It is twenty twenty-two, I have the liberty to watch content from across the globe on various platforms. I watch content that is diverse, fast-paced, well-written, and well-made overall, and yet somewhere deep down in my heart, I have a soft corner for Indian Television (ITV). I am an avid Indian Television viewer. I claim that I have been infected by an ITV bug and now I suffer from “ITV fever”. I began watching these shows with my mother and grandmother in the early 2000s, they’ve moved on but I’m hyper fixated.
I question myself, when will this ITV fever wear off or why do I have it in the first place?
It began when I was nine or ten years old, at this point I had exhausted all the cartoon channels and had moved on to the Disney channel or Star One. I came home from school, watched ‘my’ shows, finished homework, went out to play, and came home. Once I came home, I sat with my mother and watched her watching the OG K dramas on Star Plus. The colours, the drama, and the heavy dialogues are bound to catch your attention at some point. After a while, I found myself hooked to these storylines revolving around the kitchen, mothers-in-law, and daughters-in-law. My mom let me watch these with her as she believed it would help me learn Hindi as I did not grow up in India, well, she was not wrong, ITV is the reason I picked up Hindi.
But, did watching ITV soaps alienate me from pop culture conversation in school? Not at all. This was when I realized that I had a dualistic taste when it came to content consumption. I watched That’s So Raven, Lizzie McGuire, and Wizards of Waverly Place. On the other hand, after some time, I’d given up watching shows with my mother and found ITV content that was mine, that’s when a Dil Mil Gaye, Miley Jab Hum Tum, Dhoom Machao Dhoom, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai and Shararat were airing.
But, why was Shararat way superior to Sabrina the teenage witch in my head? Shararat had a similar plot to Sabrina but I loved Jiya, the Pari more than Sabrina the witch. At that age, I was unable to tell why but now as I reflect, I can tell exactly why. Jiya looked like me, she was of Indian origin and could do magic! Duh, I could relate to her and her daily adventures at home and at school. This is exactly why representation in mainstream media is important.
After discovering Hindi youth content, there was no turning back to watching star plus with my mom, or so I thought. In twenty eleven, there came a show called Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam doon on Star Plus and this show bridged the gap between the younger and older ITV audience. This show was the origin of ITV romance tropes, hate-to-love stories along family drama. A fifteen-year-old me now found a show that I could watch with my mom and grandma.
Discussing fiction has always been a personality trait, I need to ensure that there are some common shows that I and the people I interact with, watch. Watching ITV allows me to have those conversations with my mother and grandmother to this date. I am picky about my choices now, but I ensure there is at least one common show we all watch. Twenty twenty-one gave us Anupamaa, we now have a Whatsapp group chat where we discuss the show, the characters, and share behind-the-scenes content. Anupamaa is a show that is able to make three generations of women in my house blush and giggle like schoolgirls, six days a week. Dad and granddad complained initially, now they are invested too. Can’t blame them!
Well, that’s how I got the ITV fever, but will it wear off? I think not.
I watched the ‘Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts’ reunion earlier and the actor Matthew Lewis said “there is something about the escapism you find. the healthy form of escapism. that, I think, is kind of what harry potter does”. This resonated. ITV is my escape.
I truly believe that Indian Television offers me an escape that no other medium of entertainment in the world can provide. I understand that ITV plots are oftentimes viewed as ridiculous, predictable, regressive, and illogical. But then why am I drawn toward it? There is a dialogue in the star plus show Kahaan hum, Kahaan Tum where the lead actress says, ITV aims to create magic and not logic.
It’s the magic of certain couples, some family dynamics, and a few characters on ITV that stick. They stick as I can see them on my screen at least five times a week. Also, once invested, it becomes really hard to move on from ITV as these characters become a part of my daily life. In any other form of entertainment, I meet a character either once a week if it’s a series or I meet them once in my life for three hours. They catch my attention, I rave about them and I move on. ITV characters, on the other hand, meet me daily, how can I not hyper-fixate when I like a certain couple, a family, or a well-written character.
Additionally, there is one thing ITV today does really well and it is the telling of love stories with a mix of family drama. The slow-burn romance on ITV is unparalleled, no other industry can serve enemies- to -lovers trope, fated and destined lovers trope or a star-crossed lovers trope better than ITV. The banter, the longing, the separation, the parallels, the progression, the eye locks, the music, the proximity, the romance, the bepannah beintehaa mohabaat, and the shiddat wala pyaar, is served on a golden platter for romance lovers.
I keep logic aside when I watch most of the ITV shows for the magic, but why should that be the case? Why can’t writers do better, why can’t I get a plot that is progressive, logical, and magical at the same time? Why do I have to find friends online from different parts of the world to discuss ITV? Why do I have to keep calling it a guilty pleasure? Why can ITV be a part of pop culture?
It’s a marathon and not a sprint but I hope ITV content gets there at one point and is a part of mainstream Indian entertainment and pop culture.