Mythological tales find revival on TV screens

New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) The 1990s marked a significant year in the Indian TV space when mythological shows like "Ramayan" and "Mahabharat" were a rage. That era has once again been brought to life on the small screen with new shows based on legends - but with a makeover in terms of presentation and treatment. The makers say this has paid rich dividends.

Some of the significant shows are Life Ok's "Devon Ke Dev Mahadev", which has been capturing eyeballs for over a year. The channel recently launched another one - "Katha Mahadev Putra Bal Ganesh Ki" - to add variety.

Now, Siddharth Kumar Tewary's "Mahabharat" is being beamed on Star Plus. If that's not enough, B.K. Modi's "Buddha - The King of Kings", a show based on the life and teachings of Gautam Buddha, has also sprung up on Zee TV.

What is really impressive is that amidst the popularity of 'saas-bahu sagas' and crime stories, mythological shows have succeeded on the small screen and are appealing to youth.

Sahara One's "Jai Jai Jai Bajrangbali" has already completed two years and still continues to attract viewers.

"These shows are a huge attraction amongst youngsters and even children. It is very pleasing. They are certainly not meant only for elderly people," Pratik Seal, Marketing head, Life OK, told IANS.

With the changing tastes of the viewers, the makers are avoiding long treatments and dragging plots. Keeping the narrative crisp is the success mantra.

The makers of "Mahabharat", which premiered Sep 16, are trying to keep audiences hooked on by ensuring it does not drag.

"We want to keep the quality of 'Mahabharat' consistent throughout the series, and keep the content extremely gripping, which is why the series will be a finite one of six to seven months," said Nikhil Madhok, senior vice president (Marketing) at Star Plus.

"We want youth to see the relevance of the epic in today's times as well, which is why even our communication has a sharp focus on some of these fascinating characters.

"For example, what happened with Draupadi back then has its relevance to what's happening to women in our country now," he added.

Getting high TRPs is not easy as these shows not only compete with one another but have to be at par with western series in terms of quality.

"The medium has become competitive. You have people viewing Hollywood films and western television shows; so expectation levels rise. The bar, to be able to appeal to youth, is high," said Nidhi Yasha, the costume designer for "Buddha" and "Mahabharat".

These shows come at a price.

"These shows often have a higher budget than a normal show. It is 25-30 percent more than the cost of an average show. This is fine as the show brings the whole family together. The 'maha' episodes are one-hour long and require a higher decibel marketing initiative. But it does give you a dividend accordingly," Seal said.

These shows not only attract eyeballs but advertisements also.

"We are overbooked in terms of ads. There has never been an issue in this regard. 'Mahadev' opened well and pretty much caught everyone's fancy within the second month of being on air," Seal added.

There is a constant endeavour to come up with better ideas to present such shows. Shooting the episodes like short films could be one way to increase the spectacle.

The quality of "Buddha" is like that of a film, Modi said.

"Now with the TV industry moving to a higher level where we have digital quality, you can show a cinema quality story on TV. With 'Buddha', we are looking at the 52 episodes like 52 short films," B.K. Modi said.

It is imporant that the presentation should be such that these shows are welcomed.

As some of them thrive in terms of TRP ratings, others go unnoticed like "Savitri", which will end soon, Ekta Kapoor's "Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki" and Moti Sagar's "Sabke Jeevan Ka Aadhar - Ramayan".

(Anjuri Nayar can be contacted at anjuri.n@ians.in)

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