Maverick storyteller Vikas Gupta talks about lack of youth content on Indian television

Things have changed, and I am here to document the same.

I, Vikas Gupta, is a storyteller. And my keen interest has always been talking to the youth of this country.

I have been part of this fascinating world of Indian television since a decade now. I have worked very closely with Balaji Telefilms and have learnt a lot being a part of some iconic shows.

However, I got a tad tired and took a break. I started travelling and took to theater. I went on my first international tour to Japan and watched lot of good shows, which was full of youth element. I wondered why did we not tell similar stories in India? Our country is so young. It was like a moment of epiphany for me.

Thus, I started thinking about concepts in the youth genre. We did have a young fiction show like Dill Mill Gayee back in time and non-fiction shows like Roadies and Splitsvilla, but none which catered to the age group of 15 to 21.

That’s when I thought of Gumrah, a show which was focussed absolutely on the youth and issues concerning them. Gumrah became a cult, it became so huge that biggest of television bosses took notice and I was eventually called to make it for Star.

Other than the concept, we, at Lost Boy, also brought a paradigm shift in the way the story was told. We shot guerilla technique, used 5D cameras, shot selection was not traditional, editing, background score, everything exuded freshness and novelty. One could actually feel and experience unique storytelling, which was later imbibed by many. Suddenly people started seeing me as the ‘king of youth entertainment’ and also called me Anurag Kashyap of TV, which was funny.

After Gumrah, we created MTV Webbed, Yeh Hai Aashiqui, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, among others.

I would like to share with the readers that back in time I headed programming first on Channel V and then MTV.

Channel V started championing the cause of youth entertainment and actually commissioned fiction shows for the targeted young audience. Being in competitive arena, MTV too entered the space, followed by Zing, Zee Cafe, Bindass et al.

However, the intention to go the extra mile was always with Channel V and MTV. After I left Channel V over creative differences, I joined MTV. MTV’s powerful franchises like Roadies and Splitsvilla had lost steam and I took the tough decision to move out of the comfort zone and revamp the entire endeavour. Thus, Roadies changed its look & feel and Sunny Leone joined Splitsvilla… rest is history.

Still, Channel V continued to push the youth programming mantle and aired some great shows like Sadda Haq, Suvreen Guggal, The Buddy Project among others. MTV had Kaisi Yeh Yaariaan, MTV Webbed.

Thus, the entire youth space, specially fiction, became vibrant with more and more producers keen on entering the genre, bringing variety to the skyline of Indian television.

Sadly, the biggest force in the field, Channel V decided to shut its youth programming, bringing a sudden lull. With Channel V gone, MTV did not see any major motive to continue with its youth content either. Bindass too dropped out of the league.

Now, there is no youth programming on Indian television. Once a vibrant space, now wears a barren look, fertile with potential. So much can be done, but faith and commitment has dwindled.

They say the youth is now on digital…tell me, is TVF Pitchers about a 15 year old or does Shaadi Boys (Voot) talk about teenage issues? They all cater to 25 plus audience. But there is a huge audience out there who crave for good youth content. The response to my show Class of 2017 on Alt Balaji is humongous, but not surprising. It reflects that there are young stories to be told.

We, at Lost Boy, will continue to weave stories for the youth and we hope that the broadcasters too will realise the vacuum and aim to fill it with some good shows soon.

Youth is full of energy and they love to choose, but for that, we have to first put out some good content out there. Till then, cheers and wishing all a great year ahead.

(Vikas Gupta is a content creator/anchor/TV producer and is currently in Bigg Boss season 11. He penned this piece for us before entering the house)

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