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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Lady on the Tube

In the last 20 years,Sakshi Tanwar has gone from a Doordarshan host to one of the most recognised faces of Indian television. She tells Dipti Nagpaul-D’Souza about her journey and TV’s evolution.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | New Delhi |
October 21, 2012 10:20:55 pm

You’ve played Parvati in Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Priya in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain,with several characters in between. Tell us about this journey.

Television has made me a household name. But it wasn’t what I had set out to do. Few people know that I started my career with Doordarshan. After graduating from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi,I was studying for the Indian Civil Services exam. A friend,an anchor with Doordarshan’s show Albela Sur Mela,asked me if I could co-host the show since her partner had failed to turn up on the sets. They were looking for a presentable girl with a command over Hindi and the ability to memorise lines. The show marked my debut in the television industry in 1993,after which I continued to work with the channel for a few years.

What was the television industry like then?

I was an ardent viewer of the early shows on DD,such as Buniyaad and Hum Log. My grandmother would bathe early on Sunday morning and watch Ramayan with her hands folded. I would mostly watch television shows on Zee. The one thing I clearly remember is that working with Doordarshan meant waiting for a long time before you could watch yourself on screen. Shows were shot well in advance and took a long time before they went on air.

So when did you get a break in the Indian satellite television industry?

It was with Bhanwar on Sony in 1998,a docudrama series on the Indian judicial system’s landmark judgements. This was followed by Rajdhani on Star Plus,a fiction show directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia,where I played the lead for the first time. However,Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki in 2000 on Star Plus,as everyone knows,is the series that gave me the recognition I enjoy today. The gratification of working as an actor was instant because satellite television had daily shows,which made it possible to see my work on screen sooner than before.

How has satellite television changed the television industry?

More options in fiction made it instantly popular. In the case of Doordarshan,that was limited to weekday nights and weekend afternoons. Also,one could watch a repeat telecast in case one missed a episode. It has made the consumer the king. The makers and channels now seek the viewer’s opinion and shape the content to suit their preference. However,this has affected the audience’s loyalty towards a show. With more options,a viewer is ready to switch the moment a show fails to grab his attention.

But the biggest contribution,I believe,has been towards India’s economy. It has become a source of employment for millions in this country.

What have been the landmark moments of the last 20 years?

The introduction and evolution of the reality genre has been remarkable. It helped the makers involve viewers and made them feel a part of the creative process. It showed India’s talent through music and dance-based shows.

The last five years have also witnessed the evolution of regional television. The fact that people choose to watch prime-time shows on a regional channel and catch the repeats of Hindi shows at a time convenient,speaks,again,of the variety in today’s content.

Another evident change has been in the kind of stories that have been told on television in the last 20 years. Through the 1990s,the stories were urban with contemporary themes. In 2000,the scene shifted to kitchen politics,which made joint families the focus. The treatment of characters at that time was larger-than-life. This changed five years ago when issue-based content took over,with rural India as the backdrop. It brought to the fore the lives of the real India which exists beyond metros. Now,the trend is shifting towards slice-of-life stories where characters are real,common people.

What is the one change you would like to see in Indian satellite television?

Seasonal telecast of shows should begin. There is a breathless pressure on every member working in a television production of a fiction show in India to cope with the daily schedule and maintain the popularity and ratings. Also,the original story of every show can last no more than one year,so when that point is reached,shows drag,and need refurbishing. But the makers don’t go for it because they are scared of a break when the show is peaking in popularity. However,if they are sure of their characters and story,they should not fear it. The result will be heartening because the team — actors,writers,creative producers — will have had a chance to refresh themselves and work on the content with new ideas and stories. Even the viewers,who sometimes get tired of watching a character every day,will return more curious.

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