As NDTV Imagine went live in the Middle East and North Africa region today (June 19), Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar, the channel's creative consultant and brand ambassador, admitted that Indian television programming was lacking in creativity.
"There are limitations and no matter how much I would like to revolutionise the face of Indian television, I can't because of market and audience preferences," Johar said after a press conference for the channel's launch in Dubai this morning.
NDTV Imagine is a Hindi entertainment channel from the NDTV network. Launched in India earlier this year, the channel is free-to-air and available on Nilesat. It currently presents programmes such as the epic Ramayana, soap operas and talent hunt shows with celebrity judges.
Elaborating on the continuing churning out of women-centric soaps, family-oriented dramas and talent shows on music and dance across the channels, Johar said they were symptomatic of Indian society.
"All surveys reveal that the majority of TV viewers are women, which is why the TV soaps that were popular as daytime television in America have become prime-time viewing in India," he said.
Catering to the emotional ethos of Indian society, the trailer of NDTV Imagine's programming screened at the press conference revealed the usual fare of Hindi serials and talent shows with celebrity judges.
Johar, whose brand of Hindi cinema has often roped in a strong Non-Resident Indian angle and along with other commercially successful directors such as Yash Chopra, been accused of the Punjabification of Bollywood, paused when asked how TV could be entertaining for a diverse Hindi belt of viewers.
"I think as women are the majority of viewers, they have in the past been most supportive and accepting of the Punjabification, as you call it, or the Choprasation, as I call it, of movies. But, if you notice, movies have moved away from that formula as men and children have rejected it and cinemas are more of a family experience in India. It does, sadly, remain in TV shows," he said.
Johar concedes that research into TV trends in India reveals some startling traits. "I've always asked people why Hindi serials insist on the loud banging in the background as part of the score. Apparently TV serial watching for women is not a sit-down and enjoy process. They're working while the TV's on. So to capture their attention the soaps incorporate the element within the production."
As a director, Johar's next release will be in late 2009, with "My Name is Khan", however, he will be releasing films as producer including the much-hyped "Dostana", starring Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Priyanka Chopra.
"It has been distracting," he said of his dabbling in TV - as a consultant and talk-show host - "but it's been interesting. I'm a restless mind and these distractions have aided my thought process. I've met some amazing people and characters. I don't know how they'll work out in the grand scheme of things, but I've had fun."