Throughout the 1980s and 90s TV dramas were the main sources of entertainment for the TV audience. There was a time when renowned and writers and master directors dealt with themes worked through different types of realistic and satiric genres.
Prothom Prohor, Shokal Shondha, Shongshoptok, Bohubrihi, Ei shob din ratri, Dhakay Thaki, Auyomoy, Kothao Keu Nei – each of these serials grabbed the imagination of the audiences all over the country.
Fictional characters like Tuni (Ei Shob Din Ratri) and Baker Bhai (Kothao Keu Nei) got forever etched in the public consciousness. And their popularity was something to be reckoned with – so deep was their impact on the public mind that to prevent their fictional death processions were held by fans in many cities.
These characters and their stories used to make people stay glued to the TV screen and wait for the next episodes. The fascination was infectious. Then came a time when things started to fall apart – the most avid followers of serials dispersed and TV dramas lost its magnetic power. It happened around the turn of the millennium.
The quality of the dramas aired on BTV kept deteriorating after that. Bangladeshi audience now have the luxury to choose from over 40 TV channels. There are a lot of content on offer, throughout the day, but how far the quality of the dramas are entertaining in a true sense?
"The quantity of good production has been reduced but there are few good productions that get telecast. But the quantity of good quality dramas is very few in numbers. Amid glut of mediocre productions good productions are often lost," says Tareq Akand, head of programme, Banglavision.
In recent times, TV series or dramas are mostly hammed in with quirky dialogues and eccentric characters. Show after show, the plot, the faces, the setting and the climax remain the same. Familierity breeds boredom, so audience, over the years, have lost interest.
There was an incraese in the proliferation of stereotypes. Be it Jahid Hasan, Mosharraf Karim, Chanchal Chowdhury or Apruba, the tacky dialogues, sexist catchphrases were the same. What was lacking is innovation.
Hence, these days plenty of TV dramas follows the typical storyline of love triangle in the urban setting. Casting Tisha, Tahsan, John Kabir, Mithila and other stars, in one capsule of a drama. These are designer dramas of our time. Star-struck teenagers helped create a fan-base for these industry-standard productions.
A helpless girl (as bengali girls are mostly portrayed as obola nari), a bohemian boy or a jobless youth madly in love with each other but fail to get married or faced with hurdles finally get married and live happily ever after – the formula for the millennial audience also been exhausted over the years.
"The commercial tycoons also give their input in the product since the investment comes from them. The trite storyline is what they are pushing for most of the time. This also harms the audience's creative process in receiving quality works. However, the directors are failing miserably to bring change to dramas and thus in the point of view of the audience," says Nurul Alam Atique, drama and film director and scriptwriter.
During the mid 2000s, dramas were popular, mostly of Humayun Ahmed's though. Abaro Tara Tin Jon starring Dr Ejajul Islam, Faruque Ahmed, Shadhin Khasru was a comedy that pleased the audience. Ronger Manush by Salauddin Lavlu is one of its kind that made a huge buzz in the country and was a huge hit. To draw the attention of the same audience, many writers have written dramas replicating this drama, though its appeal is only diminishing. Yet a string of production are made and telecast.
"We always emphasise the good content. But budget puts a constraint. With time, budget is supposed to increase but it is decreasing in Bangladesh's entertainment industry," says Salahuddin Lavlu, Secretary, Director Guild.
The lack of quality productions is driving Bangladeshi audiences to Indian drama serials. These melodramas of family politics, spiced up with emotional entanglement, and betrayal are popular because of the traditional values that are being portrayed through them. The aspiration of having a perfect family, the housewives and retired husbands in Bangladesh are attracted to these serials.
"I watch three of the Zee Bangla and two of Star Jolsha serials every day. In different time of the day and evening the same episode gets telecast. That is how I can watch whenever I get free time. I like the dramas because of women characters in them really have strong and bold roles to play who are also careful about the cultural value," says forty eight-years-old homemaker Asia Alam.
Many directors now mimick the storyline and following on the patterns of Indian Bangla serials.
Such popularity of Indian dramas inspired Zee5 streaming platform to start their business in Bangladesh with Robi Axiata Limited.
But the repetition of storyline, tacky dialogues of these Bangla serials do not complement the taste of the urban youth.
"I watch Netflix religiously. The TV series of these platforms are way better than Bangladeshi TV dramas. The content of Bangla TV dramas are not something out of the box these days. Nothing is unique but the same nagging," says Abdullah Al Mamanul, student, Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology.
Every form of art somehow reflects the reality of society and life. One of the main reasons of our TV dramas' seeing a decline is that they fail to connect with the audience. If we fail to come up with new genres and contents, the crisis would turn into a crunch.