From the ghats in Varanasi and the narrow alleys of Mathura to the old world charm of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh has loads to offer. In probably what could be termed as capitalising on these assets, television producers and directors are now veering towards this heartland.
'Hum Hain Na' chronicles the trials and tribulations of a family in Varanasi
You will find an increasing number of shows with stories having Uttar Pradesh as their backdrop. According to industry sources, apart from the local culture in UP, the numerous languages spoken in this part of the country, like Hindi, Urdu, Awadhi, Braj Bhasha and Bhojpuri help infuse a lot of desi flavour in the script and gives the serials a unique personality.
'Mahakumbh - Ek Rahasya, Ek Kahani' has been shot at various places in Uttar Pradesh
Small town hero
In the show 'Tu Mera Hero', the protagonist, Titu (Priyanshu Jora) is a lazy bum who isn't really keen on working, because his father is one of the wealthiest men in Mathura. However, he always has female company as he loves being a free guide to the female tourists in the city.
'Tere Sheher Mein' unfolds in Varanasi
'Humsafars', which is set in Lucknow and has Sahir (Harshad Chopra) and Arzoo (Shivya Pathania in lead roles, chronicles the story of a man caught between his affections for his girl and nostalgia for his wife, who's in a comatose state. The mythological thriller 'Mahakumbh: Ek Rahasya Ek Kahani', also features UP in its backdrop and talks about Rudra (Gautam Rode) who possesses supernatural powers.
'Tu Mera Hero' is about a happy-go-lucky Mathura guy
Another ongoing show 'Hum Hai Na' which showcases a typical family in Benares touched the 100 episode mark yesterday.
The upcoming show, 'Tere Shehar Mein', is the journey of a girl from Paris to Varanasi
In addition to the above, the upcoming show 'Million Dollar Girl', which has its story set in Varanasi focuses on the aspirations of the youth in non-metros of the country.
'Humsafars' stitches in the Lucknowi ethos in the show
Another upcoming show 'Tere Sheher Mein' narrates the journey of a small town girl who transforms into a strong and independent girl. It has been shot extensively in Benaras, apart from Paris.
(Above) 'Million Dollar Girl' is about a girl who starts off by selling men's inner wear in Varanasi and goes on to become a fashion icon in Paris
The producer of 'Million Dollar Girl', Yash Patnaik says, "The plot revolves around Avanti who belongs to a small town, but has big dreams. We thought of shooting in Varanasi because of its strong cultural history."
The producer adds that it's natural for TV show makers to get attracted to the heartland. "The state provides a cultural, traditional fabric to our canvas in terms of characters, look and feel and narratives."
A good support
Of late several Bollywood films shot in Uttar Pradesh were given incentives for showcasing the state's culture that in return, helped promote tourism. But the small screen fraternity is yet to receive any such offers. As Patnaik puts it, "It will be great if the Uttar Pradesh government realises the opportunity and also provides support for shooting TV shows in UP."
Another factor that led to most shows now being shot in the region, is of course, because of the herd mentality. If one show set in a particular region takes off and gets popular, there are several more than jump into the bandwagon. There have been phases of Punjabi, Haryanvi and Rajasthani households dominating the soaps. Also, the small screen producers have realised that the viewership in the UP state alone is enough to make or break the show. So setting it in UP is enough to lure the audience and bring in the much needed TRPs.
Television producer Sudhir Sharma says, "Uttar Pradesh as a backdrop fits certain stories and content. TV has a content driven market and UP has a huge population and viewership. Generally when the backdrop is set in a non metro area, it is an added incentive for the viewers because they get to watch the place and know its culture. We can also explore a lot in terms of storytelling."
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