Comedy, family relationships, social issues, mythology, children's shows, patriotism, reality shows etc. are the few popular themes around which the Indian television soaps revolve. These operas are also broadcasted in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa.
History of Indian Television Serials
The first Indian television soap opera was ‘Hum Log’, which first aired in 1984 and concluded after the 154th episode. It was the longest running serial in the history of Indian television at the time at which it ended. The first flourishing wave of Indian late evening television soap operas started in 2000 with ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ created and produced by Ekta Kapoorunder her banner Balaji Telefilms. It was broadcasted not only in India but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and ended with 1833 episodes run.
Then biographies of famous people started being produced in the form of Hindi soap operas. ‘Meera’ was a biography of Meera, Shivaji was portrayed in ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Shahji Raje Bhosle’, Rani Lakshmi Bai was presented in ‘Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi’, ‘Chanakya’ covered the life of Chanakya, ‘Chittor Ki Rani Padmini Ka Johur’ portrayed Rani Padmini, ‘Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat’ is a biography of King Ashoka and ‘Bharat ka veer putra Maharana Pratap’ was a biography of Maharana Pratap.
Crime programmes were also started being produced and aired. ‘Adaalat’ was an Indian television courtroom drama series which revolves around Advocate K. D. Pathak. ‘CID’ follows a team of detectives belonging to the Criminal Investigation Department in Mumbai. The protagonist of the show is Shivaji Satam. Indian audience is fond of television soaps but when it comes to reality shows, the interest for the show boosts.
Types of Indian Television Serials
Following are different genres which are broadcast as soap operas in India:
Drama: The development of daily long running drama series started with Ekta Kapoor's ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ which was followed by several K-series such as ‘Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii’, ‘Koi Apna Sa’, ‘Kkusum’ and more. Recent successful drama series are ‘Saath Nibhaana Saathiya’, ‘Sasural Simar Ka’ completing with 2000 episodes and the longest running ever Indian show is ‘Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai’ with more than 2600 episodes and still counting.
Romance: It began to air in early 2000s with the drama series. Several shows were followed with it some of them being, ‘Kutumb’, ‘Kahiin to Hoga’, ‘Kayamath’ and so on. Most recent being ‘Ye Hai Mohabbatein’, ‘Kumkum Bhagya’, ‘Kasam Tere Pyaar Ki’ and ‘Kundali Bhagya’.
Social Message: In recent times, soap operas in India focused on socially appropriate themes such as child marriages, female child killings, rape, murder, sati and several themes that sends message to society. The most popular soap under this genre is ‘Balika Vadhu’ that focused on child marriages, ‘Na Aana Is Des Laado’ that focused on social evils against girl child and women's rights, ‘Bairi Piya’ a soap by Balaji Telefilms, ‘Bandini’ a show that described how a female was married under forced circumstances, ‘Shakti - Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki’ which focuses on transgender and their social rights and many more.
Historical: Most of the historical serials are based on Indian kings and queens. The most popular soap opera in this genre is Zee TV's ‘Jodha Akbar’ created and produced by Ekta Kapoor under her banner Balaji Telefilms and ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’, a story Rani Laxmibai. Others include, ‘Veer Shivaji’, a story of Maratha king Shivaji, ‘Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap’, a story of Rajput king, ‘Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat’ a story of king Ashoka, ‘Porus and Prithvi Vallabh - Itihaas Bhi, Rahasya Bhi’.
Mythological: The first mythological series in India was produced in 1986. The most popular series in this genre ever produced are ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’. Since then, several versions of this series have been reproduced, the most recent being, ‘Mahabharat’ and ‘Siya Ke Ram’ on Star Plus. Other series made in this genre are ‘Dharmakshetra’, ‘Jai Shri Krishna’, ‘Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki’, ‘Mahakaali — Anth Hi Aarambh Hai’, ‘Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman’, ‘Suryaputra Karn’, ‘Vighnaharta Ganesha’ and several others.
Comedy: The most popular series with the most number of episodes in this genre is ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’ which has completed 2500 episodes and still running. Others are ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’, ‘Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai’, ‘Khichdi’, ‘FIR’ and many more.
Reality: Various reality shows like ‘India’s Got Talent’, ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, ‘MTV Splitsvilla’, ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’, ‘Indian Idol’, ‘Dance India Dance’, ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘MTV Roadies’, ‘Nach Baliye’, ‘Bigg Boss’ and many more were started which are still going on every season.
Horror/ Thriller: Horror series were initially made on episodic stories like comedy series. Some of them include ‘Mano Ya Na Mano’, ‘Kya Hadsaa Kya Haqeeqat’, ‘Fear Files: Darr Ki Sacchi Tasvirein’, ‘Ek Deewaana Tha’, ‘Ek Thhi Naayka’, ‘Ssshhhh...Koi Hai’ and several others.
Fantasy: The success of ‘Naagin’ series by Ekta Kapoor produced under her banner Balaji Telefilms led to several shows in this genre. Several shows were made in this genre some of them include, ‘Kavach... Kaali Shaktiyon Se’, ‘Brahmarakshas’, ‘Chandrakanta - Ek Mayavi Gatha’ (TV series) and several others.
Crime: Initially though this genre was a weekend watch, today almost every channel on Indian television has shows based on this genre such as ‘CID’, ‘Crime Patrol’, ‘Dev’, ‘Gumrah: End of Innocence’, ‘Savdhaan India’ etc.
Children: Several shows were made in this genre, some of them include, ‘Shaka Laka Boom Boom’, ‘Shkatimaan’, ‘Son Pari’, ‘Shararat’, ‘Little Krishna’, ‘Hatim’, ‘Galli Galli Sim Sim’, ‘Chhota Bheem’, ‘The Adventures of Tenali Raman’ and many more.
After the regional network started on Indian television, several channels were launched that catered to the needs of local audience. Kannada serials reached out to its audience through channels like DD Chandana, Zee Kannada, ETV Kannada, Asianet Suvarna, Udaya and Kasthuri TV. A number of Tamil serials are aired in the regional channels like Star Vijay, Sun TV, Jaya TV, Kalaignar, Raj TV and Makkal. These Tamil serials are sometimes translated in Hindi and aired in national channels. The Telugu serials enjoy a wide group of transmitters. The Saptagiri channel airs popular serials, namely ‘Ruthuragalu’, ‘Manishi’ and ‘Hima bindu’, ‘Nishabdam’ is a popular Telugu serial aired on ZEE Telugu. The Malayalam serials can also be seen on channels like Surya, Kairali, Asianet, Jeevan, Jaihind and Amrita. The Marathi serials are particularly aired on ZEE Marathi, Saam Marathi and Star Pravah channels.
Similarly Gujarati serials have its own set of channels to reach out to its local audiences. The Indian television serials have gained fame in every form and thus created a massive competitive market on the basis of TRPs. The Urdu serials like ‘Mehfil-e-Mushaira’, ‘Aao Urdu Seekhein’, ‘Guftgu’, ‘Hamare Masail’, ‘Zaban Pe No Lagaam’ and ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’ are some of the popularly viewed Indian soaps. Punjabi serials have achieved great status in the northern parts of India. Oriya serials mainly revolve around the religious connotations of the state and also its tradition, through channels like DD Oriya, O TV and ETV Oriya. The Assamese serials are well-known for depicting their colourful social life, across DD Northeast channel.