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Ananth Mahadevan: TV industry made by storytellers, not by executive producers

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Actor-filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan has penned a book titled “Once Upon A Prime Time” that captures the ups and downs of the Indian television series since 1983. He says the daily soap has currently lost its glory, and this happened due to the lack of good storytellers like Shyam Benegal, Basu Chatterjee, and Aziz Mirza, who brought a revolution in TV entertainment in the eighties and the nineties.

Ananth finds a reason why the web series has taken centrestage, sidelining the TV series. “We have to understand that filmmakers and storytellers made the television entertainment interesting, not executive producers. That has happened only in the last 15 years. When we started our journey in television with fictional series, celebrated storytellers like Sai Paranjpye, Shyam Benegal, Basu Chatterjee, Govind Nihalani, Aziz Mirza, Kundan Shah and Ravi Chopra — among others — were making shows. Whether it was short films, telefilms, episodic series, they brought a movement on television as well as in the parallel cinema,” Ananth told IANS.

He added: “Give me three names of filmmakers who are also directing and making a mark with TV series now. Earlier, people used to know the director of a TV serial they watched. These days the audiences does not know who the director is. They know who the producer is. They know the actor but there are no signature that differentiates one show from another. Television really collapsed after 2002.”

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In his book, Ananth Mahadevan has tried to encapsulate the journey of Indian television shows, sponsored programme started by iconic filmmakers, and his personal experience of being part of TV serials like “Hum Hindustani”, “Bhoothnath”, “Nachnewala Gaanewale”, “Mahanagar”, and “Khandaan” among others. He also directed the 1997 edition of the comedy series “Ghar Jamai”, featuring R. Madhavan.

So, what went wrong with Hindi fiction television? “The whole pressure of delivering 20-minute episode every day was such that quality of the content was bound to fall. These were coming out of factory outlets and not from a creative outlet?” replied the filmmaker who bagged National Award for his Marathi directorial, “Mee Sindhutai Sapkal”.

However, in recent times there are many web series that have received appreciation from the audience, and digital entertainment is making its space, pushing the TV series behind, and almost irrelevant for the young generation.

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Asked about how he looks at the change, Ananth Mahadevan said: “Most web series that have gained popularity, have toxic content and graphic violence. These are somehow creating a negative impact on the minds of people. Since these are available on mobile phone, such content filled with violence, abusive words, huge toxicity and titillation, making the audience used to such things. It is serving to the animal instinct of the human mind. It is negative. We need to rethink such extremes.”

–IANS, Arundhuti Banerjee

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