Television

Marathi programmes scaling peaks of popularity

MUMBAI: While Hindi soap operas hog all the attention, a silent revolution is taking place in the Marathi language serials genre - at least in western India. Culture conscious audiences in Mumbai, Pune, other parts of Maharashtra and India are lapping up the fare dished out by DD-10 (Sahyadri), Zee's Alpha Marathi and ETV Marathi.

The producers and broadcasters are scoring brownie points with the audiences and raking in the moolah. While the same can't be said of Marathi actors and actresses (on the moolah front) who work in these serials, they are certainly getting noticed through recent successes like Damini, Avantika, Zokha, Bandhini, Shri Gangadhar Tipri, Gharkul, Bedhund Manachi Lahiri , among others.

Interactive programmes such as Hello Doctor, Hello Sakhi, Antakshari and news-views based programmes such as Ghatna Chakra, Mahacharcha, are also doing well.

Of course, there are minor blips! Some senior stars are shifting back to Marathi theatre as they find it to be more stimulating and satisfying. But, all of them agree that TV serials have given a new lease of life to their careers.

The look and quality of the serials have also been improving. "Basically, the serials refect the Marathi ethos because literary conscious Maharashtrian viewers are very demanding. They will not accept sub-standard fare. Most of our serials are inspired by Marathi literature," says Zee Alpha senior vice president and business head Nitin Vaidya.

Doordarshan Mumbai station director Mukesh Sharma adds: " Choosy Marathi audiences won't accept any unintelligent fare. Our effort is to gauge and match viewer expectations. DD Sahyadri is positioned as a public service broadcaster and this increases our responsibility to cater to the discerning audiences."

DD-10 Sahyadri channel has a fair mix of soap operas, interactive programmes, news and views based content: Bandhini, Damini, Gharkul are the top soaps; Chitrahaar and Antakshari are the music based programmes; Ghatna Chakra and Mahacharcha deal with issues and current affairs by inviting viewer feedback (dial in and dial out); Hello Sakhi and Hello Doctor are interactive shows. Hello Sakhi, an interactive Marathi serial on DD-10 Sahyadri gets a large number of calls from woman viewers.

Zee Alpha's programming strategy also revolves around the same: Avantika, the highly popular serial, is based on Snehlatha Dasanurkar's novel; Shri Gangadhar Tipri is based on Dilip Prabhavalkar's writings; Pimpalpaan previews several prominent literary writers and their work.

Manasi (on Alpha Marathi), an informative woman oriented programme, is doing well in the afternoon slot. Other sitcoms such as Jagavegali (Alpha Marathi) have also become popular.

Ek Divas Sasu Cha on ETV is in the saas-bahu genre; Avantika is a social drama revolving around 6-7 families; ETV's Bedhund Manachi Lahiri is about college life; and ETV's Ek Hota Raja lanching in April 2003 is a period drama set in 1925.

"Marathi serials tackle a wide-ranging set of themes. They are extremely high on quality and have better scripts than most Hindi serials. They might be low on gloss or hype but they endear themselves to the middle-class audiences who prefer realism," says Shreyas Talpade, an actor who works in several popular Marathi serials.

The general themes revolve around social dramas; thrillers; sitcoms revolving around the family with a little bit of humour and a social message. Serials revolving around college campus life have also become popular amongst the younger audiences.

"Although, we don't produce the serials, we ensure that a lot of deliberation goes into the programming concept. There is a time lag of at least one year from the conceptualisation stage to the airing of the serial," adds Alpha's Vaidya.

"In Ektaa Kapoor's serials, the emphasis is on lighting and production values, in Marathi serials the script and content rule the show," says an upcoming TV serial director who refuses to be named.

Several young and upcoming directors have jumped into the Marathi serial fray due to assured work and remuneration. In fact, several directors in their twenties and thirties are churning out popular fare. Veteran and young directors such as Pratima Kulkarni, Kedar Shinde, Nishikant Kamath, Girish Mohite and Sanjeev Jadhav have become household names in Maharashtrian circles.

Veteran stage actor Dilip Prabhavalkar (of the Chimanrao fame on DD) has conceptualised his Shri Gangadhar Tipri - which presents the travails of a single family. The storyline has new characters making their entry and exit within the story line and highlights festive special occasions.

Share of Marathi channels in western region

Marathi Channels

Ratings in all India 4 years plus 

all homes

Ratings in all India 4 years plus C&S homes

DD-10 Sahyadri

9.29

3.12

Alpha Marathi (Zee)

1.92

2.52

ETV Marathi

1.55

2.37

Source TAM India (2002, Week 1-46)

"In Pune, discerning audiences know the details of Marathi serials on DD-Sahyadri and other channels by heart," adds Universal Communications' MD Padmakar Nandekar, who markets several programmes on DD's regional channels.

Reach of Marathi channels all India

TV channel

Total reach 

Per cent

Reach in all households who own radio TV

Per cent

Reach in C&S homes that own radio TV

Per cent

DD 10 Sahyadri

11160

5.8

11160

13.7

5004

12.4

Alpha Marathi

5596

2.9

5596

6.9

5596

13.8

ETV Marathi

2578

1.3

2578

3.2

2578

6.4

Source TAM India (2002, Week 1-46)

The production values of these TV serials has also been upgraded. Several serials have got a film like look. "However, the emphasis is more on realism as witnessed by the minimal make-ups," says an assistant casting director for TV serials.

The huge gap that was created by the decline of the Marathi film industry has been filled in to a certain degree by the Marathi TV channels.

Zee Alpha's senior vice president Nitin Vaidya says it all when he claims that they will never end up aping popular Hindi fare but create new benchmarks for others to follow!

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