Reinvention is the route to Survival for Soap Opera

While most people prefer binge watching web shows on their mobile screen nowadays, the good old television soap is still somehow managing to carry on, thereby disrupting the very argument that home entertainment is all set to be redefined by the OTT domain.

Recently, “Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai” completed 3,000 episodes, becoming the longest-running show in India, and bucking the contemporary trend that long-running shows are a thing of the past. “Ye Hai Mohabbatein” and “Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah” are other long-running shows that prove television is not dying any time soon despite viewers increasingly thinking in OTT terms lately.

According to “Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai” producer Rajan Shahi, the flexible nature of its theme and plot helped the show to survive over 10 years.

“I think our creative team never allowed stagnancy to set in and disturb the flow of the show. That is the main reason we managed to keep it relevant. Of course in a daily soap, we have to maintain the core texture of the show but we change the dynamics between the characters without losing the essence of the script.” Shahi said.

The departure in strategy is obvious if you look at what has worked for the show. The makers of “Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai” have constant;y changed characters and actors who take centrestage in the plot. The story started off with Akshara and Naitik, played by Hina Khan and Karan Mehra, respectively. Now the show revolves around actors Shivangi Joshi and Mohsin Khan.

At a time when attention span of viewers is decreasing, running a television show for a decade is nothing short of redefining trends. Ekta Kapoor’s saas bahu saga “Ye Hai Mohabbatein” is another TV soap which has been wooing audience for a long time. The show, starring Divyanka Tripathi and Anita Hasnandani, was launched in 2013. Rumours of the show going off air have been doing the rounds for long, but the makers have kept refuting all such rumours. The show is very much on.

In an interview, creative director of the show and one of the writers, Sandiip Sikcand said: “We have also been hearing these for the last two years. It’s not going off-air. It’s still a slot leader and doing very well in the 10.30 pm slot. Let people say what they have to say. I remember when I woke up and my Instagram was full of people saying ‘We hate you’ and Yeh Hai Mohabbatein is shutting.

“It’s a lovely show. In a television show, you spend a lot on stories because you make a film every week. You have to churn out so many stories. People who look down on television and feel that it’s not a great medium, they don’t know the amount of hardwork that goes into it. It’s a lot of blood, sweat, toil going into it, literally. So I feel TV writers, actors and workers are far more diligent, far more effective and far more hardworking than any other medium put together.”

Looking at the time span of “Ye Hai Mohabbatein”, it would be right to say that it is completely following the run of Balaji Telefilms’ hit ‘K’ serials. The show is currently in its fifth year and we all know that Ekta is known for producing longest running TV shows. So it won’t be strange if we can see viewers watching “Ye Hai Mohabbatein” on their television sets for more couple of years.

Ekta’s show “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi” ran succesfully for eight years with more than 1,800 episodes. “Kahaani Ghar Ghar kii” and “Kasautii Zindagii kay” both ran for more than 7 years. And last year, Ekta came up with “Kasautii Zindagii kay” reboot.

Many show makers seem to have found a new formula to reorgamnise the good old soap in reboots and sequels.

Actor Mohnish Bahl, who is back on TV screen with the reboot of hit medical drama “Sanjivani”, feels reboots help in connecting the audience more.

He said: “‘Sanjivani’ came back around 15 years ago… people have memories associated with it. Many children have grown up watching the show..and now with reboot, they definitely will sense a dose of nostalgia. So initially it’s easy to pull audience towards the reboots.”

Mohnish, who also featured in TV shows like “Devi” and “Kuch Toh Log Kahenge”, shared that evolution of television has helped in thriving the daily soaps.

“From the days of Doordarshan, there have been a lot of changes in television. Be it in terms of subject or other things, tv has constantly changed. From family drama to saas-bahu and now mythology and supernatural, tv has always offered a gamut of different content to audience. And it is important to showcase different elements to audience, otherwise they will get bored,” he added.

Talking of different genres, comedy is often considered as one of the difficult genres. And “Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah” is one such comedy show which has been able to run on TV for the longest time and it’s still running.

Asked what helped “Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah” run over 12 years, show’s creator Asit Kumarr Modi said: “Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (TMKOC) recently entered its 12th year in July 2019. I believe that there are very few wholesome family shows on Indian TV today and TMKOC is one of them. Additionally, because it is a comedy show it just fits right in where the entire family can sit together and laugh away for half hour each evening.

“The show appeals to the core Indian values and community living, and over the years it has continued to appeal to the masses. Of course today, the characters of the show have become household names and audiences relate to them. This has firmly found roots in the everyday lives of millions of people and the characters have become a part of their lives.”

Modi also feels right casting plays a crucial role in show’s success.

“There isn’t a single character in the show that is not deliberate. Each one plays a well-thought out role and while some characters may appear to be more important on the screen than others, the truth is the entire unit is integral to the show’s success. Each one adds a different flavour to the overall recipe making the show unique and successful,” he concluded.

Apart from these, “Kumkum Bhagya” and “Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain!” are the other two shows that have been popular among audience for a while now.

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