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Why talk shows no longer click with Indian viewers, and how to revive this genre

Talk shows have managed to hold their own amid a plethora of fiction shows, reality shows, movies, sports telecast and more. In the West, talk shows have evolved into platforms for discussing issue-based topics or revealing unknown aspects of well-known celebrities or even stand-up comedy performances. Talk show hosts themselves have become celebrity figures; one just needs to look at these, among many shows – Late Night with David Letterman, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno – some of them have been running for decades. 

In Indian television, the genre of talk shows started way back 1972 on Doordarshan with ‘Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan’. Hosted by actress Tabassum, the show saw indepth interviews with well known names from Bollywood and television, interspersed with film scenes. 

Over the years, there have been quite a few talk shows that have engaged well with the audiences – celebrity-based talk show ‘Rendezvous with Simi Garewal’, ‘Movers and Shakers’ with Shekhar Suman, ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hain’ with Farooq Sheikh as host, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ with Aamir Khan, ‘Koffee with Karan’, ‘The Anupam Kher Show’, and of course, the once extremely popular ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’ and its watered down version, ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’. 

However, unlike in the West, talk shows on Indian television have not been a regular feature. Their sporadic presence on the small screen has not been able to create a deeper pull with the audience. Of course, the viewers’ expectations from talk shows in India are different from the Western audience. Here people expect the whole works. 

A complete package 

Sukesh Motwani
Sukesh Motwani
As Sukesh Motwani, Producer, Bodhi Tree Multimedia, explained, “Talk shows on Hindi GECs can’t be just about plain conversations unfortunately, you need to give this audience a dose of comedy, stand-up, gags or very entertaining distractions to make the whole package entertaining and appealing to all age groups and sections of the society.”  

He further added that Kapil Sharma’s show or for that matter ‘Movers and Shakers’ a decade ago had redefined and incorporated the chat with a guest component within a larger entertainment and stand-up format. This is also significant because all news channels, be it Hindi or English, and other English Entertainment channels, have been doing interviews or chat shows for a long time. “So, a GEC will always have to build a far more entertaining comedy package to appeal to mass viewers, including children,” Motwani stressed. 

According to Yash A Patnaik, Producer, Beyond Dreams Entertainment, “There has been a perception formed around Hindi GECs that chat shows are no longer relevant in the entertainment genre.” 

He added, “I have been in this industry since 1995 and I had done many chat shows initially in my career. But over a period of time, news channels have come up with a plethora of talk shows. The viewer is consuming this in one form or another in the News genre.” 

Deepak Rajadhyaksha
Deepak Rajadhyaksha
Deepak Rajadhyaksha, Deputy Business Head, Zee TV, felt that since news channels and other niche genres focus more on talk shows, there was no point in having such shows in the GEC category. 






The English Vs Hindi divide 

The English genre caters to a niche audience, while Hindi GECs cater to a more mass audience. This is one of the reasons that a talk shows work better in English as compared to Hindi. 

Yash A Patnaik
Yash A Patnaik
Patnaik remarked that though there are talk shows on English entertainment channels, there is no comparison with the numbers that the Hindi GECs get for the fiction shows. In the English entertainment segment there are different kinds of talk shows which cater to different tastes. “People have different platforms to go and watch talk shows. They don’t have to come on a GEC to watch talk shows. They have several other mediums to go and view it there as there is more reach on other platforms than on television,” he added. 

Earlier, people didn’t have that access to celebrities, but thanks to the advent of digital and social media, that exclusivity has gone. With the emergence of news channels and the kind of content that they are serving, GECs are restricted to just celebrity-related reality shows. 

Industry experts feel that chat shows do not fall in the entertainment category, and hence they don’t garner the numbers. For advertisers and broadcasters there has to value for the money invested. 

Motwani observed, “Talk shows on significant topics have become the main stay for news channels, which have live studio audiences. Therefore, in the last 7-8 years Hindi GECs have been driven to find more ‘in your face’ Rasas, where they need to entertain and enthral viewers. Star Plus bit the bullet and aired ‘Satyamev Jayate’ and it was touted as one of the most credible talk shows because it was backed and hosted by Aamir Khan, who is known to be socially aware and has been a face for many social causes.” 

How advertisers view talk shows? 

Motwani pointed out, “Advertisers will back a show if they believe in it credibility as well as the star charisma of the host. This apart, the theme of the show has to be topically relevant and should be able to create credible, newsworthy talking points.” 

He further explained that formats with serious issues as content will work on Hindi GECs only when the show is hosted by a successful and credible face, whom the viewer can identify with and trust. Many more viewers will be interested in socially diverse discussions and debates that affect their daily lives. 

In a similar vein, Patnaik said, “I think all stakeholders think that talk shows are a wonderful genre and some efforts are needed to keep it alive. But then again, everything is looked on the basis of RoI. Talk shows don’t provide that RoI anymore unless you have extraordinary talent with you as today, thanks to social media, celebrities are like an open book as they are present on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

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