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#OpinionsThatCount: Are fiction shows shifting focus away from saas bahu dramas?

Fiction show makers seem to be slowly turning to other human relationships within the family cycle to fuel content for their serials, while the traditional mother and daughter-in-law stories are taking a backseat. Best Media takes a look into the changing dynamics

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | February 6, 2017

OTC-TV-showWords like ‘saas-bahu sagas’ and ‘kitchen drama’ became household terms with the rising popularity of fiction series on Hindi GECs, including the fabled Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar ki and the more recent Saath Nibhana Saathiya and Sasural Simar Ka. Mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws have always shared a sweet-bitter relationship with a strong ‘mirchi ka tadka’ to it. Indian society too always found this chemistry very interesting over any other relationship. No wonder most of the fiction storylines in Indian television have revolved around this similar storyline.

But along with society, TV has started to discover masala in other relationships as well. Consider love stories such as Kuch Toh Log Kahenge and Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Dun where the focus was more on the couples. Then there are other shows such as Swaragini that centred on sisterly love, and Mahi Way, which was about a cute bubbly plump girl and her journey.

Best Media Info asked makers and broadcasters of fiction shows about the shift in storylines. Is this shift a conscious decision? If so, which relationships will be the next to follow suit?

Danish Khan Danish Khan

Danish Khan, Business Head, Sony Entertainment Television

Sony has always believed in offering variety in content to the audiences and of late, the viewers have started welcoming it. That’s how we have shows with love stories, family drama, action, reality and other types of content. Saas-bahu storylines are merely one aspect of a family drama and now, across the genre, other relationships have been given a lot of weightage. It is a good sign that the genre is not entangled in the shackles of one type of content. Also, the society is evolving and probably that might be one of the reasons for this change.

Programming head of a leading GEC (on condition of anonymity)

The society is moving towards more nuclear setups, in a positive way. People have evolved in their thought process that there should be affection even if they stay apart, instead of fighting while staying in the same house. As a result, the number of saas-bahus staying together has decreased. Hence, the viewers are now demanding different types of concepts. To those television shows that still focus on saas-bahu, I have a feeling that the consumption is mainly in the non-urban markets and the lower socio-economic class in the urban markets. But these sections of the society too will soon evolve to match the urban mindset.

JD Majethia, Founder, Hats Off Productions (Khichdi, Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai and Khidki)

Yes, the shift is definitely happening. I see three major reasons for this. To understand the basic dynamics, when the saas-bahu trend started, say around 2000, the viewers (bahu) were in the 25-35 age group and now that viewer is possibly a saas herself. She realises that a wicked mother-in-law is not the only truth in the society and she wants to be a good one. She knows that otherwise she will create a lot of chaos and problems for the whole family. So, now she has become a good and understanding mother-in-law. This societal change has led to the shift in the storylines. Second reason: these days, while discussing subjects with channels, I've also realised how the TV channels are becoming more positive in their attitude, trying to add other dimensions to the stories. The third reason: weekends are filled with reality/ non-fiction shows and then there are already some long-running shows in the saas-bahu category and a lot of historical/ period dramas or mythological shows going on. After all of this, there's just a 20-25 per cent time left and that too is being occupied by other relationships. Take the cases of Swaragini based on sister relationship or Kuch Rang Pyaar Ke, which has a new angle to the saas-bahu and mother-son relationships.

Sunjoy Waddhwa Sunjoy Waddhwa

Sunjoy Waddhwa, Chairman & MD, Sphereorigins (Balika Vadhu and Peshwa Bajirao)

I personally think that it is a natural shift because for a very long time, every producer on Indian television has had a successful saas-bahu show. We have almost completely exploited that relationship. It should have shifted a few years back. There will be focus on other relationships now like father-daughter, father-son and other members. All possible stories around saas-bahu have been juiced out. The set-up, I believe, will still be family drama. I think that the shows will also be able to hold their original plot, now that audience is becoming more aware. A lot depends on the writers, and now when the outlook is changing, the writers are also ready to deliver something different. New genres like thrillers have also been tried. I am sure there are enough stories which can excite audiences.

Yash Patnaik Yash Patnaik

Yash Patnaik, Founder, Beyond Dreams (Jaana Na Dil Se Door and Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi)

Saas-bahu is an interesting equation in the family dynamics. This has been explored for years and in many layers. But that’s not the only equation in our family system. Husband-wife, brother-sister, brother-brother, sister-sister, husband-wife, father-daughter, they all have interesting and different dynamics. At the end of the day, as makers, what we would like to explore through what kind of stories will decide the selection of the relations in the foreground. Even if we focus on one equation, the rest will also contribute to the larger story. Having said that, I am sure some makers will continue to churn out content around the saas-bahu relationship.

Ravindra Gautam Ravindra Gautam

Ravindra Gautam, Founder, Paperback Films (Meri Durga)

The focus has to shift and one has to find new emotions, relationships, stories and fresh ideas. How much will you squeeze the same old relationships? Like our show depicts a father-daughter relationship, there are many other relationships that have not been explored, like between brothers, friends, teachers, students and so on. Couple chemistry also is a must and it can't be avoided but yes they are not the basis of these storylines.

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