To a generation that thinks Tamil TV is just a medley of sad women-centric sagas, reality shows and dubbed serials — there once was an era of path breaking content that ensured that the TV in your drawing room was no idiot box!
Raghuvamsam (first mega-serial), Kaiyalavu Manasu (that introduced Prakash Raj to the Tamil audience), Marmadesam (first paranormal series), Oonjal (first love story), Marumagal (first outdoor campaign with Khushbu), AlaiOsai (Kalki’s famous novel), Ganesh-Vasanth (Sujatha’s famous detectives) and the iconic Chithi are but a few of the trend-setting serials that stood for Tamil Television Fiction across channels!
A video magazine Poomalai became Sun TV with shows produced by film stalwarts like Minbimbangal (started by late Bala Kailasam – K Balachander’s son who pioneered TV production), Radaan (Radikaa Sarathkumar who dynamically set the path for heroines to progress into TV), 7th Channel (one of the early producers for TV), Vikatan Televistas, Madras Talkies (brought novels as TV serials) and the late Balu Mahendra (short stories).
Soon there was an explosion of General Entertainment Channels (GECs) — Vijay TV, Raj TV (with its bank of movies from Raj Video Vision) and Jaya TV (set based reality shows and the comedy Veetukku Veedu Looty (with actress Saranya) emerged. Suhasini’s Penn (Sun TV), Priya V’s Anbulla Snehidhiye (Sun TV) and actress Lakshmi (as evocative as ever) in the first ever chat-show Kadhai Alla Nijam (Vijay TV) set the benchmark for quality content. The BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) led TRP was a mere barometer for numbers and not a qualitative indicator. The focus was on producing good content. Back then, the monetisation of airtime and TRPs didn’t dictate how an episode should end!
Today, Sun TV’s market position is four times more than its closest competitor. But their weekend non-fiction shows didn’t bring back equal returns (for instance, Deal-Or-No Deal). Vijay TV slowly and surely went all out to capture that non-fiction segment. Vijay Awards & Star studded events (Kamal 50), reality shows like Super Singer, Jodi No:1, Neengalum Vellalaam Oru Kodi (which is in its third successful season) and their fiction Office and Saravanan Meenatchi (which ran more like a film with background score and cinematography) gave this channel the position of being the urban end of the Sun TV spectrum. All other channels fall within these two polarised brands. Earlier, movies were aired on weekends but now the battle between film producers and TV channels over satellite rights has almost brought weekend programming on Tamil TV to a halt.
Sun TV’s TRPs indicate no urgent need for programming innovation (serials are aired from Mon-Sat). When internet usage at a dismal 4-6% in the State, there’s no way that Netflix or any other app would take away their target consumer! A Tamil serial’s success mantra is to cast a popular actress in a middle-class household and have her battle out her problems episode after episode. In that case, is the enhancement in creative content as the differentiating factor between TV shows really needed at all?!