If you scour general entertainment channels today, you are most likely to be greeted by a stream of family dramas, waiting to grab your attention. Saas, bahu, bhai, bathija, devar, devarani…. a never-ending list of characters beckon you to sit down and take a long hard look at them. Ditto for the parallel storylines cutting across the length and breadth of the soap in question.
In the midst of such protracted family dramas, where the point of view of the woman takes precedence over anything else, teenagers or youth, more often than not, are projected as a mere extension of the family. They are the naïve kids watching their parents go through much heartburn as the partner or partners grapple with marital or family discord. On other occasions they could be cracking a joke or two with their grandparents or heading towards college. The ambitious ones may be out shooting for a movie or busy with a modeling assignments while the homebodies may well be on their way to tying the knot!
Apart from these stereotypical images, there is not much substance to the role of a teenager or young adult in these soaps. Look around and you will rarely come across shows targeted at this segment, leave aside a meaningful portrayal of characters in the 15-24 age group.
The only show targeted at teenagers is the Neena Gupta-produced Kyun Hota Hai Pyarr on STAR Plus with love as the overriding subject. Aditya Bhargav or Adi is in love with Nikketa Sharma or Nikki, much to the chagrin of erstwhile girlfriend Aishwarya Kapoor or Ash who is rich and arrogant.
She connives with Cuckoo, archrival of Adi, to keep the two lovers apart. Meanwhile, Nikki's middle-class sensibilities do not permit her to indulge in crude machinations, implying that just when she and Adi are on the verge of coming together, life takes a different turn altogether.
The one-year old serial seemed hung-up on this triune tussle with the storyline deteriorating to a struggle between the affluent and middle-class until it was given a new lease of life recently with the show sporting a trendy look and the "behenji" Nikki in step with her glamorous counterpart Aishwarya. New characters were introduced simultaneously.
Despite the facelift, the basic storyline remains the same with the protagonists grappling with relationship problems even as the negative characters come across as a scheming, contriving lot akin to the vamps and villains in the saas-bahu soaps.
Issues have perceptibly taken a back seat - something that has been the hallmark of youth shows on television in its early days in the country. ZEE's Campus, for instance, which was a popular show during the nineties, focused on rampant politics within college premises while the pre-satellite days had the gut-wrenching Subah on Doordarshan, which dealt with the problem of drug addiction among youth.
With not enough shows to explore this genre, and the current lot taking a cautious route, with love, family and shades of negativity being the dominant themes, have youth shows hit a dead end on television? Will the format be able to resurrect itself?
"It is a tough one. Youth as viewers are not a homogenous set," says a planner with a Top 10 agency. "Moreover, television tends to mirror the times. The eighties and early nineties was a different period altogether, when serious issues were discussed and dissected at length. Today, time itself is a precious commodity, and thanks to rampant consumerism, people's aspirations have soared through the roof. It is no surprise then, that television soaps, no matter how regressive or artificial, exhibit this aspirational value in their set, design, storyline or characters."
Admits an executive with a free-to-air general entertainment channel, "It is not as if there is no experimentation. But, from an earlier stance of focusing on serious topics affecting the youth, the drift, today is towards slapstick and romance."
The "romantic" Kyun Hota Hai Pyarr seems to be living up to this trend with the show performing fairly well on the ratings chart. For the week of August 17-23, 2003, the show garnered a TVR of 4.4; the week before, that is, August 10-16, 2003, the figure stood at 4.3 while in mid-May, precisely, May 11-17, 2003, the TVR was 6.7.
With the youth segment still largely untapped, one hopes that there is greater variety targeted at this audience. Â© 2003 agencyfaqs!