On the festive track

Writer Purnendu Shekhar talks about the trend of including festivals as significant sub plots within the television serials

Mumbai | Published:September 5, 2014 1:00 am

For ardent fans of television soaps, their favourite characters are almost like a family and thus when celebrating a certain festival, they also want to see their favourite characters celebrate it on screen. The idea of incorporating a track that involves the celebration of a festival is to make the show connect with the audience. The channels want a special track around festivals because it gets a lot of traction. At the same time, it also generates a lot of interest.
Generally, unless it is a special episode just around the festival, the idea is to create a lot of drama which would result in an outcome. For instance, long ago when I was briefed by Zee TV to do a special sequence around Diwali in the show Astitva…Ek Prem Kahaani, I wasn’t sure how to go about it, as it was not a regular family drama where such celebrations would happen naturally. Since it was a show that revolved around a gynaecologist, Dr Simran Mathur’s life, it had to be planned carefully. We had to incorporate the festival of lights in a very tactful manner. We did that by showing her enjoying the festival with her husband’s family when she gets a call from the hospital. So, we seamlessly wove the festival angle into the story, and at the same time showed her trying to precariously balance her personal and professional life. Eventually, Simran saves a life. After all, for a doctor, saving one’s life is the biggest celebration.
But it is a task to create a track that a varied audience across the country can connect to. We always have to provide a logic behind the celebrations of a certain festival. For example, one year we showed Anandi’s family in Balika Vadhu observing Gokul Ashtami with a Dahi handi celebration. But then, this festival is popular mostly in Maharashtra and not in Rajasthan where the story is based. Thus, through Dadisa’s character, we had shown that the family was celebrating the birth of Nandu, Basant’s son and performers were specially called to Jaitsar (the show is set in Jaitsar, Rajasthan) from Mumbai for it.
The audience today is quite smart; while they like watching special tracks time and again, it has to be in sync with the storyline of the show. As writers, we have to pay a lot of attention to minute details while planning something around a festival.
Last week, we celebrated Teej on most of the shows that are based in states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc. While surfing through the channels, I watched the Teej track in the show Doli Armaano Ki... and realised how the rituals depicted around the festival are completely different from what we had shown in Balika Vadhu. After reading about the festival, I found out that since the show is based in Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh), the rituals are completely different. All these details are really important when planning a festival track. We cannot show a Rajasthani family playing dandiya during Navratra because that’s not the tradition followed there.
However, there are exceptions as well. In Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the Virani family despite being Gujratis brought Ganpati home every year during Ganesh Chaturthi. Since the family was based in Mumbai, it became easier to incorporate the festival in the show. And surprisingly, it just led to making Ganesh Chaturthi more popular across regions. One can say that in India, celebrating different festivals on television have helped in making the bond among our countrymen stronger and uniting the country.

As told to Priyanka Bhadani

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