Gone are the days of Smriti Irani, Sakshi Tanwar, Amar Upadhyay or Shekhar Suman who unanimously ruled the hearts of the masses. Even the ones ruling the roost these days like Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy made their mark on television a long time ago? So where is Gen X? Why haven’t any characters or actors become iconic in recent times? Their place on television have been taken over by Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan who have stolen the thunder right from underneath the noses of the current crop of TV stars. Is the era of TV stars truly over?
Time for something new
Smriti and Amar became stars because Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhie Bahu Thi was new and different. These days the same recycled plots of never-ending family sagas, triangles and kitchen politics have led to waning interests. It’s almost as if we can preempt the character’s moves that are stretched beyond anyone’s endurance. “As a culture we want to see more of family dramas, we Indians are emotional. Even Kyunki... was a family drama but what has changed is that the audience’s attention span is shorter so concepts that don’t work are being pulled off-air sooner,” says Gautam Hegde, TV script writer.
Nowadays TV actors are more concerned about how they look, than their character. You mean Mihir and Tulsi Virani, as much as you remember Amar and Smriti. That isn’t the case anymore. “TV is a writer’s medium so characters become more important than the actors. Shows like Kahaani and Kyunki... lasted for eight years. Iconic characters like Parvati and Tulsi are still etched fresh in people’s mind. Today there are fewer iconic characters and even the life of the shows is not what it used to be then. Therefore the association and connect that people have with the new characters is not very strong,” says Sakshi.
Popularity of crime and reality based shows
The taste of the viewers have changed. Because all the TV shows began to ape the earlier shows, audiences got bored. From soaps, the attention shifted to crime and reality based shows where the hero is the common man rather than the small-screen protagonist. “We have pioneered many reality shows as we know that they have mass appeal. Like Dance India Dance Mithunda worked even better than Hrithik Roshan,” says Ajay Bhalwankar, content head, hindi GECS, ZEE.
Also Bollywood actors are the big draw on the small screen. Amitabh (Kaun Banega Crorepati) Salman (Bigg Boss) and Aamir (Satyamev Jayate) have extended their reach even on the small screen. “Filmstars have always had their rightful place at the top in the entertainment industry. It is no surprise that they are increasingly using TV to promote their films and up their popularity quotient. But, the very fact that the TV stars are blindly trying to ape them in an attempt to make a crossover to Bollywood is sad. In our times looks were not a pre-requisite and I was not known for sporting a spectacular bindi or flaunting the latest jewellery,” says Smriti.
Too much TV
In the era of television superstars, there wasn’t much competition. The plethora of channels now, combined with the short attention span of the viewers creates the constant urge to channel surf, dividing viewers’ loyalty. “There is too much of clutter and there is watering down of content to fill up air time. Soaps have acquired the same tonality and in the process no one can stand out. I think too much TV has killed TV,” says Shekhar.