At a time when horror/supernatural thrillers rule the Kollywood scene, Tamil television has been quick to join the bandwagon. Actress Kushbhu, for the first time, has taken a ghost avatar, not for a film, but for a Tamil horror/thriller daily soap titled Nandhini! The serial is written by her husband and filmmaker, Sundar C, who is also its creative head. Earlier, there were a few thrillers like Marmadeasam, Vidadhu Karuppu and Panchami, that provided edge-of-the-seat excitement, but they were aired weekly. Later, female-centric and highly dramatic sob stories and mega serials occupied a majority of the morning and early evening slots. Now, the trend is leaning towards serials with horror and supernatural stories.
Present-day horror daily soaps like Nandhini on Sun, Neeli on Vijay, Yaaradi Nee Mohini on Zee, and Moondraavadhu Kan on Vendhar, Thik Thik Thigil on Pudhuyugam, are highly entertaining, feel many viewers. Reportedly, they are also topping the TRP ratings! In fact, Naagini, the Tamil dubbed version of Hindi serial Naagin, which was aired on Sun TV late night at 10 pm, received a rousing response not only from elders, but even children.
“How long can the audiences tolerate family soaps, with themes like mothers-in-law being at constant loggerheads with her daughters-in-law, illicit relationships being justified, and betrayal/revenge dramas? Change is inevitable. Now, producers are coming out with serials with snakes and ghosts and to some extent, it has paid off,” says trade analyst Sura.
Kushbhu, the new ghost on telly, and the co-producer of Nandhini, feels that many factors attribute to the success of their serial.
“First of all, we have made it in a fascinating manner, giving a cinematic approach for a TV daily soap. — there’s grandeur in every aspect. Huge eye-catching sets, rich costumes, virgin outdoor locations, and attention to minute details, provide great appeal. Also, the actors, who have been cast, are well-known film artistes like Vijayakumar, Vijayalakshmi, Sachchu, Gayathri Jayaraman, Venkatesh etc — whose faces, the audiences are familiar with. We have also made it in a way that is suitable for family audiences. We are particular that when children watch it they should never be frightened.” (smiles)
The actress-turned-politician adds, “Secondly, we don’t prolong the episodes like family soap operas do. If we bring in a twist in the story, it gets resolved within a few episodes without stretching it for many weeks.” Ask her about her tryst with the horror genre, and she replies, “It’s new to me and I am just experimenting. It was not easy and it needs a different way to portray a character.” If you thought it was just the quintessential housewives who hogged the shows, you’re wrong! Priya, a fifth grade student from DAV School says, “Naagini used to be telecast late at night — and though I had school the next day, I would still stay awake and watch the serial! I liked the fantasy elements and they never scared me. Now, I watch many horror shows including Nandhini. I like the CGI-generated ghosts and snakes. The shows are colourful with ladies wearing gorgeous costumes. Plus, the story is narrated interestingly with a lot of twists.”
But Jerrold, who directs the Tamil horror-humor daily serial Neeli on Star Vijay, also feels that there’s a dearth of new content on Tamil television channels. “K.Balachander sir’s Marmadesam and my serial Mandira Vaasal, were well-received back them — but those were aired weekly. Then the mega-serial boom came. For the past one decade, TV viewers did not have any choice, but to watch these everlasting family dramas. Then a few years back, Tamil-dubbed Hindi family soaps started invading all the Tamil channels. Channels like Polimer were airing these dubbed serials to a great extent.”
He adds that these dubbed shows like Naagini, the Tamil dubbed version of Hindi serial Naagin, paved the way for the orignal Tamil horror and supernatural thrillers. “It made a great impact and they were getting bigger numbers than a family soap. The TRP rating for a channel which was just two went as high as seven. This turn out to be a gamechanger.”
Jerrold divulges that deviating from the usual horror genre, popular shows like Neeli today haev been designed in such a way that it sends out a positive message. “If you have seen Casper The Ghost — the Hollywood animated cartoon series, the ghost is very friendly and lovable. Similarly, I designed Neeli series to suit kids’ tastes. It is about a mother’s ghost, who protects her daughter Abhi, through her doll Neeli. I started it in Kannada and later made it in Tamil after the overwhelming response,” he reveals.
And who regulates the content? “Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, the content regulatory body of television channels used to take action on complaints they received on increasing violence and crimes in TV serials. They also used to serve notice to the concerned channels. But, in the present scenario with the kind of content that is aired on all channels, one needs to see how effectively the BCCC functions,” remarked a television producer on the condition of anonymity....