Friday, September 24, 2010

Emotional Aachaar

Where there is a television and a remote control in an Indian household, there is an audience transfixed on the great stories of our time – the Hindi television serials. My mother is no different, and with her visiting us at our American cable infested household, we were brought onboard to the mystical land too. From 8.30 in the night to 10.30 in the night for the past two months, Suhana and Naitik, Akshara and Shakti, Durjan Singh and Pratigya have flooded through the pixels of my television. I have the pairings wrong, but such is the overarching and confusing impact of these melodramas (which are anything but mellow), that there is no defense. This concept is not alien to me. I had explored this landscape a few years back when I suggested that Ekta Kapoor be made president. Some things have remained the same and some have changed in the past five years. Here’s my take on it.

Serial Titles
It has become an almost golden rule that a serial be named after a Hindi film song. ‘Tere Liye’, ‘Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai’, ‘Sasooral Genda Phool’ are examples. My simple question for those who bother to compose new songs as the title songs for these serials: Why?

Impoverished Nation?
You will never get the impression if you look at the women in the serial. They go to sleep dressed like they are going to a wedding. They show up in a wedding like they are royals about to donate alms to the poor. Who would have thought that TV actresses could lead the way in setting fashion trends?

Dropping eves
No serial would progress if someone was not eavesdropping. Almost every important discovery in every serial is made by the simple act of someone hiding behind the door and hearing a conversation between two people who clearly don’t know the concept of closed doors.

Mahila Mukti ya Mahila Shoshan
The more progressive India gets, the more regressive the serials get. In one of the serials (Pratigya), there is a message that runs at the bottom stating that the serial makers oppose any and all forms of atrocities against women. If you take your eyes off that and look up, you’ll see the women in the serial being treated as dirt.

Gujarati is the new Punjabi
As the default family in Hindi movies are Punjabis, so the default family in television serial is Gujarati. The serials are set in Baroda and Ahmedabad and characters with the surnames Shah and Patels abound. Oh, and there are the characters who have a “sa” tagged at the end as a mark of respect. I wish at least one character was named Hansa. Imagine “Hansasa”. Africans would have been proud.

Special Effects
No more camera panning through shots from the left, top, bottom, and right everytime a character has realized that his wife is cheating on him. The cameraman must be as thankful as the audience is, as the directors have decided that the only special effect worth continuing with is slow motion. I can see the point of that. Less work for the cameraman and more screen time consumed while doing nothing

Disappear, Reappear and Duplicates
The theme of people disappearing and reappearing is popular. Those presumed dead show up alive as someone else. There are those presumed alive who are actually duplicates of those now dead. A lot of energy is spent in trying to figure out if you are who you claim you are. The methods vary from a sophisticated DNA test to a crude questioning of old facts. Can’t accuse them of having a lack of drama.

Employment Discharge
The women never seem to work outside the house, the men disappear for hours but don’t seem to work much either. The palaces they live in seem to be sustained on a mixture of huge inheritance and oxygen. If a lawyer, as one of the characters is, can live in a house the size of the Aga Khan Palace, then he clearly must be the best of his kind.

My parents will head back to India soon and I will be left with the hard decision of whether to continue or not to continue with the Indian channels. Is a serial called ‘Kya Karen, Kya Na Karen’ being made somewhere?

Friday, September 17, 2010


I watch
The slaughter of the moments
As the hand mercilessly
Ticks over
With unfailing regularity
Running over the hapless
Lines on the clock.
Barely will they rise
Before they get eclipsed again