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When TV joins the party!

TV's coverage of Indian nightlife has evolved to a look at the people behind them.

We are not just a rapidly developing nation,we’re also an earnestly partying one. Gone are the days when only a privileged few could know what the high life was; having a good time has been within everyone’s reach at least within the past decade.

It’s a change that has been astutely captured by India’s enterprising television channels. Within a short period of time,they evolved from merely reporting on parties and nightlife,to going deeper into the scene and giving a clear overall understanding to the viewers. The success of shows such as Zee Cafe’s After Hours and NDTV’s Night Out has only proved that the viewers’ curiosity to get deeper access to the lives of celebrities was high.

They were not satisfied with simply reading their interviews or gossipy tidbits. They wanted to know what the high life was — how the jet set parties and lets its hair down.

Nina Manuel,one-time host of After Hours recalls,“When I first began working with After Hours,I do not think that there was any other similar show on air at that time. But after a year of doing the show,I did begin to notice several other TV channels had a similar format to covering the party scene.”

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It resulted in a slew of shows on various channels,including news channels — from Times Now’s High Life,to Zing’s Page 3 Life and Fashion Scoops on Zee Trendz.

But why was there such an interest in the first place? With the economic boom that came in the late ’90s in India,people had greater disposable incomes and the good life was no longer out of reach. Viewer Ankit Bhandula,an advertising executive,says,“At that time,people had the money and the aspirations to party after having worked so hard. But who was there to guide them on how to enjoy the good life? That’s the reason viewers became increasingly curious about how celebrities party and demanded programmes which showed these things.”

Of course,now the curiosity runs deeper than merely observing the partying habits of the rich and the famous. With nearly every channel jumping onto the party wagon,there needed to be more innovation in terms of programming. “How much can viewers look at other people partying,” queries Anurag Bedi,business head of niche channels for Zee Network,“After a point,it becomes empty programming if the focus remains merely on covering parties. You have to give them a context.”

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Beverly White,who hosts Night Out,agrees. She says,“The biggest change has been that with parties being more stage managed thanks to the influx of corporate sponsorship,partying has perhaps lost the personal touch it had when nightlife coverage first began in India. Socially also there has been a sea change,with partygoers becoming younger and younger and the means to lead the high life being more prevalent today. All of this has led to a change in television coverage.”

This has led to what may be termed as the second stage in nightlife programming,with shows going beyond simply reporting the hot parties in town,to trying to find actual stories in the parties — from who is dating whom,to what goes into making a party and profiling the main guests. Bedi explains,“If Zing is covering a film’s success party,then instead of merely reporting that such-and-such party is in progress,we talk about the movie itself and why it was a success. So it ceases to be very niche programming and gets a broader base. In a sense,you could say that this is perhaps the only television genre which is going from being niche to general.”

Some shows,however,have discovered their success formula and intend to stick to it. MTV Grind,the original party show,continues to follow its old mantra of broadcasting beach and pool party sessions. The channel has recently relaunched the show after a hiatus and has Indianised,unlike before when all the episodes were shot abroad. Now the episodes are being shot in India and there are even Bollywood-style choreographed dance sessions.

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Aditya Swamy,channel head of MTV India explains that ultimately,what people are seeking is a real partying experience,which is what the channel seeks to give them. “It’s not just young people who’re partying these days — everyone’s doing it and they’re all experience junkies. Our channel’s motto is ‘Stay Raw’ and what we’re offering people is an unadulterated party experience. After all,there’s nothing to beat a good old song and dance session.”

First published on: 18-04-2011 at 10:06:54 am
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