Friendship takes back seat in Indian TV shows (Friendship Day is on Sunday)
New Delhi : Long before Sourabh Raaj Jain got comfortable doing mythological shows, he was popular for starring in "Remix" that celebrated the bond of friendship. Even Kishwer Merchantt was known for "Hip Hip Hurray", which again brought friendship to the forefront. But now, even though the protagonist's friendship with his or her friend continues to be a "crucial part" of some shows, they no longer contribute to the central plot.
Friendship Day is on August 5, but if you are planning to binge on Indian TV shows based on friendship, you would be disappointed.
Shows like "Hip Hip Hurray" (1998-2001), "Just Mohabbat" (1996-2000), "Remix" (2004-2006), "Left Right Left" (2006-2008) and "Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin" (2003-2006) will always be remembered for presenting the strong bond between friends.
But if we look at the current list of shows, friendship has certainly taken a back seat, barring few.
"They are not completely (gone), but yes, the number has definitely reduced," Kishwer told IANS.
She also doesn't mind a new version of "Hip Hip Hurray".
"Yeah, why not? But if it is made, it won't be the same. We also tried making season two, but it wasn't the same. It can't have original characters with somebody else playing us, as people are used to us playing those characters," she said.
Sourabh also misses such shows.
"I would be one of the happiest people if a 'Remix' reboot happens and I would love to be a part of it. I think shows like 'Remix' and others based on friendship, schools and colleges are more geared towards the urban audience.
"Our TRPs and numbers tend to come from all over India including Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. While our urban audience can relate to 'Remix', our rural audience doesn't. Hence, the numbers deter our makers from creating more such shows," said the "Mahakali - Anth Hi Aarambh Hai" actor.
It might not be the central plot, but ZEE TV's Business Head Deepak Rajadhyaksha shared that the theme of friendship figures amongst the "gamut of subjects that hold a universal family appeal".
"We have had shows where the protagonist's friendship with his or her closest pal is a very crucial part of the narrative, even if it may not be the central plot."
Citing examples, he said: "'Ishq Subhan Allah', which is essentially a love story set against the backdrop of religion, also tells the story of our protagonist Zara's friendship with her Hindu friend Reema.
"Throughout the tenure of 'Kumkum Bhagya', it has shown our male lead Abhi's friendship with his best friend Purab as a strong focal point of several sub-plots. So, while you may not peg these shows as being based on friendship, they do depict the dynamics of meaningful friendships that viewers can relate to."
"Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai" is another show which chronicles the adolescent romance between Naina and Sameer but it is incomplete without Sameer's friends Munna and Pandit.
"Through Sameer, Munna and Pandit's friendship, the show's makers have highlighted multiple facets of an ever-lasting friendship and shown the importance of understanding, honesty, dependability and loyalty," said Raghav Dhir, who plays Pandit in the show set in the 90s.
"What our show highlights is the true meaning of friendship which was an important aspect of the 90s," he added.
His co-star Sanjay Choudhary said: "Real friendship is being presented in an efficient way. All aspects of a strong bond are being picturised in an artistic way."
"In real life also, the friendship of Sameer, Munna and Pandit is real. Whenever we are done for the day, we make sure that we call each other and talk if we haven't been shooting together."
Writer Manoj Santoshi said his show "Jijaji Chhat Per Hai" is based on the pillar of friendship.
"We have Pancham and Pintu who are committed to becoming music directors together and stay together forever. Murari and Chhote also portray this beautiful relation of friendship," he said.
And then there's director-writer Sonam Nair's "The Trip 2".
"The show is about four women who are strong and at the same time helping each other and being strong as that's how things are in my life. My female friends are most important to me and we help each other in our journeys. It's important to show this side also in Indian public instead of just showing the opposite side," she said.
She agreed that an entire show is not made on friendship so much.
"Other things are more popular and take precedence. I don't know why that is, because I think our culture from the time we were in school, college to workplace, friendship has been deeply rooted in our society.
"Everyone is warm to each other and stand by their friend much more than western culture. In western culture, friendship is not as warm and deep as in India as friends here are more like a family. I am glad that 'The Trip' is one of the few shows that highlight friendship as it's a pure concept."
And we are sure the viewers want more.
(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )