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Little big impact: Casting kids in television shows a hit formula

Are child prodigies a better bet than older actors to keep TRPs soaring? We ask a few TV writers and producers 

It's easy to fall in love with the innocent child who depicts a gazillion emotions all at once. With their angelic faces and disarming smiles, little actors have been working their charm on the small screen audience rather unwittingly. Television producers and writers, however, are aware of the effect a kid has on viewers — and consequently, on TRPs.

Spandan Chaturvedi in a still from Udaan
Spandan Chaturvedi in a still from 'Udaan'

Records show that when children play the protagonist in a daily soap, there is greater probability of it doing better than other shows. Television soaps like 'Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat' has a tryst with history and started off with a young and vulnerable Ashok, who learns about his lineage later in life.

Siddharth Nigam in Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat
Siddharth Nigam in 'Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat'

It has 15-year-old Siddharth Nigam jumping through hoops, performing stunts and going through the emotional turmoil of hating and then loving his father. The innocence and desperation to know where he comes from and his family background had audiences glued to the television. Today, it is regarded as one of the top running shows.

Ruhana Khanna plays a child widow in Gangaa
Ruhana Khanna plays a child widow in 'Gangaa'

Even 'Gangaa', which traces the journey of a child widow, has enjoyed a great nine-month run and is now set for a leap. But are the makers worried about losing TRPs? 

Rajita Sharma,  writer, Gangaa
Rajita Sharma, writer, 'Gangaa'

Says the show's writer Rajita Sharma, "'Gangaa', as a series, would not have happened unless we showed her childhood. That became the basis of her character. I wanted to highlight a girl whose spirit does not give in even in the most difficult of times. Yes, this also works because children by their very nature of being innocent can garner a lot of viewership, and they can be bold and questioning in their characters — because they are yet not coloured by the society or conditioned by them."

Bhavesh Balchandani and Harshita Ojha in Ek Veer Ki Ardaas... Veera
Bhavesh Balchandani and Harshita Ojha in 'Ek Veer Ki Ardaas... Veera'

'Balika Vadhu' co-writer Shekhar Purendu, who has also penned 'Ek Veer Ki Ardaas Veera', explains there are two kinds of leaps — time leap and generation leap. "When there is nothing to do with a character, you take a generation leap. However, when we take a time leap, the main story is still intact and the story goes on. After two years of 'Balika Vadhu', we took a six-year leap whereby the main character Anandi turned 18. After that, I started struggling with the story. I was in talks with the channel to introduce a change. The story was getting stale and then we decided to bring Anandi's daughter, Nimboli, into the picture."

Gajra Kottary, co-writer of Balika Vadhu
Gajra Kottary, co-writer of 'Balika Vadhu'

While several channels use child actors as key characters in a show to up their TRPs, Rajita claims that there have also been instances when it doesn't work. "Take for example Uttaran. It was only after the show took a leap that the numbers picked up. When a story gets repetitive, one resorts to a time leap to bring in some freshness," she adds.

However, in case of 'Bharat Ka Veer Putra Maharana Pratap', which garnered great numbers with child protagonist Faisal Khan in the lead, could not maintain the TRPs post a leap. And apparently that was what prompted them to end the show. "It doesn't depend on the audience or TRPs. If we don't have a story to tell and explore all angles with children, it is logical to take a time leap,” said Gajra Kottary, co-writer of 'Balika Vadhu'.

Gracy Goswami aka Nimboli in Balika Vadhu;
Gracy Goswami aka Nimboli in 'Balika Vadhu'

Shekhar believes that these shows have worked in the past and will continue to do so provided it is backed by a good story and children are showcased as children. But Guroudev Bhalla, producer of 'Udaan', argues that kids don't bring in the TRP; it's the storyline that draws viewers, he asserts, before adding, "In television soaps, characters work and not stories with 'children'. Every story has its own unique requirements and that needs to be followed. 'Udaan' works because of its narrative and characterisation which is done under the guidance of successful cinema writers like Robin Bhatt and Javed Siddique. There is no formula in fiction writing. Stories with kids will always work if told in correct cinematic grammar"

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