afaqs!

Points of view: Power of repetition

By Raushni Bhagia & Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | September 25, 2013
With more than one version each of Rama, Shiva, Arjuna, Ganesha and Krishna's stories, television broadcasters are still attempting more. How many times can one re-iterate the same story successfully? Moreover, how many times will the audience be impressed with it?

Mahabharat

Star Plus' much hyped Mahabharata, claimed to be one of the most expensive shows on television, was launched about 10 days ago. However, the memory of the first-ever televised edition of the epic is still fresh in the minds of some viewers. The question is about whether or not remakes of the mythological stories do well, considering a predictable plot, the storyline has established and familiar characters.

Suresh Shah, vice-president, investments, Allied Media

Nowadays, in case of mythological shows, I feel it's more about the story you tell than the way you tell it. Mahadev (Life OK) has worked because the channel keeps exploring the various aspects of the story, characters and it always has something new to talk about. It shows many things which people are watching for the first time on TV and hence the traction remains.

Suresh Shah

Dheeraj Kumar

Ajit Thakur

Vidhu Sagar

Meanwhile, newer versions of the Mahabharat and Ramayan have not worked very well because people know the stories and there is no novelty factor. So, whenever a channel is attempting a mythological show, it is very important to innovate. Having said that, better production quality, improved special effects, right casting, costume and accessories used, and marketing also plays a key role in attracting viewers. It is pertinent to note here that the first attempt of both Mahabharat (by B R Chopra) and Ramayana (by Ramanand Sagar) have set a benchmark and hence the newer versions have not been able to show the story in a different light.

The shows launched in the recent past may get initial ratings but won't be able to sustain viewership. Although the channels claim that these versions cater to youngsters who have not watched the original version, they should also consider that the time the spent by youth on TV is much less than before.

Dheeraj Kumar, chairman and managing director, Creative Eye Productions

Mythology is evergreen. Consider Ramayana, Mahabharata, Mahadeva or Ganesha - with time, neither the characters nor the storyline can change. Creative Eye has told Ganesha's story at least twice as Shree Ganesha (2001-Sony) and Ganesha Leela (2009-Sahara One). Mythology makes the characters immemorial.

Although the characters and storyline remain unaltered, with the advent of technology, one can change the presentation of a mythological story. Ramayan has been told at least thrice and of these, two versions were great successes. So, if presented and executed well, they offer great scope.

Comparisons never end. Even in the case of feature films, Karan Johar's Agneepath was compared to the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer film, although both were popular and successful. In films, one can take creative liberties to retell the stories. Mythology doesn't allow you to do that, but it will always work fairly well for all the versions, no matter how many times is it remade.

One of the key reasons is that the generation changes every 15 years and the younger audiences don't go back to the older TV shows. The people who have watched Mahabharat in the early 1990s and the ones watching the 2013 version are not the same people.

A time gap is, however, important to avoid content fatigue. But I believe that it will have its fair share of viewers if it's made, say, every five or six years.

Ajit Thakur, general manager, Life OK

Before Mahadev came, mythology was off the screen, there was just Jai Shri Krishna. Once Mahadev became a hit, I guess everybody has had a mythology-based show.

But, there is a certain code of success for mythology. Today's content success is driven by younger viewers. The basic challenge is that the stories may not have a connect with the younger viewers. The first thing we were able to crack in the case of Mahadev was that while the story was from that era, it was given a contemporary narrative. Most of the work we did was in terms of research and writing of the show (Mahadev talking about the balance between man and nature, about the equality of man and woman, and parenting). Basically, we took a story from mythology and added a narrative of contemporary issues.

Second, with people exposed to such visual quality, in terms of execution, it was important to differentiate our offering. Again in Mahadev, we consciously went for that. We have a minimalistic set with fully a computer graphic background. For the viewers, it looks like a beautiful set. Execution-wise, we must find a way to take it to the next level.

Third, every month we give viewers a big invite on the show - (Maha episodes), Kali, Shiva's Rudravatar, Ganesh special. We always find a big event. So, one needs to find these high points once in a while.

Vidhu Sagar, executive vice-president, Carat Media

If the subject material at hand is as powerful, rich and potent as Mahabharat or Ramayana, then there is no end to interpretations. Having said that, each time this story is told, it will leave its impact on the minds of the audience and hence, any successor will obviously have the hard task of clearing the memory of the older one and start all over again.

In the context of the current version, for all of us who have seen the original one, its memory is so strong that this one will have no impact. The critical aspect that is missing is storytelling. The original one was dramatic in its approach and has stayed on in the minds of viewers. Comparing the B R Chopra version to the current one is like comparing chalk and cheese. Kahaani Hamare Mahabharat Ki just came and went, and could hardly register.

To round off, I think since it is fighting against a very strong memory of a strong property, the new one will find it very tough to get addressed. It is analogous to Hindi cinema. Zanjeer will forever be Zanjeer, with such a (poor) remake. But against this, consider the remake of Don. The Shahrukh Khan-starrer did quite well, mainly because the story-telling and tonality were different.

As for Mahabharat, I am not sure how well it will work. I don't think even advertisers are too confident about the show but we will have to wait for the numbers before we decide on anything.

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