Perspective | Television horrors vanished...Why?

A woman in a white saree with long flowing hair walks along a deserted road in the dark night. She gradually turns to face us revealing her blood shot eyes, and a frightful countenance accompanied by a horrifying background score giving viewers the goose bumps and scaring the wits out of them. This chilling experience is not real but only the outcome of watching a horror show on our television screens from the cosy confines of our living rooms!

There is no doubt that our Indian film industry has churned out loads of horror films and thrillers till date and our television industry too has not lagged far behind in this endeavour.  Some horror shows on the small screen gained much popularity so much so that producers came up with the concept of seasons for those particular shows.  Aahat, X-Zone, Zee Horror Show, Ssshhhh..Koi Hai, Achanak 37 Saal Baad, Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat amongst others have been entertaining audiences in the past. But presently we have only three shows in this space i.e.  Anamika on Sony TV, Fear Files on Zee TV and Haunted Nights on Sahara One.

Adgully interacted with the experts from the industry, Nikhil Madhok, Vice President - Marketing, Star Plus, Ajay Bhalwankar, Contend Head, Zee TV, Anooj Kapoor, EVP & Business Head, SAB TV and Ashwni Dhir, Script writer and a Film Director to understand  why shows in  this genre are of late absent from the  Hindi GEC’s platter while only glimpses of horror scenes  spike up the content in a regular show . Also to get an understanding of how the horror genre combined  with shows of other genres may work well for channels.

Since decades horror has been an essential element of entertainment on television screens but  not much content of this genre is visible on the Hindi GEC's these days.  Sharing his views on this Madhok said, “I think the nature of a horror show which was prevalent a decade ago  has changed with time. Earlier shows produced by the Ramsay Brothers worked very well but now people have out grown that.”

Adding further he said, “While watching a horror film it is the audio which is responsible for creating the desired effect. Be it  be any scary  film or show it is the audio which builds up tension causing the level of fear to increase. In cinemas surround sounds helps but in television it’s difficult to create the same atmosphere 

and that particular situation.”

Bhalwankar sharing his opinion said, “For us the horror genre worked well in the past and yes with Fear Files we are offering viewers a break through concept.”

Kapoor avers, “I am sure that even now there is viewership for the horror genre.  Perhaps there is not much demand for it and hence we don’t see much shows of this genre. The other reason being that most broadcasters are very sensitive to the expectations consumers seek from them.”

“I am of the opinion that horror shows should exist.  I would consider them to be more on the lines of a comedy show since despite knowing that ghosts do not exist all the same 

the show scares and entertains us. The first show I watched in this genre was the Zee Horror Show.  I have directed horror shows like X-Zone and Khauf, which were on air for a certain  period of time.  If this genre is absent from your television screens today it is because of the channel’s strategy,” says Ashwni Dhir.

Brushing our memories we can recollect that beginning from the early 90’s up to year 2010, we have had a string of successful horror shows on the Indian television network. From 1993 -1998 we have witnessed Zee Horror Show, Woh and X-Zone on Zee TV .  Achanak 37 saal baad,  Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat and Aahat (the last season of Aahat was aired till  November 2010) on Sony TV, Raat Hone Ko Hai on Sahara One in 2004,   Ssshhhh...Koi Hai  on Star Plus in 2004 and Bhootwala  which premiered on February 23rd 2009 on SAB TV .

In recent years some of the horror shows that have been aired on the small screen include Anhoniyon Ka Andhera which was telecast on Colors in 2011, Ek Thhi Naayika,  on April 28, 2013 on Life OK,  Zee- Fear Files...Darr Ki Sacchi Tasvirein  on June 30, 2012 on Zee TV,  Haunted Nights on Sahara One  on 20th February 2012 and Anamika on Sony TV.

Madhok elaborating his thoughts on the matter, further said, “In my view producers/directors are really not able to break that formula of uniqueness in this space. It is proved by the fact that in the last couple of years nothing unique has been presented in the horror genre.”

We tried to understand from our industry experts whether the combination of the horror genre with some other genre, will work well on the small screens. On which Dhir commented, “I myself have mixed horror with comedy a case in point being my show Chidiyaghar, but everything is appreciated to a certain limit and an overdose never works well.  Horror can be used as a spice or dessert but cannot be the main course of a meal; it is difficult to sustain that.”

“Horror shows were produced in past and could easily be produced even now.  But over the years consumers are attracted to other genres similarly in the way that they were attracted to horror in past. However, the fact that shows like Anamika and Fear Files are airing on television even today says that there are audiences who still want to watch horror shows,” shared Kapoor.

Bhalwankar sharing his views says, “The shows works well on the content which you offer to your viewers. We at Zee always try and offer something fresh to our viewers.  We are getting good reviews for Fear Files because audience have taken a liking to it. We have not used this genre to spike up other shows but have a horror show by itself on our channel.”

Madhok explained, “Crime and thrill worked well in recent times because it provides viewers a learning experience and since cases in these shows get solved audience feel attached to it. In horror the experience is not the same.  The reason for mixing two or more genre in a show is because in a one hour format, it is difficult to sustain tension and hence it becomes necessary to mix the genre in order to give the episode a boost.”

“When comparing horror shows in India with shows such as X-files abroad, the horror is not restricted just to souls in the west but loads of other elements too which is not possible  in India,” shared Dhir.

Today we have few horror shows on the small screen which have managed to keep  the genre of horror alive. But going by the thoughts shared by our experts we are given to understand  that the reason behind the dwindling number of horror shows on television could be attributed to the shift of mind in our viewers. They have moved on from horror to other genre such as reality and drama and this could be blamed on the lack of the haunting experience and thrill in content in present day horror shows which normally gave viewers the goose bumps in the past.  Channels’ programming strategy too has a role to play and is another reason for the absence of this classic genre which is conspicuous by it’s absence from our small screens today.

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