The small screen on regional channels is now an overcrowded arena. Mega serials and reality TV shows jostle for space, with the content generated mostly suited to a middle-aged demographic. The young, urban crowd that identifies more easily with a "Friends", "Seinfeld" or "How I Met Your Mother" is unlikely to be interested in the life and times of a sacrificing homemaker.
Tamil sitcoms online: Finally, stories that the urban young will relate to
These shows are refreshingly honest about realities facing the urban young of today.
Features Web series Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 18:27
Though English sitcoms are popular among the urban youth, the genre is yet to make a transition to regional channels in a big way. It's not that sitcoms as such, are new to Tamil entertainment. What artists like SV Shekar, Madhu-Cheenu, and Crazy Mohan created was also situational comedy, but it was not youth-centric. The premise was the family and its daily dose of little conflicts.
English sitcoms, on the other hand, are about young people and their concerns. Less of roti-kapda-makaan and more of existential questions like who am I and what am I doing here? The settings tend to be popular hang-out places - like the coffee place in "Friends", the diner in "Seinfeld" and the bar in "How I Met Your Mother".
With a growing "hang-out" culture in metro India and the internet offering platforms like Netflix and YouTube, regional sitcom web series are beginning to make their presence felt.
The characters in these sitcoms speak a mix of Tamil and English and tend to be far more realistic than the melodramatic ones we see on TV channels. While mega serials have episodes like a stepmother-cum-adoptive-mother setting someone on fire, these series are 'slice of life' episodes that don't have major twists or "shock" moments... thankfully so.
Stray Factory's "Black Sheep" and Put Chutney's "Ctrl Alt Del" are two Tamil web sitcom series that have managed to hit it off.
"Black Sheep", written by Bhargav Prasad, is about an engineering student who wants to drop out of college and become a stand-up comedian. Interestingly, the story is based on the real life of its lead character, Shyam Renganathan. The three main characters are Shyam, Nikhil (his friend), and Pratyusha (his girlfriend).
Put Chutney's "Ctrl Alt Del" is about four software engineers and their lives. The characters are slightly older than the ones in "Black Sheep" and also converse more in Tamil than in English, unlike the former.
These shows are refreshingly honest about the realities faced by the urban young of today. They are also devoid of hypocrisy and are minimally stereotypical. Taboo topics like watching pornography and drinking alcohol appear quite casually.
The female characters in these shows are allowed to get angry when a man asks them if they're virgins. It's all right for them to wear "short" clothes, go to pubs, date whoever they like, and break up too! The male characters are neither booming patriarchs nor teeth-grinding villains. Their dilemmas and vulnerabilities are portrayed with verisimilitude, something that you don't often get to see in Tamil entertainment - be it cinema or serials. The mood is amoral and free of judgement.
These shows also score high when it comes to representing relationships - be it platonic friendships or romantic ones. The humour is light and worked into the script, though not all episodes are equally funny. The writing, for the most part, is natural and easy to relate to. The rather obvious product placements might be the only irritant but well, you can't run a show on fresh air and water.
At a running time of less than 15 minutes per episode, a Tamil sitcom is a good way to take a quick break and relax with a cup of tea. And hopefully, the success of these series will inspire many more shows that capture the reality of urban Indian youth in future.
Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.