One of the biggest differences that I often notice between Indian and US/UK/Australian TV drama series, is the lack of ‘place’ in terms of shooting locations.
Watch a few series of The Wire, and you really get a feeling for what the city of Baltimore is like. SATC, Law and Order etc are very firmly New York shows. Even the shows that are mostly filmed on LA sound stages, such as Boston Legal, Friends, CSI or Seinfeld use many outdoor establishing shots and some location shoots to firmly place the characters in a particular city. In spin off series, such as NCIS:Los Angeles or CSI: Miami, the city itself is generally a key character, through location selection, in order to differentiate the new series from the original.
In Indian serials, this is very rarely the case. There are very few shows that can be visually identified as being from a particular place. Obviously each series is located ‘somewhere’, but this is often established though dialogue or the characters’ dress or speech dialects. In the recent trend towards using rural settings, most of the ‘villages’ where the families live are fictional. There is a sense of place in terms of a part of the country, but rarely a specific city.
One show that doesn’t fit this trend is 12/24 Karol Bagh, which portrays life in a section of Delhi, even using the address as its title.
It would be interesting to see more shows pick a location and try to make it part of the story. The easy excuse as to why this doesn’t happen is that outdoor shoots are expensive and time consuming, and the pressure to produce daily episodes on tight money/time budgets makes outdoor locations in real cities difficult.
Many of the locations used in the TV serials are all within Mumbai Film City, just repainted and with new signs in the script of other states. Hiring bus loads of extras who will mostly do as they are told is a thousand times easier that trying to manages the crowds that turn up if you put a camera and actors in the middle of a Indian city.
Still, using Boston Legal as an example, they used outdoor establishing shots in between almost every scene. These not only set the location – was the scene in the office, in a bar, in a residential area – but also the time of day or night. It made the series feel very integrated in the city, with hardly any actual location shoots.
No reason that wouldn’t work for Indian serials?