EVEN as the dominance of everything Punjabi continues in Hindi cinema, Indian television finds fodder for entertainment in Gujarati ways of life. The trend that started with Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka, gathered momentum with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. And ever since, such stories have hardly left the prime time slot on Indian television.
However, like everything else in this business, the reason behind the lasting presence of Gujarati characters and stories is the TRPs. “Gujarat is a big TRP zone as Gujaratis watch a lot of television,” says producer Sunjoy Wadhwa of Gulaal and Balika Vadhu. “Research says that stories with Gujarati backdrops get higher ratings since viewers connect to it easily.” That probably explains the popularity of shows such as Khichdi, Baa Bahoo Aur Baby, Teen Bahuraniyan, Jasuben Jayantilal Joshi Ki Joint Family, Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai and Hamari Devrani.
Two and half years ago, the focus changed to issue-based stories set in Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, when dailies such as Balika Vadhu, Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, Bhagyavidhata, Laado, Bairi Piya and Pavitra Rishta became successful. This, however, turned out to be a great opportunity for SAB TV to exploit show concepts based on Gujarati culture with shows such as Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma. And SAB TV was rewarded with Gujarat contributing hugely to its rating. In recent months, other channels — Star Plus, Sony, Zee and Colors — too have woken up to SAB’s success formula. Behenein, Ram Milayi Jodi, Gulaal, Krishnaben Khakrawala, Mukti Bandhan and Sanskar Laxmi are some of the shows which have been cashing on this formula.
Though a show’s concept and story gain top priority for a channel, its backdrop becomes the second-most important criteria. “Often TRP considerations decide the backdrop. If a channel has a couple of shows based in central and northern India, Gujarat becomes an obvious choice for a new show since Gujaratis don’t watch regional channels much,” reasons producer JD Majethia of Behenein and Baa Bahoo Aur Baby. In his view, a Gujarati backdrop offers a good entry point for a show because of its vibrant culture, festivities and costumes. “Every story has to have a pan-India appeal. But backdrop is equally important to connect with characters. What is true of Punjab in films is true for Gujarat in serials,” he adds.
Gujarat, according to Star’s executive creative director Vivek Bahl, apart from being