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Friday, December 06, 2019

The rise of spin-offs on Indian television

Rajan Shahi says it is the emotional connect that audiences have with characters which works in favour of spin-offs.

Written by Sana Farzeen | Mumbai | Published: July 23, 2019 1:43:55 pm
Kumkum Bhagya and Kundali Bhagya. Kundali Bhagya is spin-off of Kumkum Bhagya.

The trend of spinning off a new series from an original show might still be in the teething phase in the Indian television industry but its popularity is on the rise.

Star Plus’ Dil Boley Oberoi, a spin-off of Ishqbaaaz kickstarted the fad in 2017 but unfortunately, it did not find too many takers. While some in the audience felt the bromance was missing from the show, many felt a new serial was unnecessarily dragging the storyline. However, as per industry insiders, since the actors featured in both shows, they had hiked their fees exuberantly. This made the channel merge the two serials.

Thus it was quite surprising when Ekta Kapoor and Zee TV announced Kumkum Bhagya spin-off Kundali Bhagya. The new serial was said to bring forth a more youth-centric, relatable drama and a completely new cast. From its second week only, Kundali Bhagya managed to top charts and even surpassed the popularity of the original.

Rajan Shahi’s Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai spin-off Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke has also managed to top the TRP chart. For the producer, it’s the emotional connect that audiences have with characters which works in favour of spin-offs.

Speaking exclusively to indianexpress.com, producer Rajan Shahi said, “On Indian television, many shows have stood the test of time only because of viewers’ emotional connect with its characters. There are so many dailies that go off air because of lack of any attachment with the audience. If you see the success of spin-offs, they might not retain the majority of the cast for a long time. But it does need a push from its mother show. Like we had our new protagonists being introduced by Yeh Rishta’s Kartik-Naira. Also, I firmly believe that if you don’t build strong new characters, there will be no novelty. There has to be a mixture of freshness and the old connect.”

Stating that recall value and attention to detail help spin-offs in finding a connect, Zee TV’s business head Aparna Bhosle said, “The idea of doing a spin-off to Kumkum Bhagya arose from the strong connect that its lead characters Abhi and Pragya managed to build over the five-year run. Every character, all the sub-plots and tracks enjoyed such strong recall value that there was reason for us to think that there would be curiosity to know more about a parallel world connected with the lives of the Kumkum Bhagya family. Irrespective of its original show’s popularity, great attention to detail was paid in developing the parallel universe of Kundali Bhagya. There was a short phase of over-laps between the tracks of the two shows till the new show began to run on its own steam and the new characters found their resonance.”

Sharing the secret of Kundali Bhagya’s success, Bhosle added, “What worked well for Kundali Bhagya was its compelling narrative, the constantly unfolding mysteries that surround each of its lead characters and of course, the romantic chemistry of our leads Karan and Preeta.”

If you think spin-offs are popular only in the television industry, you are mistaken. Zee network’s streaming service ZEE5 has already released Ishq Aaj Kal, a spin-off of Zee TV’s popular show Ishq Subhan Allah. It is also, reportedly, working on spin-offs of serials Jamai Raja and Guddan Tumse Na Ho Payega.

Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5 India said, “While spin-offs have been popular among the television audience, Ishq Aaj Kal is a first of its kind series in the OTT space. Broadcast gives you the option of watching the content by appointment whereas the digital medium gives you the freedom of binge-watching and is not confined to timelines. So we believe the curiosity of unfolding the new storyline and love for the original show’s characters will pull the audience to the web space also.”

Even if one goes by the success ratio, pulling off a spin-off is no mean task. Talking about the challenges of working on such a project, Rajan Shahi added, “There are a lot of challenges. First, there’s a lot of expectation as you are already running successfully on the popularity of your previous show. Yes, you get immediate eyeballs and attention but it’s a task on how to retain the viewers. Honestly, there’s more curiosity around a spin-off show than any other new series. So one has to tread carefully.”

Giving her insights into what one needs to keep in mind before helming a spin-off, Achrekar said, “The story is the most important aspect for any creative rendition. Plus, we have to ensure that the show is a spin-off and yet independent in itself. One also has to be sensitive while building the characters in a different setting. Audiences have a certain mindset and with Ishq Aaj Kal we have crossed that bridge beautifully.”

Many years ago, when the trend of spin-offs was still alien in the Indian market, we did have dailies attempting leaps to introduce new characters and stories. When asked if launching a new show is better than going for a leap, Zee’s Aparna Bhosle said, “It isn’t a matter of advantage or disadvantage. It boils down to creating compelling content, introducing new characters and engaging dynamics within the plot that manage to sustain viewer interest. The choice between a spin-off or a leap emerges from the creative team’s vision of how they wish to take the journey of a show ahead.”

Echoing Bhosle’s statements, Kundali Bhagya’s star Dheeraj Dhoopar shared, “Be it leaps or spin-offs, you need to understand that at the end of the day, it’s content that sells. The audience today is very intelligent and rejects bad shows. All said and done, I do feel spin-offs have a slightly upper hand in comparison as you can kickstart a completely fresh storyline with new characters. With leaps, you have to have a mix of old and new faces or at least past references. Our show did branch out from Kumkum Bhagya but now there’s no thread tying the shows. It’s running independently, and quite well.”

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