Star Bharat: Hindi GEC Category’s Saviour

It’s been a tough ride for the Hindi GEC (pay TV) category over the last two years, with the category progressively losing share to movies, news and regional GECs over the 2015-17 period.

The second half of 2017 finally saw the category achieve some sense of stability, with no further drop in share. There were two contributors to this encouraging reversal of trend. The first one came in the form of non-fiction, especially via Kaun Banega Crorepati, which had a blockbuster season from end-August to early-November, providing impetus to a waning category. Other non-fiction shows, such as Khatron Ke Khiladi, also delivered well in this period. Continue reading

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The Republic That Doesn’t Know

Progressive degeneration of the quality of primetime news being served on television has been a source of frustration for many like me who follow the genre closely. Till about a decade ago, Hindi news channels were associated with this degeneration theme. The famous cow-UFO story on India TV became the poster image of how Hindi news channels have made a mockery of what news should stand for.

Over the last few years, this degenerative mindset has seeped into the English news genre. No, there are no stories of UFO pulling in cows. It’s within the mainstream news that we are seeing deterioration of the quality of coverage. And that makes it even more dangerous. Because you are evidently not supposed to take a cow-UFO story seriously. But how do we ensure that the balderdash being currently served in the name of news is not taken seriously by millions of unsuspecting viewers, who may just choose to believe what they see? Continue reading

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News or Outrage?

It’s elections time, yet again. This is when politicians go into overdrive mode. But the pre-elections period used to be more engaging till a few years ago. Over the last decade, media coverage leading up important elections has become increasingly vitriolic, and arguably less interesting and enriching as a result.

Over the last month, for instance, the entire coverage of Gujarat elections has been about name-calling and personal attacks. It does not help matters when the Prime Minister of the country campaigns like a Chief Ministerial candidate or a Party President would. By him doing so consistently, state elections have now acquired ‘national’ status by default.

But even if state elections become ‘national’ in their status, they can still be about real issues. But no such luck as far as the media coverage goes. After all, who’s interested in facts, figures and objective analysis? Headlines day after day pick issues that may have very little to do with the real influencers on ground, which decide which way the common man votes. Continue reading

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Bollywood’s Week of Nightmares… And Silence!

It’s been a terrible week for Bollywood, one whose long-term implications that can be terrible for the industry. On Sunday, 12 days before the film’s slated December 1 release, Padmavati’s producers announced an indefinite postponement. They didn’t have a choice. Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) rejected the film’s application on technical grounds, because the film was submitted without a due disclaimer.

In normal circumstances, this should not have been an issue. The film was apparently submitted to CBFC three weeks before its release, much before many films are submitted. Usually, CBFC is known to prioritise films that are due for release, and finish the process, especially if there are no major cuts suggested, within a week. Here, they took almost a week to even reject the application.

This slowdown, evidently influenced by political interests, was justified through a CBFC “rule” that no one in the industry or the media even knew of till then. Curiously enough, details of the said 68-day rule are now firmly placed on the CBFC website homepage (here). Continue reading

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Padmavati: The Politics Of Art

It started off a meaningless fringe protest. But over the last two weeks, opposition to Padmavati’s release has acquired the status of a full-blown controversy. The protests, led by an organisation by the name of Shri Rajput Karni Sena, have acquired political overtones, with support, ranging from tacit to explicit, from governments of several BJP-ruled states, as well as some senior members of the Central Government.

I visited the Wikipedia page of Karni Sena to understand their purpose of existence. The organisation was formed in 2006. There are only five specific activities that define their “work” over the last 11 years. In 2008, they protested against the release of the film Jodhaa Akbar. In 2009, they were involved in a Jat-Rajput issue that erupted in the University of Rajasthan. In 2010, their plans to disrupt a Sonia Gandhi event were thwarted by the police. In 2013, they opposed the TV serial Jodhaa Akbar. And now, in 2017, it’s Padmavati. Continue reading

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Too Much Trend-Following, Too Little Trendspotting

Last week, Ittefaq, a mid-scale Bollywood film, released at the theatres. The film has been the talk of the film trade for the last four weeks for its unconventional marketing strategy. Karan Johar, at the helm of the project as its producer, decided to execute a campaign that relied more on the film’s trailers and posters, with a specific focus on the digital media. Importantly, the campaign stayed away from the usual routine of stars giving multiple interviews and appearing on countless reality shows.

It’s a considerably less-taxing marketing plan for everyone involved. It costs less, and does not take a toll on the stars, who otherwise have to be perpetually on the go for 3-4 weeks. There’s a lot of common sense in it too. You want to maintain the intrigue around a murder mystery, than over-explain its concept. And in any case, there is, by now, sufficient data to suggest that reality shows and city visits may prop up a star’s brand, but do very little for the film itself. Continue reading

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General Elections 2019: The Media Battle Within The Political Battle

We are about 18 months away from the next General Elections, which are likely to happen in the summer of 2019. With the Gujarat elections in December this year, the atmospherics have started to build up. 2018, then, is set to be the most politically-charged year in India’s history, especially from a media perspective.

2014 were the first General Elections where the true impact of the social media was prominently felt, and since then, there has been a further surge in how digital media – not just social but digital news platforms too – have begun to impact the political soch of the nation.

Till about a year ago, it seemed that 2019 will be a no-contest, with a non-existent opposition to challenge the might of the Modi government. However, things turned interesting on November 8 last year, when demonetisation was announced. That move, followed by the implementation of GST this July, has led to considerable debate about the government’s economic adventurism, and its pros and cons. Continue reading

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Brand Refresh: Indian TV’s Favourite Pastime?

On October 15, Zee TV went through what has come to be known as a “brand refresh” in television industry parlance. A brand refresh typically entails a change in logo and packaging, but more importantly, a change in the stated brand positioning, which is often accompanied by a brand campaign, a change in tagline and a channel theme song.

Over the last decade, brand refreshes of this nature have been rampant on Indian television. Every other month, you see a one of the big channels going through this process. The Hindi GECs have been particularly hyperactive in this area. Continue reading

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The Kimmel Monologue: The Power Of A ‘Comedian’

It may have been a week of slow news in India, but at the other end of the world, in the United States, the Vegas shooting incident on October 1 has been at the centre of news and debates. Normally, news from the US does not hold much interest for me, but over the last decade, as such incidents continue to happen, I have struggled to comprehend how the world’s most developed country can actually put its own citizens at risk because of (the absence of) gun laws which any sane human being will question.

I’m no expert on this topic, but the incident this week was particularly disturbing, purely from a humane perspective. The Indian media glossed over it, and perhaps rightly so, as it has limited relevance for us. We may have other issues related to public safety plaguing us, but this is an area where we are a million times safer. Continue reading

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Bollywood’s Star Crisis: How soon can the youth take over?

The year 2017 is turning out to be Bollywood’s toughest in a long time. In the eight complete months of the year (Jan-Aug), the domestic box-office of Hindi films (not counting the dubbed Bahubali 2), has dropped by 16.9% vis-à-vis the same period in 2016. While there are some big films lined up for the rest of the year, 2016’s biggest success (Dangal) was a December release. Hence, the gap could only widen by the time the year ends.

Content not being able to deliver to the audience’s rising expectations is the primary reason for this declining trend, as covered in this column after the debacle of Jab Harry Met Sejal (read here). But there’s another important reason that has been building up over the last decade, and now beginning to have a major impact: Lack of young superstars. Continue reading

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