Some time ago, television soaps were all about larger than life settings in metropolitan cities, chandeliers hanging atop in huge mansions, makeup laden daughters-in-law doing household chores, mothers-in-law sauntering around the house in heavily embroidered saris and a host of BMWs and Mercedes’ lined outside their bungalows. With the domestic sagas being ousted from public taste and primetime slots, producers are now resorting to newer ways and fresher locales to boost their TRP s. From the outskirts of Gujarat to tiny villages in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, television producers are now busy finding their spot in the sun.
When the cast and crew of Sapna Babul Ka...Bidaai on Star Plus first moved to the outskirts of Agra and the actors were filmed in horse-drawn carriages and hand-carts, everyone termed it as “down-market,” recalls Rajan Shahi, the show’s producer. “But the script demanded a smaller town and the simplicity of characters had to come across. Moreover, I always believed that small-towners are more honest about their lives and livelihood,” says Shahi.
The boosting TRPs of Bidaai encouraged him further to shoot his next, Ek Rishta, in Udaipur. “Metropolitan life is very artificial and the characters are not really identifiable. We wanted to bring real people to the forefront,” he says simplistically.
While most directors have made a conscious effort to move to rural set-ups; for Purnendu Shekhar, writer of Balika Vadhu on Colors, it was an automatic choice. “Child marriage is an ill plaguing most regions of Rajasthan. After a lot of research, we decided on a place called Kherjala near Udaipur. By setting the serial here we wanted to involve the people of the village and thereby curb the practice if possible,” says Shekhar.
Shooting in village set-ups has been a different ball game for the actors too. For newcomer Asiya, who plays the lead role in Bandini on NDTV Imagine, shooting in a village is more demanding but also fun. “There is no electricity, no mobile phones and getting your logistics in place is quite a hassle. You are living away from your home for a long schedule and getting in touch with them becomes difficult,” she says, adding, “But there is a bright side to it also. The focus is on simplicity and so one can avoid wearing heavy jewellery and elaborate costumes.
In a village, people treat you like their guests and make you feel really comfortable.” The authenticity that comes along with shooting in a rustic background is also noteworthy.
Ranbir Rano on Zee TV which is set up in Dera Bassi in Punjab, pays special attention to the culture and tradition of the inhabitants.
“For a change, there is an actual gurudwara in the midst of a busy street as opposed to the temple located at Film City,” says Dhruti Desai, a viewer.
Smita Bansal, an actor from Balika Vadhu feels shooting in a rustic background, takes you back to tradition. “Living in Mumbai, it’s difficult to follow the customs practiced in villages. With serials like these on television, the city-folk will at least be acclimatised to the village way of life,” she feels.