Reboot of TV classics - Part 2: Relevance of content is key, say experts

Continuing with the second part of the series on remake of iconic shows, AdGully spoke to actor, producer and director Dheeraj Kumar. Giving the media expert’s perspective are Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group India & South Asia, and Shailesh Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Ormax Media.

Content is like fashion, changes with the times: Dheeraj Kumar

Giving his take on whether the classic reboots will be able to stand up to today’s audience’s expectations, Dheeraj Kumar, actor, producer, director and Chairman and Managing Director of Creative Eye, pointed out that quite a few of the 90s shows had been produced by his company, which included ‘Om Namah Shivay’, ‘Sansaar’ and ‘Kakkaji Kahin’. He said, “Those were great shows because they had very good story lines that were emotional, were a reflection of the society and you could identify with the characters, which was rare on the TV screen.”

While noting that shows like ‘Kakkaji Kahin’ and ‘Hum Log’ were some of the great shows of 80s and 90s, Kumar said that if those shows were brought back in today’s landscape, technically they would have to match the present times. He was confident that the content would resonate with today’s audiences since it was so powerful. Explaining the technological advances made, Kumar said that the earlier TV shows used a low resolution or low band format, then came the high band, followed by Beta, pgbeta format and now we are shooting on Chips. So obviously the technology itself changing and while the technology itself changes, there is tremendous scope for improvement.

Given the media fragmentation today and the audience accessing content across screens, wouldn’t digital platforms offer a wider reach than television for the return of cult shows? When asked this question, Kumar countered with his own question, “The answer is very simple – would you stop going to the cinema or watching movies just because you have so many options?”

He added, “So, if you are asking me if I want to make a big serial like ‘Om Namah Shivay’ will I just totally forget television and go digital? No. First of all, it depends on what kind of a show you want. Since the digital platforms are accessed more by the younger generation, the content has to be geared more towards that age group. Always remember that it is the content that drives channels.”

When asked about how television content in India has evolved over the years, Kumar remarked, “Content is like fashion, it changes with time, because you cannot serve the same content to the viewers year after year, you have to bring some novelty. The content has to reflect the true image of the society, something that people can identify with. Old shows like ‘Kakkaji Kahin’ and ‘Hum Log’ will never go out of season because that is a true content. Gimmicks don’t last, that is not content.”

The media experts’ perspective

The shows should get a healthy face-lift: Anita Nayyar

Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group India & South Asia, felt that ideally leaving iconic shows untouched would certainly resonate with a section of the nostalgic audience intersected with some new audience. She added, “But overall, the shows will and should get a healthy face-lift. More importantly, times have changed and the re-makes should keep in mind the newer audiences and what resonates with them. They have to be relevant in today’s time.”

According to Nayyar, in order to connect with today’s viewers, the makers of the reworked shows of ‘Shaktimaan’, ‘Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai’ and ‘Captain Vyom’ must mix the endearing parts of the old with modern culture giving it a heady twist. “Relevance of content is key,” she affirmed.

While commenting on the changes in the Indian broadcast landscape, Nayyar pointed out, “The channel ecosystem has grown 10X. In 1995, there were about 100+ channels covering 70+million homes with a viewing population of 400+million homes. India now had 823+ channels. TAM Annual Universe Update 2015 showed India had 167+ million households (out of 234 million) with television sets, of which over 161 million have access to Cable TV or Satellite TV, including 84 million households which are DTH subscribers. Digital TV households have also grown by 32 per cent since 2013. These numbers are indicative of the bombardment that is happening in the TV landscape coupled with the audience interests.”

She further noted, “There is a certain basket of audience who will revel in the nostalgia of these shows, but they are the ones who would have outgrown the interest in these shows given the years in between. It is important for the shows not to digress totally but retain their touching elements. While the new audience will be driven to taste this content due to the historic nostalgia, how the show cuts with them, will spell its success.”

Nayyar also pointed out that today, viewers are spoilt for choice, multi-channel, multi-media, multi screen. “In the earlier years, ‘Mahabharat’ and ‘Ramayan’ practically had a free run with no competition in their genre and limited content options available. The affinity index then was content, but with limited or no competition. The same holds good today, that is, content, but with too many options. The content needs to find an affinity with the audience and it will click. However, there have been enough remakes which have proved that originals are originals.”

Strengths of the original property have to be kept intact: Shailesh Kapoor

Giving his take on the remaking of iconic shows from the 90s, Shailesh Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Ormax Media, said, “It’s been more than 15-25 years since some of these shows were first aired. Hence, there is a new generation available to be exposed to the content. Adaptation of something that worked before is generally a safer bet than something that’s untried. But whether the adaptation works or not depends on how it is done. Strengths of the original property have to be kept intact while giving it a modern context. Sometimes, this can be a forced exercise, leading to an adaptation not working.”

On what the makers of the reworked shows should do to connect with today’s viewers, Kapoor felt that first and foremost, they had to understand what made those shows work. “That is easier for ‘Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai’ as that show’s core TG is adults. For ‘Shaktimaan’ and other kids-centric shows, it becomes difficult as the TG of those shows will be now in their 30s and 40s and not relevant anymore,” he added.

Commenting on the changes in the Indian broadcast landscape, Kapoor noted, “There are more channels and now online platforms too, so a good show has more chances of finding its audiences today. But it depends on the content more than whether it is an original show or an adaptation.”

On the remakes of mythological shows like ‘Mahabharat’ and ‘Ramayan’, Kapoor remarked that they were not remakes of the original shows, but mythology itself. “‘Mahabharat’ did very well on Star Plus. We cannot compare ratings from a Doordarshan scenario of single channel to a multi-channel fragmented scenario that exists today. When ratings started in the 90s, top shows would do 10-15 per cent ratings. Today, even 3 per cent is a huge success. Hence, comparison of numbers should be done with caution,” he said.

Also read:

Reboot of TV classics - Part 1: Getting out of the shadow of the originals

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