The Dummy’s Guide to a Successful Indian TV Soap
The idiot box is the new gold mine of the entertainment industry. Every sensible (read money) minded person has already signed on to a TV show, and is now laughing all the way to the bank.
Do you want to join in the gold rush? Fret not. Main hoon na! This post will tell you everything you need to get started with a show that will be the biggest TRP magnet since the times of BR Chopra’s Mahabharata. Just with more twists and turns than the Bofors case. And ads, which is where the moolah is.
Just follow these tips and you’ll have a winner on your hands.
First step, pick a social theme. The importance of social focus can not be emphasised enough. This just has to be done if you even want to talk to the network heads. It’s gotten so bad you’d think they are running NGOs, not profit making television channels. Every show seems to start off a social theme, even if a month later they show a wife being killed by an infuriated husband whose chapati got burnt.
Let’s say you want to create a socially responsible show that talks about the atrocities committed on women in the name of dowry. This, we all know is a popular theme across Indian households. All men beat their wives demanding ever increasing dowries. It’s gotten so bad that banks have started offering special dowry payment schemes, but we won’t get into that for now.
Coming back to the point, you have decided to create a TV show through which you hope to eradicate this problem forever.
Here’s how you would go about setting it up.
The Name. A lot’s in it, never mind Shakespeare. A good name is imperative. You need something that conveys the right emotion and is able to connect with your target audience. In this case, that would be the wives, the husbands, their in-laws, the servants, chachas, mamas, buas, and the like. TRPs are important. Not for the revenue, but simply because the more people you can reach, the more people you can influence. And weed out the devils in our society.
Let’s go with Jal Gayi Hamari Beti
See what we did here? Through this title you tug at the heartstrings of parents who were considering that Boston settled NRI they found on shaadi.com for their daughter. You also generated the curiosity of the cynical ones. How did she die? A freak accident involving a hair dryer or good old kerosene and ship brand matches?
Now for the main characters. You need a mix of strong ladies, well dressed ladies, bitchy ladies, sweet ladies, conniving ladies, naïve ladies, and a few men who will mostly serve as placeholders. The men will be easily willed by the ladies into doing whatever they need to do, in order to take the story forward.
A few children are a must. They work two ways – they will provide great emotional points of connect with the viewers, and advertisors love them. Kids are where the action is these days. No parent will dare say no to a kid adamant about getting a new insurance policy to secure his future in case dad goes bad.
The show will begin with a woman constantly tormented by her husband, who also has another affair on the side. The second woman in turn, doesn’t really care about the husband. She is just trying to get back at the wife for upstaging her in a beauty contest held 20 years back when they were best friends in high school.
This phase should go on for at least a year while we educate viewers about the horrors of domestic violence, extra marital affairs, and all other nasty things that humans do. By the end of this year, we will hope to fill the viewer with hatred towards all human beings, male or female, poor or rich, Punjabi or Bengali, so on. Use this time well. By the end of the year you want your viewer to hate your show so much that they cannot stop watching it every night. And the reruns the next day, in case any nuances got overlooked.
Bear in mind though that this is India, with all its beautiful culture and the various festivals. In order to truly connect with the viewer it is important to celebrate all festivals on the show. Holi must be celebrated with a day’s ceasefire where all characters forget their hostilities and come together to dance to Amitabh Bachchan’s Rang Barse, while sipping home made bhaang. No animosity. Just animated gaiety. Similarly, there must be a Lakshmi Pooja on Diwali, even if the wife is going to get sprayed with Kerosene later that week.
Year two will start with a fightback. The other woman will get killed in a freak accident. The husband-wife will get reunited and live happily for a month. Don’t make it much longer, or the viewers will forget the theme. Just a month’s break and get back to business. Introduce another woman. Introduce an illegitimate child. Introduce a dark past. The options are innumerable.
Bear in mind that we are not making a documentary. It will be very easy to say ‘Don’t burn women’ and be done with a 30 minute segment, but that will solve no purpose. We need to keep showing the evil continuously, day after day (twice a day, counting repeat telecasts). Indians are slow. They take time to grasp simple messages, especially ones bearing such social relevance.
The story is actually immaterial. Anybody can create meandering twists and turns that help the show celebrate a decade in no time, which incidentally is the minimum time frame it will take to create an impact. What you need to make sure is that the viewers’ attention is not lost. What matters is the cause that you are fighting for. Just keep at it. Keep highlighting the evil till it gets eliminated from the world.
Repeat this sentence after us. “It is not about the money.” Now say it again ten times. Never forget, its all for a cause.
Among other additional effects, drums help. Every dramatic twist must be followed by eight replays, each of them with a louder-than-previous drum beat. And closeups of all involved. Sometimes this may mean that one scene lasts a couple of episodes, but don’t worry about that. Viewers love the action. Cricket has made them dependant on action replays; they can’t live without them anymore.
Also, be sure to leverage Bollywood. Get the rights of a popular Kailesh Kher track, and play it on all days when the husband doesn’t beat the wife. Similarly a Mika number for the interactions between the husband and the other woman.
There, these tips should help you create that bestseller show that will enthrall the audiences and at the same time rid Indian society of a major evil. It can’t get much nobler than that.
If this sounds too much work, you could take the social development expressway by starting a news channel. Dummy’s guide to 24 Hour News Channels coming up shortly.