Television
Report on Shemaroo

No go for the old and the male in soap land?

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It's a young woman's world. That truism applies quite firmly on television today and has resulted in a sense of disillusionment amongst the older breed of actors.

Serials such as Kyuunki, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, Lipstick, Kittie Partie and most of the newer ones have one common thread - they tackle female issues. Yesteryear's TV superstar's, meanwhile, are having to wait ever-longer for meaningful roles.

It doesn't help that producers are increasingly using younger faces citing cost-effectiveness and economies of scale.

Youngsters (read newcomers) charge less and don't haggle over the scripts. Eager to make their mark these wannabe stars are mum about script-related anomalies because they cannot risk antagonising the producers.

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Its a woman's world in soap land

Its a woman's world in soap land

Left out in the cold, those who can manage it are either shifting loyalities to films, theatre or TV serials in foreign lands such as London and the Middle East. It is a different matter altogether that TV serial directors are also migrating to feature films.

Aman Varma to appear on silver screen soon.

Of course, not all are shifting base because of lack of work. some of those who have tasted success on the small screen are gearing up for film debuts. Aman Verma will play Amitabh Bachchan's eldest son in the forthcoming Bollywood release Baghban. Sandhya Mridul, of Hubahu fame, claims that her role in Saathiya has been appreciated and that her second release Vaisa Bhi Hota Hai with Shashank Ghosh is slated for an April release. She has two more films including one with Rajshri Films.

Kanwaljit Singh, the good-looking actor who ruled the roost with serials such as Buniyaad, Saans, Family No. 1 has stopped watching serials! He is going slow on TV serial offers and adds that he gets relatively fewer offers today.

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Aman Varma to appear on silver screen soon.

Serials are simply not good enough to grab the reduced audience attention span: Kanwaljit Singh

Singh is critical of the currentdispensation and says: "The serials today are simply not good enough to grab the reduced audience attention span. Producers must realise that the viewers are intelligent people. It is the artist's responsibility to ensure that they set the tone for audience tastes, likes and dislikes. A lot of work needs to be done on the TV scripts front."

Kanwaljit is currently working in films produced by Raveena Tandon and the Nooranis. He was recently shooting in London for a TV series being directed by a Pakistani producer Sevi Ali. He is continues to work in DD serials such as Khushiyaan.

Viju Khote, another actor who has dabbled in theatre, films and TV, seconds Singh and says: "I feel that the current breed of saas-bahu serials are leading the audiences astray. There is a disorientation between the messages and the target audiences. Whenever, I get a chance, I prefer to watch Discovery, National Geographic, Star World or Zee English." Khote worked in serials such as Zabaan Sambhal ke, Devrani-Jethani and Aflatoon.

Khote says that he has stopped accepting new serials as he is tired of repeating himself. He adds that theatre and film offers are far more appealing. Khote has bagged ReelLife Entertainment's films (Stumped and Pehchaan); Bharat Dabholkar's new film God Only Knows; and Rajkumar Santoshi's new film. In fact, several established Marathi actors such as Prashant Damle, who used to work in Marathi TV serials, have shifted their loyalties to Marathi stage. They find it to be more stimulating and the remuneration is on par.

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Serials are simply not good enough to grab the reduced audience attention span: Kanwaljit Singh

Gaurab Pandey, who has written and directed several telefilms for Star TV and Zee TV, laments: "Every actor must get a fix and believe in the message that is being eventually delivered to the audiences through the medium of TV. If the scripts aren't in sync with the beliefs of the actors, they are bound to be disillusioned. The older generation of actors who have a theatre background would prefer to do something meaningful."

Incidentally, Pandey has shifted loyalties to Bollywood despite clarifying that good content is equally appealing on the big screen as well as on the small one.

There are writers who have made efforts to push male characters to the centre of attention. Rajesh Joshi scriptwriter Kyunkii Saas bhi kabhi Bahu thi and Kasautii Zindagi Kay adds: "In my serials, I have male characters as important as the female character. If not so, then why is it that Mihir's character in Kyunkii.. and Anurag's character in Kasautii... are so popular with the audiences."

"I think the male characters are unhappy because in other serials the writers have chosen not to give the male characters a fair weightage due to the popularity the female leads enjoy," Joshi adds.

Mahesh Thakur:I am not prepared to play second fiddle all the time.

Mahesh Thakur, an ace actor who has won accolades for his performances in hit serials like Sailaab, Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai, Tu Tu Main Main to name a few, is digruntled with the television industry."I think we are going overboard with the saas-bahu sagas. Female dominated scripts don't have anything susbstantial for the male actors. I am not prepared to play second fiddle all the time" he asserts.

Thakur has just one serial called Shararat, the latest sitcom on Star Plus in hand. " I don't believe in going about looking out for roles. The roles come to me.I am keen on acting in movies,"says Thakur who was part of the multi starrer Bollywood blockbuster Hum Saath Saath Hain.

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Mahesh Thakur:I am not prepared to play second fiddle all the time.

"The elder generation of actors would definitely prefer theatre. I agree with the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier when he says that television is a writer's medium, films are a director's medium and theatre is an actor's medium. Episode after episode are churned out at a break-neck speed. In television, there is no time and space for actors to prepare themselves or get into the skin of the character," says director Govind Menon who has directed and worked in feature films such as Danger, Kaalapani, Halo and Khwahish.

Menon has studied the shifts in actors perceptions about the TV medium during his media projects. He has completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Film Studies at the Middlebury College, Vermont, USA; and post-graduated with a Master of Arts in Film Directing, Department of Radio Television and Film, University of Texas, Austin, USA.

"Television as a medium has dried up. The same tear-jerkers and family dramas do the rounds," says TV serial director and ad filmmaker Sridhar Rangavan who has to his credit serials such as Rishtey and Gubbare, and is making his first feature film Gulabi Aaina.

The question being asked in creative circles is whether TV channels are trying to squeeze the "saas-bahu" themes dry or whether they will experiment with male-oriented issues.

One also wonders whether the phenomenon is restricted to the C&S channels because the national broadcaster DD seems to be doing different things coupled with the social message element.

BR TV managing director Ravi Chopra says: " Aap Beeti, which has broken all records doesn't belong to the 'saas-bahu' genre. It has beaten Kyuunki.. and Kahaani.. in the ratings race. Our content combines entertainment with a social message that is apt for the existing social framework. Our serials have something different to say irrespective of the genre they belong to. Even the mythological serials also attempt to deliver social awareness messages that are relevant in contemporary times."

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I started feeling tired of being repetitive: Sandya Mridul

I started feeling tired of being repetitive: Sandya Mridul

It is not just the males who are disillusioned. Sandhya Mridul is currently in the midst of a 6-month break from television serials and says: "I have had a long 5-year stint in the TV industry. I had done whatever could be done in terms of comedy, sitcoms and other genres. I started feeling tired of being repetitive. I had lost a lot of good 'film' opportunities due to my hectic schedule of TV-related shootings," she adds.

The younger breed of actresses seen in the serials produced by top production houses slog day and night but in private admit that they don't believe in some of the scripts they are given. They are also afraid to protest against the system due to fears of losing their source of income.

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