ac­ters have been es­tab­lished as be­ing larger than life and peo­ple look up to them,” says Satam. His com­mon di­a­logues “Daya dar­waza tod do” and “daal mein kuch kaala hai” have spawned reams of jokes but also ce­mented his place as an icon. He be­lieves a male lead will suc­ceed only when por­trayed in a pos­i­tive way.

As in Adaalat, that has Ronit Roy play­ing a so­phis­ti­cated lawyer with a knack for win­ning cases and free­ing the in­no­cent. It has a TRP of 2.2. Roy is seen as some­one who stands for jus­tice, mouthing di­a­logues like “Main yeh kaam pai­son ke liye nahi karta.” Even Samir Soni, who plays a has-been lawyer

in Parichay, gets am­ple space to dis­play his heroic side—he gam­bles to make Rs 30,000 to buy a new suit for his brother, fights off a bunch of po­lice­men to keep it and haugh­tily de­clares, “Race mein ghode aur choohe bhaagte hain, sher nahin. Sher apna raasta khud ba­nata hai aur nikal jaata hai, akele.” His char­ac­ter has shades of grey but is por­trayed as a man who would rather be scrupu­lous than fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful, bring­ing in rat­ings rang­ing from 2 to 2.4.

Te­wari says shows with fe­male pro­tag­o­nists, of­ten sin­gle di­men­sional char­ac­ters por­trayed in a very typ­i­cal man­ner, led to stag­na­tion. “Now peo­ple re­alise that we need to think out of the box, have good sto­ries and more roles for men.” But, he warns, mul­ti­ple shows with male leads may or may not work—

Bade Ac­che Lagte Hain was a suc­cess but Kuch Toh Log Ka­henge opened to mixed re­sponse. A third show with a 40year-old male lead may not work. Ravin­dra Gau­tam coun­ters this, “Shows like Bade Ac­che Lagte Hain have the po­ten­tial to grow into a trend. The saas

bahu shows of the early 2000s gave way to ru­ral and is­sue-based shows in the past few years. Now we’ll see more men in the lead be­cause this is what is also hap­pen­ing in real life, peo­ple put off mar­riage till they are older.”

Sid­dharth P. Mal­ho­tra, creative pro­ducer, Cinevis­taas, in­sists that con­tent is king and that good sto­ries need to be told be­cause peo­ple are tired of see­ing women suf­fer­ing and girls cry­ing, “though chan­nels do not en­cour­age male-cen­tric shows as re­search has shown that the au­di­ence re­lates to and sym­pa­thises with fe­male char­ac­ters”.

What the au­di­ence wants now is good shows, and it can be with a male pro­tag­o­nist if the story is well told. “Pro­duc­ers would want to make shows like the Amer­i­can hits En­tourage and

Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond that have male leads, but of­ten the chan­nels don’t give them the go-ahead,” says Mal­ho­tra. A hand­ful of hit shows will not turn the tide in favour of TV’S lead­ing men but they have made the in­dus­try sit up and take note. Prime time TV may just start look­ing a lit­tle more mus­cu­lar and mas­cu­line.

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