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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The plot thickens in Swarg as it is Team Shubh v/s Team Arjun-Lolita now !

A lot has been happening in the lives of all the characters of Maat Pitah Ke Charno Mein- Swarg, First we get to know that Suhani, wife to Shubh is not really dead. She is being held hostage by Madhukar who intends to use her as a trump card against Arjun and Lolita. Ansh, who till recently was unaware of Shubh’s ‘staged’ death comes face-to-face with Shubh, the news of whose death had left him heartbroken. Shubh confides in Ansh about his plans of punishing Arjun and Lolita and all that he had been doing to convince the duo that they were seeing his ghost.

The brothers along with Gayatri decide to trap Lolita. Shubh is able to procure photographs of Lolita that were clicked while she was a struggling model. The snaps help to bring to the fore Lolita’s true character-that of a manipulative woman who does not shy away from using her body and sexuality to move ahead in life. Shubh and Ansh decide to leave the same photographs in the family living room so that it would catch the attention of one and all. However this plan of theirs fails as their uncle (Mamaji) chances upon the photographs before anyone else and returns them to Arjun.

Arjun and Lolita are not without their problems too. On the one hand they believe that they are being haunted by the ghost of Shubh. On the other hand Madhukar is threatening to expose their evil deeds if he is not given the money demanded by him. However destiny smiles upon Arjun once again as he accidentally stumbles upon the fact that Shubh is alive and is only faking his death to carry out his revenge against them. Then the husband and wife duo put their heads together and scheme out a plan that will help them to-a) get their hands on the family wealth; b) pay off Madhukar; c) torture Shubh some more. They rope in Madhukar in this diabolical plan.

Madhukar then calls up Shubh and tells him that he has not finished off Suhani but has been instead keeping her sedated and under his surveillance. He now wants money to the tune of Rupees Five Crores to set her free. Shubh is in a quandary as he does not have access to that kind of money. The news of Suhani being alive makes him elated but on the other hand he is worried that his cover has been shot. Ansh tries to help his brother in securing the ransom by demanding his share of the family wealth. The tide has once again turned against Shubh as Arjun now has the upper hand and is going to play the former like a puppet. Whether Ansh and Shubh are able to save Suhani; whether Shubh and Suhani are reunited and the guilty are punished, only the future episodes will provide answers to all these questions.

Devi - A slice of real life?

NDTV Imagine’s Devi in its first few episodes has shown promise in terms of story and treatment. Like most serials of today, it is also set in rural India and talks about the lives of poor villagers who are held ransom to faith, bad weather, lack of opportunities and an evil Thakur (landlord). It has so far been a telling commentary on some of the ills affecting rural India. On the one hand it talks of superstition and old belief patterns and those who exploit the poor in the name of both. On the other hand it brings to the fore the status of women in India’s villages. It talks of the double bind that women find themselves in terms of caste/class and gender.

A baby girl is born to a poor family and the father is forced to abandon the child because of his limited means. Coincidentally the day of her birth sees rainfall in the village after three consecutive years of drought. The village priest convinces the superstitious and God-fearing villagers that the baby is a reincarnation of the Goddess. As more people are convinced of her divine status, a small group of people are out to make money. Her own father and uncle fall in this category and the two in fact end up fighting about who gets to keep the lion’s share of the income she has generated. The villagers throng to catch a glimpse of her as they are convinced that she will rid all the ills of their lives. They even turn in their hard-earned money as offering. Thus as she cries lustfully in the hot sun as she is hungry, the superstitious villagers turn a deaf ear to her wails and keep chanting “Jai Devi”. Their false notions of divinity and reincarnation help them to ignore her cries of hunger and overlook the fact that she is only a hapless little thing.

In the same place where this baby girl is being hailed as a Goddess, her mother is being made a target of the landlords’ evil designs. The Thakur holds her father hostage while her mother begs for his life. The cruel man then decides to trade in the father’s life in exchange of the mother’s honour. The little girl’s mother is helpless-in terms of societal structure since she is located far below the Thakur being poor and a woman. The paradox of the situation is hard to miss-while on the one hand a little girl is being worshiped for being a divine reincarnation, the same child’s mother is being preyed upon for being a poor woman. The irony of the situation is something that is true not only to rural India but also urban India.

Diverse settings help to bring in spice and character to serials

As the popularity and mass appeal of Hindi serials keep growing through the length and breadth of the country, there is a marked attempt by the makers of shows to depict different regions of India and its distinctness via these programmes. Thus we see that not only significant characters but entire settings are now being determined and shaped around regional flavours. Right from the architectural style most common to a particular area, to eating habits, dialect, fashion, sense of style-in short everything that is peculiar to a certain region is being reflected through Hindi serials.

The very first example that comes to mind is Colors’ Bhagyavidhata. Set in semi urban Bihar, the entire look and feel of the serial has been designed keeping in mind the region it is portraying. Thus from the dialogues that the actors are mouthing, to their sense of style, the rituals being observed, in fact right down to the colour of the vermilion being used-everything gives you a feel of the state. The elaborate and in-depth celebration of “Chchat” witnessed in this serial must have been a first for television. Such detailing not only helps to add to the drama behind the story but also helps to build regional awareness and tolerance.

Zee TV’s 12/24 Karol Bagh helps to capture the essence of a very niche area of Delhi-one that is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and its ostentations. The dilemmas and situations faced by the characters of the serial are intrinsic and characteristic of the area it is set in.

Pavitra Rishta talks of a social milieu that is typical of Mumbai-the ‘chawls’. It depicts middle class Maharashtrian families and stays true to the setting of the story. The values and morals eschewed and upheld by the lead characters are those that you normally associate with “Maharashtrians”- polite, hard working, proud of their customs and traditions and passionate. Sabki Laadli Bebo on the other hand depicts life in a Punjabi household. Right from the large hearted characters, to their colourful attire, their irrepressible joie die vivre, and their customs and traditions-all of it is beautifully captured in this serial.

Recently there has also been a trend to set shows in the smaller cities and towns of India. Thus while Bidaai is set in Agra, Laagi Tuhse Lagan is set in Lucknow, Jyoti is set in Udaipur and Do Hanso Ka Joda in Vrindavan. This move away from using Mumbai or Delhi as the given setting of a prime time show is indeed not only reflective of the widening popularity of Hindi serials but also Hindi serials’ way of acknowledging the support of their real fan base; the fan base that is not just restricted to Metropolitan cities only.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jyoti - Time to make up your mind, strong woman or weak one.

The makers of NDTV Imagine’s Jyoti ought to make up their mind and that too pretty quickly. It seems that the powers that be are undecided about the way they want to position their lead character-Jyoti. It seems they want to project her as a strong independent woman who has a mind of her own and yet for some inexplicable reason they are forever limiting her horizon. Initially when the show was in its nascent stage, Jyoti was projected as the sole bread earner of her family and as such she was fiercely independent, self reliant, practical and dutiful.

Jyoti was conscious of the burden (she never termed it that) of managing a family consisting of an invalid father, an ageing grand mother, an unemployed slightly flighty younger brother and two unmarried sisters. But this did not stop her from dreaming of her own house, her own family, her private love nest (while she was romancing Brij). While in most other serials it is sacrilege to harbour personal dreams and ambitions; Jyoti had no such hang ups or pretensions. She was not selfish just because she had her private dream goals and aspirations. Just as we were getting ready to applaud a very ‘real’ character, the makers changed their positioning of Jyoti.

Dumped by her lover Brij for her younger sister, she is heartbroken. On top of that she receives the news that the woman she has always looked up to as her mother is actually her step-mom. She is devastated. Naturally anyone would be. She has a major break down. That is also acceptable. But to make her take a decision as big as ‘marriage’ with a man she barely knows came across as highly implausible. Jyoti has always been too headstrong and level-headed to need the support of a ‘man’ to begin life afresh. This was the first sign of her weakening.

As of today, Jyoti remains a very confused character. She is strong and yet very weak. She is shown to be honest and yet decides to hide the truth about her past, something that is difficult to digest. She seems to have lost her voice, her grit, her determination. Accused of being unfaithful in her marriage she is thrown out of her marital home. She walks out without muttering a word of protest. Now her husband is set to divorce her and she will give in not because she has been wrongfully maligned and has thus lost faith in her husband; but because she is a dutiful wife and desires her husband’s happiness. Had the show makers shown Jyoti to be a more proactive (as in her earlier version) and taking the decision to divorce her unbelieving husband and moving on in life, it would have given her character far more credibility, respect and strength. As of now she seems like a shadow of her former self-undecided, unwilling to fight and a doormat.

Manav and Archana-The magic of indefinable chemistry

How do you define chemistry? And by that I do not mean the kind taught in school text books. Chemistry is that indefinable, intangible quality that creates magic between two individuals. Pavitra Rishta’s Manav and Archana have chemistry-oodles and oodles of it. In fact such is their pull that they are today undeniably one of the most successful on-screen pairs of Hindi serials. Their love story is so different from what one normally gets to see on television. It is real, down-to-earth, to a certain extent unspoken and endowed with a certain magical charm.

Things have not been too good for the couple for the last few months. In fact things have turned so bad that they even wanted to snap off all ties. Matters were heading for a divorce much to the disappointment of a lot of loyal “Manav-Archana” fans. However at the last moment Archana changed her mind and as a result the judge has ordered them to live together for three months and give their marriage a second chance. He has ordered Archana and Manav to live together as husband and wife much to the dismay of Manav’s mother.

Manav’s step-mom dislikes Archana and wants her out of his life. The divorce was meant to serve two purposes-to make Archana miserable and to free Manav so that he could marry his deceased younger brother’s pregnant wife, Shravani. The judge’s decision put a spanner in her plans and she is hell bent on securing Manav and Shravani’s relation. Archana too is willing to fight for her marriage and in spite of all the insults being hurled at her by her mother-in-law; she refuses to abandon her marital home and her husband. Manav feigns dislike and anger but his heart only beats for his wife whom he loves with all his soul. Goaded by his mother he tries to side with Shravani but is unable to do so whole heartedly. As the two lovers pine for each other, the audience wildly root for their union. What more could the makers of the show ask for?

The state of flux between this wonderful pair has been going on for some time and the show makers need to remember that drawing out a sequence for too long can spoil all its charm. Audiences are eager for a solution to this problem and it is high time they are given one.

Bidaai - Happy times ahead?

Over the last month or so, the track of Bidaai (Star Plus) has been witness to a lot of heartbreak and sadness for its lead characters-Alekh, Sadhna, Ranveer and Ragini. Ranveer was put behind bars on the basis of Sadhna’s testimony. Ragini miscarried upon the news and as a result Sadhna was asked to leave the Raichand house. However now that Ranveer has been released from the prison and is back with Ragini, things are set to change for the better. The two main love stories around which the show was based are back in focus once again.

Ragini is severely depressed and does not want to entertain any thoughts of reconciliation with her beloved sister Sadhna. She asks Ranveer to promise her that he will not try to contact Sadhna and seek to mend broken bridges. Ranveer understands and appreciates Ragini’s fragile mental state. But he is also aware that the only person who can help him help his wife is the one person that he is not allowed to meet-Sadhna. For the sake of Ragini’s well being, he breaks his promise to his wife and decides to meet up with Sadhna. A concerned Sadhna tells Ranveer that he should take Ragini to the dance school as dance is the latter’s first love and the thing that brought the couple together. Ranveer follows this sane advice and takes his wife to the dance school and Ragini rediscovers her forgotten passion for dance. She dances with gay abandon forgetting her worries and concerns.

In the meanwhile, Sadhna has become back to her maternal uncle’s house after being disowned by her husband and his family. She realises Alekh needs time and space to understand and respect her one act that put his brother behind bars. She decides to take up a job in the same company where her uncle works and is hired as a personal assistant. Call it fate or call it destiny, but she finds herself face to face with her husband, working as his employee. Alekh has been trying his best to avoid face-to-face situations with his wife as that would force him to answer a lot of unanswered questions to his own self. This new development forces the ‘much-in-love’ duo to work side-by-side on a regular basis. Whether this will help the Alekh-Sadhna love story to grow and mature; only time will tell. However for the viewers it spells more romantic evenings where we can get to enjoy two of the most successful pairs of Hindi serials in recent times. As audiences can we ask for anything more?

Ammaji - Audacity is thy name!

Ammaji’s audacity knows no bounds. First she staged the drama of her own death, thereby convincing her enemies to come out in the open and declare themselves. Having drawn out Dharam Veer Singh and District Magistrate Vohra, she flogged her own brother-in-law to an almost-dead state. Not being satisfied with this, she then tied the man to the end of her jeep and dragged him all over the village and threw him to the wild animals. Forbidding him to ever enter the village she punishes not only him but his entire family; as he is husband to one and father to two.

Instrumental in saving her life has been Sia, married to her youngest son Raghav but who she has reduced to the position of a servant girl in the house.Sia proved her mettle as a fine woman when she threw herself in the line of the bullet that was meant to kill Ammaji. Honoring a human life more than all the resentment (justifiably so) that she has against Ammaji and her cruel ways, she arrives just in time to warn Ammaji of the threat to her life. Had it not been for her timely intervention Ammaji would have surely fallen prey to Dharam Veer and DM Vohra’s schemes.

Grievously injured by a bullet meant for Ammaji, Sia mourns her mother-in-law’s death in the hospital. Her husband Raghav, who has so far treated her like an object of disdain, arrives to give her the good news and take her home. Sia’s act of bravery has changed Raghav’s attitude towards her. He is immensely grateful and profoundly moved by her action. He seems softer, gentler in his approach and for the first time acts like a caring husband. However Ammaji is not happy seeing her favourite son being nice to someone whom she considers to be a servant of the house. She even goes on to say that Sia’s act of bravery is something that is expected of her position, that of a servant girl. She adds that by taking the bullet meant for her, Sia was only fulfilling her role, her duty. Such audacity! Such Impudence! Instead of being indebted to Sia, she humiliates her further by adding that Raghav should not have gone to fetch her from the hospital as that was a job befitting her (as in Ammaji’s) bodyguards. Even her ever loyal guards are stunned into disbelief by this callous remark.

The growing intimacy between Raghav and Sia is making Ammaji uncomfortable as Raghav is her most trusted soldier and her favorite son. If he is lost to the good Sia, Ammaji will be one warrior short. Will Ammaji be a mute spectator to this new development or will her diabolical mind put an end to Sia and Raghav’s closeness-only time will tell.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sukh By Chance - Importance of money in materialistic world...

In today’s intensely materialistic world, one cannot ignore the omnipotence of money. Indeed all of us are running after this elusive, never enough, object that we believe can buy us all happiness. Many amongst us would find it difficult to say ‘no’ to wealth that did not come to us via hard work. It takes immense strength of character to not touch money that has been accidentally accredited to you. The Mehtas of the serial Sukh By Chance are one such family who will try to rise above the temptation of riches that has not been directly earned by them

The Mehtas are a typical middle class Gujarati joint family. The said family lives happily within its small boundary of limited needs and limited means. One day by chance they discover that someone has deposited Rs.3 crores in their bank account. Instead of spending it at will they decide never to touch the money as it does not belong to them. Soon it is revealed that there is a shadowy person to whom the money really belongs to and he will test the Mehta’s ability to stay off the money. He creates situations in Mehtas lives where in it becomes necessary to use that money. However the family remains true to its principles and has managed to not touch this wealth.

However, there are some heartbreaking incidents in store. Mohan Mehta, the head of the family will now be forced to use some part of the money. Now it seems God wants him to use the booty and the show will witness some disturbing episodes. Amit Mehta who is in his final year of Medicine loses out on his scholarship. He needs Rs 4 lakhs to complete his final year and become a doctor. He is also in love with Namrata and they both can get married only after he becomes a doctor. Amit will plead with his father to part with the money but he refuses. Depressed, Amit will try to commit suicide. On the other hand, the youngest son of the family, Kanha Mehta will fall from the terrace and will have to go for an urgent surgery. The surgery will cost Rs 15 lakhs. Mehta finally gives in and pays Rs 15 lakhs for the surgery. Amit too will get to pay his fees and with that Mehta will end up using Rs 19 lakhs. Will the shadowy figure now reveal his true identity and cause problems for the Mehtas-that remains to be seen.

Nakusha - The Ugly Duckling turns into a beautiful swan, everytime!

The promos of Laagi Tujhse Lagan created the right kind of buzz and anticipation. It promised to be the story of the proverbial ‘ugly duckling’. But unlike fairy tales where the ugly duckling grew up to be a beautiful swan, this held out no such promise. In fact the sneak peaks that were aired kept harping upon the fact that Nakusha, the lead character, had an amazing story to tell not because of her looks, rather in spite of her looks.

Prime time Hindi television had already had its ugly duckling-beautiful swan transformation in the form of Sony’s Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin (a cult serial of its time). Nakusha promised not to be another Jassi. The fact that this serial is a product of Paresh Rawal’s production house lent more validity to this claim. When the serial began it stayed true to its promos. Nakusha indeed turned out to be not so blessed in the ‘looks’ department. In fact such were Nakusha’s looks that her neighbour made her naughty child drink milk by just invoking her name. Her dark complexion, crooked nose, joined eyebrows-her entire being in fact made people laugh out loud or shrink back in horror and disgust.

Sadly, Nakusha turned out to be another beautiful girl hiding behind a facade of ugliness. Her almost perfect features and complexion was hidden from the world by her mother who did not want her daughter to draw to herself the unwarranted sexual advances of men. However the truth has come out. Her mother’s worst fears have also come true as the evil and corrupt Inspector More is now hell bent on marrying her. He even intends to sell her off post marriage as he in convinced that her beauty will fetch him a handsome price.

Laagi Tujhse Lagan was promising to be a different serial, one that would talk about not the pretty princess but about her not so beautiful sister, standing far back, hidden from the arc lights. Sadly it did not deliver on its promise. It is yet another story of a fair skinned beautiful girl. The fact that the makers of this serial also had the temerity to equate dark skin with ugliness is something that is not good for a country that is so obsessed with fairness. By talking in terms of stereotypes (fair=pretty; dark=hideous), the serial has reaffirmed this already unfair notion that values fairness of skin. It is high time that our serials talked of normal girls, who are average in their looks but outstanding otherwise. Let us all remember that beauty is not just skin deep.

Bairi Piya-Amoli, the one who does not have a price, will she finally defeat the Thakur?

The commoditisation of woman in society is a topic that has been much debated upon in academic journals as well as in the common press. Serious art house cinemas have also raised this point time and again. Colors’ Bairi Piya talks about this very pertinent subject, using the idiom of Hindi serials. Set in rural Maharashtra it talks about the impoverished and poor farmers-the small land holders and the landless labourers- who often use the women of their household as one would use money or other possessions. In short women are used as medium of exchange.

The serial begins with a slew of farmer suicides that bring to the fore the miseries farmers have to face in our country. Amoli is the pretty daughter of a poor farmer. Soon she catches the attention of the village landlord, Thakur Digvijay Bhadoria. Her beauty sets his heart aflame with desire and he gets desperate to have her in his life. He tries to marry Amoli, albeit clandestinely, and promises her father to write off his bad debt in exchange. However he is unable to marry her. Thwarted in his evil designs, he tricks Amoli into marrying his man servant, Radhe, a man totally devoted to him.

The diabolical Thakur does his best to lure Amoli into his bed. He tries every trick in the book but fails. Here Amoli, refuses to let herself be used an object owned by either her husband or his cruel master. Her love for Radhe, her unflinching belief in a relationship that is of little value to her husband is wonderful to watch. She brings her strength of character to the forefront every time she resists the Thakur’s advances. Yes, she cries and she laments, but she is also proactive and a firm believer. She refuses to let herself be used as a plaything by the Thakur even as her servile husband stands by meekly.

Fortune favours the brave. And so things have finally started to look up for Amoli. Her husband Radhe has started taking small steps towards the creation of a relationship that can sustain the tag-husband and wife. However Thakur has not given up and it remains to be seen what new tricks he uses to finally fulfill his desire.

Serial makers need to look before they ‘leap’

Leap, is a small word, but one that has become the favorite tool for serial makers, writers and producers. In fact in the world of Hindi serials, nothing works like a leap. It is the most followed trend in terms of story-track development that has provided a fresh lease of life for many a serial. As soon as the powers that be in channels and production houses realize that a particular show is falling of the charts of TRPs, they introduce ‘leaps’ to bring in fresh faces and fresh story ideas into the serial.

Of the current serials, shows like Kis Desh Mein Hai Mera Dil and Tujh Sang Preet Lagayi Sajana from Star Plus, Aap Ki Antara and Jhansi ki Rani from Zee Tv, Betyab Dil Ki Tamanna and Jeet Jayenge Hum from Sony, Uttaran and Swarg from Colors and Bandini from NDTV Imagine are some of the leading shows who have already undergone major leaps. For shows like Uttaran and Aap Ki Antara it had the main protagonists growing up age-wise. Take for example Aap Ki Antara, the story of an autistic child. Here the leaps have benefited the show tremendously. With the logical progression of Antara’s chronological age, the serial too has taken leaps into the future. Antara has grown from a four year old to a pre-teen in one such leap. This has helped to not only take the story forward but has also introduced new twists and turns. Now the same serial is poised for another leap as Antara will now become an adult.

However leaps also take place when the makers of a show feel that in its present state the particular serial has exhausted its level of drama and story tracks. It then becomes necessary to take a leap so as to introduce new elements, new characters, new plots and new characters/faces. Take the case of Bandini, NDTV Imagine’s show that has taken a leap. As soon as the makers found out that viewer interest was hitting a plateau and that the present level of dramatics had run its course, they decided to bring in a leap to infuse fresh blood into the show. The Dharamraj-Santu love story had already realized its pinnacle (marriage) and the Hiten-Toral-Khemi-Arjan four sided love story had become too tangled and muddled. So there was a leap and the element of separation was introduced to Dharamraj and Santu’s story; while Arjan was removed from the other one. Post a ten year leap Santu has returned to her home to find new equations and new realities.

How well a leap works depends on the logical justification behind it. However, channels and production houses need to be careful for a popular trend if used often can become repetitive, monotonous and lose its sharp edge. In short serial makers, ‘do look (into the scope of the story) before you leap’.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Maha Episodes- The new trend in Hindi serials

The USP (Unique Selling Point) for Hindi serials is the fact that all of them mostly run for half-an-hour-just enough time to take a story a few steps forward up to an interesting point and then leave it, so that the viewer is never satiated. Maintaining the curiosity levels of viewers depends upon the amount of viewer interest that is piqued. Too little will not make the viewer turn on the television the next day and too much will lead to dissatisfaction.

Of late there has been a rising trend to do Maha-Episodes, where the show runs for an hour. The extended show timing means there is more scope to build drama and tension and to resolve it too. Colors was the first channel to start this trend. It was meant to be a gift for loyal viewers so that they could enjoy the company of their favorite characters for some time more. Soon other channels picked it up and now doing Maha Episodes have become the right thing to do. So you had Colors doing Maha Episodes of serials like Bhagyavidhata, Uttaran, Na Ana Is Des Mere Lado and Balika Vadhu. Similarly you had Zee TV doing Maha Episode of its prime time blockbuster Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Ki Jo. It has another one planned for this weekend (29th January) for Pavitra Rishta wherein they will try to resolve the conflict between Manav and Archana’s relation.

The moment a serial reaches the culmination point of a major story track, channels start planning for Maha Episodes as it then helps to start a new track. A major track like one involving murder, betrayal of trust or the culmination of a relationship takes a long time to build up. After a point audience interest levels reach saturation point and thus it is best to satisfy this curiosity at one go. For dragging on things (as it used to happen earlier on in Hindi serials) is not what works now, as people have very little time and even less patience. Maha Episodes for that one day runs for a little more time but it prevents viewers from losing interest. In fact it helps to create more buzz.

However channels should remember that like all good things, the trend of Maha Episodes should not be overdone. For this will then kill the novelty factor for the viewing audience. Too much of anything can be a killjoy.

Do Hanso Ka Joda - Searching Mr. Right in Hindi Cinema

Hindi cinema has defined the concept of “Mr. Right” for many a young girl. For a very long time, heroes of popular commercial films have ruled the roost as Mr. Right. Be it Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan or Shahid Kapoor-all of them have been the role model for young hearts to shape their dreams of “Mr. Right” on. Of late, Hindi serials have been putting up a strong fight, providing women with healthy alternatives of male icon who are not ‘demi-god like’ in their status and prowess, like film heroes, but more down-to-earth and believable.

Preeti of Do Hanso Ka Joda has grown up worshipping film heroes and expects her Mr. Right to be someone who will have all the qualities of all her favourite heroes. However her mother selects for her a person who is so far removed from all her hopes and aspirations that she is shattered. Suryakamal, the name itself is so ‘uncool’ to begin with. As compared to Raj, Aryan, Rishi, Suryakamal sounds dated and archaic, immediately creating in our minds the image of an old, lacklustre person. Her Suryakamal not only sounds ordinary but even has ordinary looks. His oiled and brushed hair, simple clothes, round spectacles and moustache make him stand out in a crowd but in a manner that often makes people laugh.

However as they say looks are deceptive. For despite his ordinary looks, Suryakamal is a person of extra-ordinary strength of character. He is honest, guileless, confident (in spite of his obvious lack of charm) and large-hearted. Preeti and her cousin Suman, try to make him back out of the marriage by telling him that Preeti suffers from epilepsy that the family members have wilfully hidden from him. They believe this will make Suryakamal back out of the marriage. But instead of backing out, he reaffirms his decision to marry Preeti, thereby suggesting that he is not scared of problems and difficulties and likes to meet them head on.

The beauty of Suryakamal’s character comes out when he refuses to accept dowry that Preeti’s father wants to give out of his own volition. In fact he makes Preeti’s father promise that he will not indulge in gift giving. Upon being chided by his step-mother for turning down the dowry, he politely points out that he is capable enough to provide for his family without having to resort to external help. In his actions and choice of words, he puts across an enormous depth of thought and clarity of vision. Indeed Suryakamal is representative of those many middle-class boys and men, who might not look right, dress right or even talk right; but who are made of such sterner stuff that they can easily surmount any hurdle. Do Hanso ka Joda deserves special applause for introducing such a common-yet-extraordinary protagonist to us all.

Maat Pitah Ke Charno Mein - Swarg

Maat Pitah Ke Charno Mein Swarg is a modern day take on the Ramayan. Here too you have the elder, step son going on a self imposed exile to honour the love that he feels for his parents. Shubh who is devoted to his father Satya Narayan Tripathi and his step mother Yashoda, falls victim to all the evil plotting carried on by his younger brother Arjun and his wife Lolita. The two weave an intricate plot of lies and deceit and manage to convince Yashoda that Shubh and his wife Suhaani, do not have the best interest of the family in their hearts. Ansh, the youngest brother does not agree with this tale of lies and tries to make his mother see reason.

Blinded by maternal love, just as Kaikeyi had been, Yashoda starts to dislike Shubh whom she had loved as her own flesh and blood. Shubh is able to understand that his mother has had a change of heart regarding his claim to her love and care and unwilling to create more tension in the household decides to leave the family. Satya Narayan is heart broken over this development and loses his will to live that reduces him to the status of a vegetable; unable to talk, hear, move. Lolita still concerned by the fact that she has not been crowned queen of all her father-in-law’s wealth sets off a local goon Madhukar in Shubh’s trail. Madhukar traces the two down and in a showdown injures Shubh seriously and kidnaps Suhani.

In the meanwhile, Yahoda too comes to realize the error of her past behaviour as Arjun and Lolita refuse to spend money on their father’s treatment and ill treats her. As she laments upon their greedy and evil ways news reaches the family that Shubh and Suhani has been killed. Yashoda’s sorrow now knows no bound as she realises the importance of Shubh in her family and how he had always been her ‘true’ son. Shubh however is not dead and has sworn to avenge himself by punishing Arjun and Lolita. He soon sets his plan into action by convincing Lolita that he has come back from the dead to haunt these evil-doers. Ansh (like the loyal Laxman) has also distanced himself from his blood brother as he blames him for the death of his half brother, Shubh.
Whether Shubh will be able to carry out his revenge and return to his rightful place in the family and in his mother’s heart remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, the journey of his life makes for very interesting viewing for all the viewers.

Hindi serials beginning to come of age... Yeh Pyaar Na Hoga Kam

It is heartening to see that the new breed of Hindi serials is more rooted in reality than their predecessors. There is an attempt to depict real people, people whom you would bump into while taking a walk, or at the mall or at work. Yeh Pyar Na Hoga Kam is one such serial that talks about the values of Lucknow, both in terms of class and caste differences. Abeer (the male lead) and Leher (the female lead) belong to two different caste groups; Abeer is a Brahmin and Leher a non-Brahmin. There also exists this slight difference in terms of class position between Abeer’s father and Leher’s uncle (father’s younger brother).

The interplay between caste and class has been further highlighted by the entry of another factor-regionalism. Madhav, Abeer’s cousin is all set to marry Rashmi (a Bengali girl) and preparations are on in full swing. However Abeer’s aunt and his whole family are out to make life difficult for the girl’s family as they belong to a different community and caste group. The entirely real drama wherein the groom’s parents take every opportunity to humiliate the bride’s family not only makes for interesting episodes but is also a telling commentary on the Indian social milieu.

The groom’s side of the family has always had the upper hand in terms of privileges. True to this custom, Madhav’s mother is shown to be a total shrew who at the first introductory meet commented on the fact that Rashmi’s (the bride) family had little sense of tradition and custom as they had travelled all the way from Kolkata to get their girl married at the boy’s house, instead of it being the other way round. Then again when Reshmi’s father goes to her to finalise the rituals that would be carried out by the bride’s side of the family, she snubs them by crossing out their list of rituals. Madhav’s mother then informs Rashmi’s father that the marriage will happen according to the rites and rituals that she will finalise and that the bride’s family will have no say in it and will only take part as mute spectators. She makes it very clear that as she is the groom’s mother her decision is final.

In our social hierarchy, the bride’s family is always placed a peg down the groom’s family. If it also happens to be an inter-caste and inter-community marriage, things get heightened. And this kind of social behavior is not restricted to rural areas and small towns but is also a part of the fabric of urban existence. But isn’t it time that things changed? Yeh Pyar na Hoga Kam, by depicting this reality of caste and class disparity and regionalism is trying to raise a point and say that let us all rejoice and celebrate the union that takes place in a marriage and not spoil its beauty by bringing in divisive derogatory elements.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Na Ana Is Desh Mere Lado - Ammaji - What power does to a woman

Na Ana Is Desh Mere Lado can be the subject for a very interesting sociological study on the concept of ‘power’. Power logically ought to be sexless, genderless. The long association of power with the male gender has made the two concepts almost synonyms of each other. The relation between the powerful and powerless also is best exemplified by the man-woman gender divide and bias. Men are more or less in all given situations the dominant element-aggressive, in your face, almost brutish. And they go to any lengths to retain the throne of power, subduing all attempts made by women to tilt the scale of balance of power. Woman are more docile, submissive malleable; not only in their demeanour and attitude but also in their stance. Thus it so happens that if ever a woman were to scale the position of power, her internal and external self becomes more ‘male-like’.

Ammaji is the best example that one can use to support this argument. She is the centre of power in her domain, Veerpur. But here the rules, hierarchy, structure, roles, and systems that she lords over and protects are those that are male oriented. So she does not hesitate to carry out female infanticide, scorning the womb that nurtures a girl child and celebrating the ones that produce boys. She gets her sister-in-law flogged by her husband (Ammaji’s brother-in-law) just because she had dared to give birth to a girl. She is even willing to use her niece as a pawn to win favours from the evil District Magistrate Vora. Thus in spite of the fact that she is a woman, while acting out her role of the village head she follows essential male standards and precedents.

Even while doling out punishments, she chooses ways and means that are more popular with men. She prefers to whip her adversary, Dharam Veer Singh (guilty of having conspired to kill her) using her favourite whiplash. She does not shy away from using those means of punishment that will involve using considerable physical strength on her part. Like a man she ties the same villain to the back of her jeep (a vehicle driven mostly by men and that she drives herself) and drags him all around the village as an example, to instil fear into the hearts of all those who might have hopped to bring her down.

Her Machiavellian mind works like a man as exemplified by the manner in which she entrapped Dharam Veer Singh and DM Vohra-pretending to be dead so as to suss out the enemy. Even her external gait, her postures are more akin to a man’s. In order to retain the legitimacy of her crown she has to fulfil her role like a man. For with the passage of time, power has essentially become a man’s domain and women have to kowtow to male stereotypes.

Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Ki Jo - Wife becomes the ‘other’ woman

The moral dilemma and ambiguity that the lead characters of Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Ki Jo are facing raises very interesting thoughts to ponder over. The role of the other woman in society has always been debated upon. Scorned as the vile home wrecker who lures away a ‘good’ husband from an equally ‘good’ wife using her wanton sexuality, she is forever doomed to suffer miserable consequences for her action. But the man who is equally at fault for having strayed is let off cheaply if he returns to his wife/ girl friend/lover. That is his act of redemption (or is it punishment?).

In Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Ki Jo, the situation is reversed. It is the wife Sidheshwari, who is now the other woman in her husband Shekhar and his second wife Laali’s life. Shekhar who was earlier averse to Laali has now cemented her place in his life by marrying her and moving in with her in a separate living area. Sidheshwari has now become the other entity. Her role, status and position are ambiguous and fluid. She is rejected by none and yet not accepted by the one person who is most important to her life-her husband, Shekhar. Left with very little options, she has to now resort to guile and deceit to win back her rightful place.

In collusion with her devious brother-in-law, Rannvijay and the evil servant girl, Gangiya, she is hatching plots to get back her husband. She puts up a charade and pretends that she has accepted her fate, one of a hired help who would have to do all the household cleaning and cooking. When her in-laws asked her the reason for behaving in such a peculiar manner, she cried and lamented. And her schemes have started to work. Laali who was a witness to all the drama felt bad for her and assured her that she would do everything in her power to make sure that Shekhar would spend time with Sidheshwari.

Laali returns to her little abode and convinces a reluctant Shekhar to go and visit Sidheshwari reminding him that the latter’s well being and happiness was still his responsibility. Shekhar does so and stumbles upon Sidheshwari and Gangiya plotting against Laali. This leaves him disgusted. The trio of Sidheshwari-Gangiya-Rannvijay are desperately conjuring up new schemes to drive Laali and Shekhar apart; each has its own selfish motive to fulfil. However it is indeed sad that Sidheshwari who is Shekhar’s first wife has to indulge in such Machiavellian tactics in order to win back her husband’s love. The fate that often befalls the ‘other’ woman has come upon her and she has indeed become the ‘third’ unwanted angle of this sorry triangle.

Miley Jab Hum Tum - Back on the college track

Miley Jab Hum Tum began on a fun note. It was Hindi serials’ answer to college romances that Hindi movies were so adept at depicting. Moving away from the norm of “Saas-Bahu” drama and shows that are issue-based (like female infanticide, rural impoverishment, widow remarriage and so on), this serial attempted to be more cool and hip and talk about the youth of today. It talked about two couples-Samrat and Gunjan and Mayank and Nupur. The four individuals were as different as chalk and cheese. While Samrat is the lovable brat, Gunjan is his exact opposite, a quiet and introverted soul; on the other hand Mayank is the book-loving romantic and Nupur, the more out-going and extroverted soul.

The inevitable of opposites attracting happened and Mayank and Gunjan fell in love. Their love story blossomed in a sweet and innocent manner. Things were going smoothly till such time that Nupur’s father decided to marry her off to a boy of his choice. However true love triumphed and Mayank and Nupur end up getting married. But now they have a new challenge before them. Nupur’s dad has challenged the duo to prove the strength of their love.

The focus of the track will now refocus on the college theme once again. The duo will have to prove that they can take care of each other while taking care of their respective careers. Mayank and Nupur will now go to college as a married couple. Their life, both at home and at college, will be shown. This will be a very exciting turn for the story and will be something very interesting to watch for the viewers. In today’s times as more and more women are pursuing their careers-be it education or work-even after marriage, it will be wonderful to see how this is depicted in this serial. Rarely do we get to see a college-going married young girl’s viewpoint in Hindi serials. It will be wonderful if Miley Jab Hum Tum can accurately capture the trials and tribulations, the triumphs and joys of these individuals through the life story of Mayank and Nupur.

Armaan and Riddhima - A love story that will endure the test of time?

What is it with love stories? And what is it with certain television couples? No matter what the passage of time, they remain embedded in public memory, refusing to make place for other ones. The same holds true for Star One’s Dil Mil Gaye and its super successful love track shown between the lead pair of Dr. Riddhima (Jennifer Winget) and Dr. Armaan (Karan Singh Grover). The makers and team of Dil Mil Gaye could not have anticipated the kind of tremendous response generated by the love story between Riddhima and Armaan. Despite the fact that the actor playing Riddhima saw three changes, she along with Armaan remained a darling of the masses.

At the height of their popularity, the characters were written away from the serial. And then began the patient wait of all Dil Mil Gaye lovers that one day their favourite stars would return. In the interim period a whole new bunch of characters and faces were introduced. But despite their vain attempts, Dil Mil Gaye still remained Armaan and Riddhima’s. Giving in to popular sentiments, Riddhima’s character was brought back. And it was expected that soon Armaan would follow suit. However the team decided to try something new. They decided to replace the old love story with a new one.

Thus Riddhima and Sidhant (Karan Wahi) were expected to be the new love birds, who with their constant bickering, intense dislike for each and underlying chemistry would set the small screen on fire. But alas, in the television industry, it is the writers who propose and viewers who get to dispose-ideas, content, actors, serials. Thus the Riddhima and Sid love story failed to strike a chord with the audience and now the inevitable is almost set to happen.

After four months of waiting, viewers might get to see their favourite couple (Armaan and Riddhima) back in action. Riddhima who so far has believed that she has been abandoned by Armaan will get to learn the truth. She will find out that it was her father who had lied to her that Armaan had walked out of her life when she was lying unconscious after the bullet injury. She will learn that it was due to her father’s arm twisting that Armaan had to walk of out her life. Finding the truth will enable and empower her to stand against her father (Dr. Shashank) and go in search of her true love-Dr. Armaan. It is the magic created by these two characters (and of course the respective actors) that has forced the creative hand to bring them back from anonymity to their rightful place-that of the television screen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

To err there is Tapasya, to forgive there is Ichchya? - Uttaran on Colors

As Ichchya lay on the hospital bed fighting a battle with death, Tapasya stood on the sideline, not praying for her recovery but praying to the Gods to spare her punishment. While her father hovered around his beloved adopted child, refusing to give up his tireless vigil, she prayed fervently for her friend’s death. However destiny decided to be fair and granted Ichchya the right to live. While all those around her are celebrating this miracle, Tapasya is in a fix. Her ex-lover, Sid, whom she had convinced to pull the trigger on Ichchya has been apprehended. Her father Thakur Sahab is determined to get the truth out of him as are the authorities. It is only a matter of time before Sid spills the bean on her and diabolical plan.

Caught between the fire and the frying pan (if Ichchya lives her husband will slip away from her, if she dies it could mean prison) Tapasya is praying hard and fast to the Gods to spare her this one last mistake. Like a petulant child she promises never to repeat the mistake again. She is so caught up in her own selfish world that she is unable to see the evil enormity of her own actions. Tapasya’ repentance is as shallow as that of a child caught cheating during exams. She is totally self absorbed and will stoop to any level to gain sympathy. Her father sees her standing in front of an Idol with folded hands and tears in her eyes. He misunderstands her actions and believes that she is praying to God to spare her friend’s life. When in reality she had been praying so as to protect her own skin. He thaws his hard attitude towards her and speaks kind words to her after many days.

Ichchya’s life or death is of little importance to her. In fact she wants Ichchya’s living or dying to suit her needs. If it harms her, she gets to live; if it helps her she gets to die. Either way, Tapasya has to benefit. Such stupendous levels of selfishness and cruelty leaves the viewers astounded. But like the popular saying goes ‘ To err is human but to forgive divine’ and Ichhya is definitely a better person so we can expect her to be the better person and forgive her best friend this fatal attempt on her life.

Sadhana’s Dilema - Sapna Babul Ka Bidaai

In life we all have had to stand at cross roads where it has been a toss up between our emotions and our principles. Indeed the biggest struggle is that which takes place inside your own self. Which road to follow-to stand by what you believe in or to believe in the person who stands by you, has to be one of the toughest decisions to make. Sadhna ( Bidaai) had to stand at such a cross road some time back. It was a toss up between staying true to her own principles and values or protecting the ones she loved more than her life. At the end she decided to stay true to herself and to take the side of truth. However this choice of hers put her brother-in-law, Ranveer, to prison.

With Ranveer in prison, her close relations turned against her, holding her responsible for the formers plight. Be it her indomitable mother-in-law Vasundhara or her loving husband Alekh who loved her dearly; everyone is upset at her choice. Her cousin sister and Ranveer’s wife Ragini too feels upset over her choice. She miscarries and this adds to her growing resentment against Sadhna whom she had loved and protected against a lot of heartache. Sadhna is asked to leave her in-laws house and she moves back in with her maternal uncle and his family. In her Mama’s (Uncle) family too no one except her uncle is willing to understand her or appreciate her choice.

Ranveer however is released from prison and he comes home much to the joy of all his loved ones. Strangely enough it is Ranveer who is outraged by the actions of his family members. Despite being the person who had to suffer the most the consequence of Sadhna’s actions, he is the one who is able to appreciate Sadhna’s dilemma. On the one hand it is taught to us from childhood to remain truthful no matter what the repercussions are; on the other hand those who take the side of truth are always shown to pay a heavy price. Sadhna has had to pay a heavy price for holding on to her notion of right and wrong. She has lost her home, her family and her love. Whether time and destiny is able to restore all that is lost to her and reward her for her fortitude remains to be seen. Surely such an exemplary act of courage needs to be lauded and appreciated by one and all.

Is Suryakamal Preeti’s Mr. Right? - Do Hanso Ka Joda on NDTV Imagine

Do opposites really attract or is it a myth that has been propagated by society so as to keep diverse personalities together? In the natural world, we all know that like poles repel and unlike poles attract each other. But is it fair to assume the same of human emotions? NDTV Imagine’s Do Hanso Ja Joda is attempting to answer this very pertinent question. Preeti (Shubhangi Atre) is a girl full of dreams. Pampered and loved by one and all in her family, she has grown up nurturing dreams of her perfect man. In her dreams her “Mr.Right” is a combination of all the leading heroes of Hindi cinema, be it Shahid Kapoor, Ranbeer Kapoor or Salman Khan. However her dreams come crashing down upon her when her mother chooses Suryakamal (Shaleen Bhanot) as her future son-in-law.

Suryakamal is a very ordinary middle class boy whose feet are firmly planted on terra firma. He is the caring son to his scheming step mother and the protective brother to his step siblings. He is dutiful, sincere and soft spoken. Such a man is a far cry from the kind of man Preeti would have liked to marry. She would gladly settle for Rishi (Ali Merchant) who is dashing, free spirited and carefree. However Preeti’s mother selects Suryakamal as her future son-in-law. Upon being questioned by her husband as to why she picked Suryakamal over Rishi, she said that it was Suryakamal’s simplicity that won her over. She is aware that her daughter and Suryakamal are as different as chalk and cheese but she firmly believes that the two will be happy together. She tells her husband that were Preeti and Rishi to marry, their union would fall apart at the slightest test, given that both of them are so flighty.

Preeti however is heartbroken over her mother’s choice. In Suryakamal she sees a person who epitomises everything that she did not want her husband to be. His ordinary looks, his down to earth demeanour, his apparent lack of charm, all of it puts a dampener on her spirits. Her aunt gleeful about the fact that an eligible bachelor has been turned down by Snehalata, tries to fix up a match between her daughter (Sumi, Preeti’s first cousin) and Rishi. Sumi is unlike her Preeti and is a practical and level headed girl. Her cousin’s downcast face troubles her a lot and she tries to find a solution to the problem. Are Suryakamal and Preeti and Rishi and Sumi polar opposites? Whether the ‘twain’ can meet and build a happy and productive life together; whether Snehlata is right in her assessment, remains to be seen.

Has Mahadeo Singh really had a change of heart? - Baalika Vadhu

Do leopards really change their spots; do people really turn into a new leaf if given an opportunity? Mahavir Singh has from a very young age been the embodiment of all that can be possibly bad in a human being-avaricious, greedy, lustful, dishonourable and evil. In his heyday, he ill treated his wife and drove her to an early grave. Ignoring her repeated pleas of help while she was about to give birth, he went off gallivanting with his mistress. His wife fell down the staircase and died in childbirth; an unhappy, neglected woman.

After his wife’s death, he became a free agent all over again and did not even spare his younger brother’s young widow (Kalyani, the young Maa-sa) from his evil designs. A young Maa-sa had to flee from her house in the middle of the night with her two infant sons. Not happy with this, he pursued her relentlessly and tried to make her life as miserable as humanly possible. Every time that Maa-sa stopped looking over her shoulder in the belief that he had finally stopped hunting her down, he would reappear in an even more sinister form. He sought out every person whom he could then use as a weapon to harm her. For example he had Anandi’s parents driven out of their land and home and put behind bars as it served his purpose of hurting Maa-sa.

He discovers that Basant, Maa-sa’s eldest son is actually his own. His dying wife had entrusted the baby into Maa-sa’s care. He tries to use this piece of information to break apart her family and drive a wedge between her and Basant. But he fails at that too as Basant chooses to stay with her adopted mother than his biological father. He even kidnaps Basant’s baby boy but the boy is rescued and returned to his parents. However due to Maa-saa’s intervention no charges are brought against him and he is let off by the family.

This act of forgiveness succeeds where all else had failed. Mahavir Singh is able to appreciate his erroneous ways and is now out to make amends. He helps to free Anandi’s father and returns to him his plot of land. Along side he also gives back to the villagers all the plots of land that he had taken away. These small steps in the right direction might help him to salvage his lost soul. However Basant is not too eager to believe his father’s change of heart. To him these are all part of his plan to win back his son and hurt Maa-sa all over again. Has Mahavir Singh really changed for the better or is this another act that he is putting up, only time will tell.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


It has been a very satisfying experience to watch the emotional and spiritual growth of NDTV Imagine’s Bandini-Santo. From a wide-eyed gawky teenager (eighteen is teen, right?) to a mature woman, her transition has been very smooth, gradual and interesting to watch. Orphaned at a young age and raised by her maternal grand- father, Santo would have never guessed that she would one day end up getting married to the most powerful man of her village - Dharamraj Mahiyavanshi. But this marriage was one of convenience and ended her idyllic life with her siblings and beloved grandfather. Post marriage, she is wife to a man who is almost twice her age and is a step mom to children who are older than her.

Thus begins her journey to learn all about her capabilities and strength. Thrust into a family where no one wants her, she has to fight for acceptance. But her struggle is silent, non-aggressive. Despised by the older children who have no place in their lives for her, she begins to win them over by her sincerity and love, one by one. Initially hesitant because of her unaccepted position, she grows from strength to strength, as people begin to accept and love her. Her step children, the parents of her husband’s wife, friends of the family-every body slowly give her the respect and position she is worthy of. Even her husband, who had been so far wedded to the memory of his deceased first wife, accepts her and ends up falling in love with her.

Every battle that she had to face made her a stronger and wiser person. Emboldened by the faith shown in her by her loved ones, she is able to surmount many obstacles. Her main adversary in her husband’s household is his over-protective elder sister, Tarulata and her son Maulik. They leave no opportunity to harass her. They use those dear to her as pawns in order to make her life difficult. One such pawn turns out to be Dharamraj’s long lost son Arjan. Maulik is able to turn Arjan against his own family and in a moment of heat, Arjan lashes out at his father and hits him. Before he can kill him, Santo enters the scene and saves her husband’s life. But then someone kills Arjan. Santo knows the killer and in order to protect the murderer’s life (who is her close relation) she willingly takes the blame on her head and goes to prison.

The story now takes a leap and Santo returns to her family after ten years, only to find that she has to begin from scratch all over again. Her family has turned against her and believe her to be a scheming murderess. She will have to now use all her strength to begin her fight for her lost position within the Mahiyavanshi household all over again.

Jyoti and Sushma - brave faces of prime time hindi television

How many times do you get to see a proactive female character in Hindi serial? Not many. And when you get to see two such strong characters in the same serial, you have to say ‘kuddos’ to the writers and makers. The serial in question is NDTV Imagine’s Jyoti. And the female characters are Jyoti and Sushma. Jyoti the eldest child of the family has recently been thrown out of her marital home by her husband, Pankaj Vashisht. He suspects her of having an illicit affair with her ex-lover, Brij, who also happens to be married to her younger sister (Sushma). Enraged and disillusioned he decides to snap off all ties with his wife who he believes has broken his trust.

While Jyoti struggles to come to terms with the enormity of her loss and grief, she comes to realise that she is pregnant with Pankaj’s child. Her parents decide to mediate between husband and wife and visit the Vashisht household to convey the good news to Pankaj and his family. They are confident that upon hearing this news all will be well between the couple. However Pankaj shocks everybody by declining to accept the child as his. Humiliated and insulted, Jyoti’s parents come home and they tell her about Pankaj’s accusation.

Enraged and saddened, Jyoti unlike other heroines, confronts her husband. She is not willing to let her husband get away with such demeaning allegations. She tells him in clear words that the reason Pankaj is so miffed about her past is because it revealed to him that he was her second choice and not her first. Jyoti says that it is difficult for Pankaj’s male ego, to digest the fact that he was his wife’s second option. Pankaj refuses to listen to her and once again throws her out of the office.

On the other hand, Sushma is out to rid her family of the menace called Brij. Unbeknownst to anybody, she hatches a plan to make Brij pay for all his wrongdoings. She somehow convinces him that she wants to give her marriage another shot and is even willing to move to a different city for this. She even steals jewellery in order to prove to Brij, the sincerity of her ideas. As the latter is busy packing, she pours Kerosene oil over herself, as she loudly calls out for help. She makes it sound as if Brij is the perpetrator of the crime. Whether Sushma is able to bring Brij to his knees and deliver him his just dues, remain to be seen. But for the fact that she and her sister, Jyoti, dared to take on their respective husbands in order to protect their dignity is a bold move that deserves to be lauded.


NDTV Imagine’s Devi, has got off to a promising start. Even though the rural poverty-stricken setting is similar to what is being depicted in a large number of other serials, the dramatisation and characterisation on view is totally different. The story begins with the birth of a girl child to poor farmer Ghasita and his wife Suhagi. The infant girl, a second girl child for her parents, is abandoned by her father who is unable to take proper care of his wife, sister and his first born. The thought of having to provide for another mouth is enough for Ghasita to take this drastic step. He abandons the child at the temple.

Call it coincidence or destiny, the birth of this baby girl ushers in the dark rain bearing clouds to this drought hit village. The eventual downpour convinces the local priest that the birth of this baby is auspicious for all - he in fact proclaims her to be a reincarnation of Mother Goddess. Her confused father brings her back home, uncertain as to what to do with a burden so precious. Ghasita’s elder brother Paltu, a wily and shrewd character, seizes this golden opportunity with both hands. On the sly he plants a snake in the house of the village money-lender and pretends that it is the wrath of the child-goddess that has befallen on him. The money lender scared out of his wits goes out of his way to please the angry Goddess. He pays the villagers their right price for their produce, a first in the history of the village. This sets off Paltu’s devious mind into motion.

He sees in his little niece a golden opportunity to mint money. With careful planning he sets about to create the myth of the Goddess around the innocent infant. Dragging her out at all hours, under the relentless heat of the sun as she cries in hunger, Paltu sets about making money. Ghasita too by this time has begun to believe that his little girl is indeed divine and thus while there is milk for her, the older child is asked to go outside and play when she asks for some. Caught in the trap of poverty and superstition Ghasita is unable to see his child for what she truly is - just a newborn baby. The entire process of myth building that Paltu conjures up around the little girl is interesting to watch as it offers a true insight into some people go about fooling others in the name of faith and divinity. In its first few episodes, Devi has promised a lot to it viewers and if it is able to live up to its potential, NDTV Imagine and its viewers surely will have a lot of reason to rejoice in the coming weeks.

Good times ahead for Bindiya ?" - Bhagyavidhata (Colors)

Things are finally looking up for Bindiya, female lead of Bhagyavidhata (Colors). Married off to her husband (Vinay) at gun point, she has been at the receiving of his hatred. Initially the rest of the family too were against her. They refused to accept her and she was made to sleep in the cowshed. Bindiya however is determined to make people accept and like her. Her perseverance, her soft demeanour, her silent but large actions help the family members to realise her worth. Initially it is her elder brother-in-law and an aunt-in-law who are willing to give her a chance and take her side. Things take a turn for the better when a double marriage takes place between Bindiya’s paternal and marital family. Her younger sister (Poonam) marries her elder brother-in-law (Bimlesh); while her brother (Raja) marries her husband’s cousin sister (Rekha).

However Vinay, Bindiya’s husband still refuses to accept her as his wife. It is then the turn of her eldest brother-in-law (Akhilesh) to discover the goodness in Bindiya. She is able to turn this individual who was against her into a staunch ally. He in fact goes against his wife (Punpunwali) in order to stand up for Bindiya. Her grandmother-in-law also won over by her simplicity and dedication forces Vinay to make room for Bindiya in their bedroom. In another turn of events she is able to protect the family from the evil designs of a wicked Uncle-in-law, Umashankar, by warning off her brothers-in-law of his true intentions. Vinay grudgingly accepts Bindiya’s well meaning actions and there is the slightest bit of thaw evident in his manner.

Bindiya’s eldest sister-in-law wants Vinay to marry her own younger sister and to that end has been making life miserable for our lead. On the pretext of a visit to a fair, she tries to bring her sister and Vinay together. But this plan backfires in a major way. While taking a short cut through a jungle, the foursome is attacked by two small time robbers. Bindiya hands over all her jewellery, except her Mangalsutra, the sacred thread of a married woman. She is physically assaulted by the robber but is unwilling to let go of something that is of immense significance to her and of immense insignificance to her husband. This action of hers forces Vinay to take a true look at her. For the first time, the husband wife duo is forced to act as a team, to be together. All of this helps Vinay to observe Bindiya from close quarters and revaluate his decision. Whether this is the beginning of good times for the lead pair of Bhagyavidhata only time will tell. But at least it is a step in the right and happy direction for the viewers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


There is something about Yeh Pyar na Hoga Kam, Colors’ recently launched prime time serial that reminds you about gentler, more refined times. Maybe it has to do with the setting, Lucknow, a city associated with heritage, tradition and high culture. The meandering lanes of this beautiful city houses family, people, histories steeped in a manner of living that is far more refined than the humdrum of burlesque urban living. In this city resides Abeer Bajpayee, the shiftless yet good hearted son of a successful lawyer. He is yet to discover his own true self and whiles away his time with friends at local tea stalls.

In this unruffled world of his, enters Leher (meaning waves) and creates the gentle ripples of first love. They are drawn to each other at the very first meeting but while Abeer tries his best to initiate a friendship, Leher rejects his overtures as she has been warned about him. The gentle wooing that takes place between these two young people is reminiscent of an era gone bye. Love stories depicted in television serials nowadays reflect the maddening hurry of the present world. There is immediacy, an aggression attached to all of it. But this is not so for these two (yet-to-be) lovebirds. Their glances are more relaxed, their exchanges free of time and space constraints, their innocence more pronounced. It comes across in the scene where Abeer desperate to impress Leher, fills in and submits the form of another girl without checking her face.

Even though there has been very little scope for high voltage drama at this stage of the story, even then it is very evident that in this serial even aggression will have a mellow voice. Abeer’s father is forever chiding him for taking life too easy but even in his reproaches he is careful to not cross the line of decency set between a father and son. While depicting the difference in eating habits of two different caste groups, (while the Vajpayee’s are Brahmins and therefore vegetarian; Leher’s family is non vegetarian given the fact that they are not Brahmins) there is an effort to not be judgemental of either group. Facts are presented as facts without layering them with prejudiced notions.

The old world charm of the milieu amidst which this love story is about to develop is even reflected in the background score. The use of semi-classical scores is so very different from most other serials that tend to use Bollywood songs. This whole new and refreshing backdrop of the serial has added more depth and dimension to its characters. How this love story unfolds and what turns it will take will be decided by time and viewer ratings but in terms of its attempt to introduce a novel setting, Yeh Pyar Na Hoga Kam, is a already a winner.


Palkon Ki Chchaon Mein, NDTV Imagine’s Prime time serial is at cross roads in terms of its lead pair’s future course of life. The story is about an orphaned girl by the name of Suman and her journey. The story began with Suman, an orphaned girl who goes to the house of her close friend to attend a wedding. There her dream of finding acceptance in a loving family comes true. Every member of this big, traditional household takes a liking to her soft charm. Soon she becomes the darling of Kadambari, the younger daughter-in-law of the family’s patriarch. She secretly desires to marry off Suman to her eldest son Kartik.

Unbeknownst to any one else, Karan, Kadambari’s youngest son, falls in love with Suman and woos her desperately. As she is about to realise her true feelings for Karan, Kadambari declares to Suman that she had selected the latter for kartik. Unwilling to let down Kadambari who had loved her like a mother, Suman decides to go away till Kartik uncovers the truth of the two lovers and decides to get them married. Initially there is some opposition, as Suman is an orphan, but soon everyone gives in (primarily due to Kartik’s efforts) and Karan and Suman get married amidst a lot of festivities. However destiny had its own plans for Suman.

Soon after marriage they set out for their honeymoon trip and on their way, Karan meets with a fatal accident and dies. Life and widowhood comes crashing down on Suman. She is treated like a curse by her beloved mother-in-law Kadambari, who holds her responsible for her son’s death. Made to sleep outside the house with the cows, ill-treated by the cunning aunt (Buaji) and misunderstood by one and all, Suman’s life loses it rainbow hues like her saree. After the rituals are over she is made to leave the house by Kadambari. Her uncle-in-law refusing to accept this unjust act walks out with her and find shelter in his widowed friend’s house.

Kartik has been a pillar of support for Suman all this while. But now his mother wants him to marry Nandini and shun out even the shadow of Suman. Suman too finds herself becoming the object of affection of her uncle’s widowed friend. Whether destiny will now be kind to Suman; whether Kartik will be able to own up to his real feelings for her (despite the fact that she is his younger brother’s widow); whether Kadambari will forgive Suman and move on are questions to which the serial will have to find answers. What direction Suman’s life takes from here on will be indeed interesting to watch.

Ammaji - Back from Hell - Na Aana Is Des Laado

For the first time in the history of television history, the return of the antagonist is being highly anticipated. Ammaji, tormentor of innumerable hapless souls, including her own immediate family, has been resurrected and is back to make life hell for all those who conspired behind her back. Dharam Veer, chief conspirator and the man behind all the devious plotting got to enjoy the spotlight only for this teeny weeny bit before the harsh reality of life had him bamboozled. His poor wife fell on her knees and begged him to spare his own flesh and daughter, Jhoomar, from the evil clutches of DM Vohra, but he refused her ardent pleas. He in fact went one step further, severing all ties with his legally wedded wife and reduced her to the status of a servant girl. He also took on as consort, his mistress, a person whose black designs equal his own.

He disowns his own son since the latter had dared to raise his voice against the injustice of his father’s actions. Pride truly comes before a fall and Dharam Veer proved this saying right by accepting his role in the conspiracy to finish off Amma-ji. Deluded with his own sense of invincibility he freely admitted to the crime and then sat upon the very throne that used to belong to Ammaji pushing aside her beetle leaf container. As the priests move in to perform the sacred rites of passage to confer upon him the title of “King”, justice prevails and the rightful owner of the title returns, amidst much shock and awe.

It is a testimony to the immense popularity of Meghna Mathur’s characterisation of Ammaji that for the first time ever, the return of a negative character is being so eagerly anticipated. Yes, she is vile and evil and her cruelty knows no bound. Yet for the audience there is no Na Aana Is Des Mere Lado without Ammaji. It is her role that pulls in all the eyeballs. And even though people want her to be punished but they want that punishment to come from someone who has been wronged by her. This undignified end to such a larger than life character was something that the audience could not reconcile to. The audience is perceptive enough to understand that while Ammaji is wrong, yet she is caught in a trap where in order to survive in a man’s world, she has to play like a man. So Meghna Desai, take a bow, your Ammaji has truly worked her way into the hearts of the viewing audience.

Rahul Mahajan - Swayamwar on NDTV Swayamvar

As if it was not enough to watch Rakhi Sawant, play the coy and blushing to-be-bride for Swayamvar Season 1, now audiences will have to put up with Rahul Mahajan as the dashing groom to 16 aspiring girls for the Second season of Swayamvar. Even though NDTV Imagine did manage to garner pretty decent TRPs for the first season, it remains to be seen whether the second season will offer the same kind of excitement. There are those within the television industry who believe that Rahul’s past shenanigans will help this bit of ‘reality’ programming strike gold. However the very fact that a person with a past as notorious as Rahul Mahajan is being elevated to the status of a celebrity raises certain question marks about our social norms.

Rahul Mahajan first burst into public view and public space as the grieving son of BJP politician, the late Pramod Mahajan. His father had been shot at by his own younger brother (Praveen Mahajan) and the whole sordidness of the event captured the imagination of India. At this father’s death, Rahul remained stoic, sombre and dignified, earning the respect of many. However this image suffered a fatal blow when on the 3rd of June, 2006, exactly a month after his father’s death, he had to be hospitalised after an alleged cocaine overdose. His father’s secretary, Bibek Mitra died on the same day due to this act. After being discharged from the hospital he had to live through many months of public speculation and trial. This was followed by a rushed marriage to Shweta Singh and an equally hurried divorce (one that cited domestic violence as reason).

His first appearance on television was for the controversial reality T.V. show Big Boss-2 where he came across as an incorrigible flirt, manipulative and extremely shrewd. He also served as the judge on Colors's Chhote Miyan, a children's stand-up comedy reality show. His third stint for television will be Swayamvar Season -2, Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayega, which has received 16,755 entries via phone, email and SMS. He has gone on record to say that he is looking forward to finding his life partner, someone with whom he can begin a new journey, from this show. This show is being planned around him because he is purported to be a ‘celebrity’. Without that tag of celebrity hood, he is just another ordinary person with a famous surname.

But who is a celebrity? The etymology of the word ‘celebrity’ comes from the word celeber, to celebrate. In the past celebrities have been people of talent who would create something (written, painted, sculpted, acted out) that would be passed on to audiences. In today’s post modern society, celebrities are famous not for doing something extraordinary but for merely being. Rahul Mahajan is one such celebrity whose only claim to fame has been being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Whether he is able to find his ‘life partner’ a second time around and whether NDTV Imagine will be able to recreate the magic of Swayamvar Season 1 is for time and audiences to decide.

Laali exposes Rannvijay - Agle Janam .. (Zee TV)

Finally serial makers and writers have woken up to the fact that drawing out suspenseful story tracks does not help to garner high TRPs. Instead it makes the viewers lose patience and finally interest. How long is the audience expected to watch the good being defeated by the bad repeatedly? Introducing a problem and then producing a quick fire solution to it is in fact a better option. Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Ki Jo is one serial that seems to believe in this modern tool of story telling.

Last week saw them creating trouble for the main lead, Laali. She had just been given her rightful position as her beloved husband’s wife, when all hell broke lose. Her elder brother-in-law, Rannvijay (who has never been a part of the ‘Laali fan club’), decided to make her life miserable. In the midst of a family function (pooja), a very drunk Rannvijay announced to the world that he and Laali had shared the conjugal bed. He also claimed that the baby now safely ensconced in Laali’s womb was his. He had been threatening, cajoling, pleading with Laali to come out with the truth for quite some episodes. He did the honours himself, finding Laali uncooperative and uncommunicative, but not before getting beaten black and blue by Shekhar.

But Kudoos to Laali and the powers that be of the Serial. They did not let her wallow in self-pity nor did they let her shed copious tears. Laali acted. She decided that the best way to go about things was to set the record straight and that too, straight from the horse’s mouth. So she carefully went about plotting and planning Rannvijay’s downfall. She befriends the Pundit who on her insistence tells everyone that Laali is pregnant with a boy child. At the same time he also raised the pertinent point that Rannvijay is incapable of fathering a male baby. Some high voltage drama follows and then Rannvijay finally blurts out the truth of having concocted the whole story.

Rannvijay reveales how he had tricked Shekhar into drinking Bhaang and after the latter had passed out, he had moved him out of the room. Then he had silently slipped into bed by Laali’s side and faked the entire story. With the truth coming out, Laali’s name is cleared and her honour restored. This quick resolution of the problem and that too by a proactive female lead is the new bold face of primetime Hindi television. The audience can only hope that this trend is able to break new grounds in story telling for other serials as well.

Dharam Veer Singh finally shows his true ‘colors’ - Na Aana Iss Des Ladoo

As Amma-ji was felled by the sole bullet from the assassin’s gun, many viewers were waiting for a dramatic comeback of this very powerful, larger-than-life lady. We were willing her to fight back the evil designs of fate and walk out of that surgery room, full guns blazing. But Alas! That didn’t happen. She too turned out to be mortal, succumbing to her injury and to all the plotting that had been going on behind her back. As the track stands today, Ammaji is officially dead. For those amongst the audience who were not willing to believe this inevitable, the makers of the show repeatedly made her sons lift off the cover of her shroud, as if to confirm to us the viewers “see she is really really dead”.

So what now? We were not left pondering over this pertinent question for long as the very hands that robbed Ammaji of her life, her own brother-in-law Dharam Veer Sangwan, staked his claim to the vacant throne. Emerging out of his dead sister-in-law’s shadow, he is now free to show off his evil side without any fear. His first move was to sack all old and faithful to Ammaji guards and servants. But he did it smartly, saying that how could he entrust the old guards to protect his remaining family members when they had been unable to save Ammaji. One really cannot argue with this faultless line of reasoning. In one single stroke he has rendered his nephews, powerless.

Secure in the knowledge that his most potent threats, Ammaji’s loyal sons and his own off spring have been made vulnerable and weak, he has now organised a gala affair for his official crowning as the “Maai-Baap” (King) of Dharampur. To this event he has invited his most trusted ally, a man as crooked as he is, District Magistrate Vora(a sworn enemy of Ammaji). Such is his debasement that he offers the women of his family as payment (in kind) to the said District Magistrate. As Raghav, Ammaji’s youngest and most loyal son, plunges at him at this outrageous ask, he turns around and asks a pertinent question, “Didn’t your own mother do the same while she was alive? Did you stop her then? If not why are you stopping me now?” Of course, Raghav had no answer to this as he had stood a mute spectator as Ammaji had offered Jhumar to the said D.M. a few months back. True to his nature, the D.M. picked Jhumar as the men of the family imprisoned in the hands of strong bodyguards fumed and the women whimpered. But is Ammaji really dead or will she like the proverbial phoenix rise up from her ashes-that is what remains to be seen.

Jyoti - Burning light of woman power

It is rare in television to come across a female character with ‘spunk’. NDTV Imagine’s Jyoti is one such character who is willing to fight against odds in order to maintain her self respect and dignity. She is not a wailing wallflower who laments upon her fate and curses her destiny every time difficulties cross her path. She has the courage to take on problems headfirst and emerge a winner. And on occasions where the odds do manage to defeat her, she has the spirit to learn her lessons and move on.

Dumped by her lover Brij, who to add insult to injury, marries her younger sister, she loses her balance for a while. But she fights back and restores her lost sense of pride when she enthrals a large audience with her dance recital, despite being severely depressed. Upon discovering that the same Brij is ill-treating her sister Sushma, she goes out on a limb to rescue her sister from his evil intentions even as her own family misunderstands her motives. She is not afraid to express her hurt at her step-mother (this bit of family truth had been hidden from her) but is not disrespectful towards her. She is mindful of her duties as the eldest child of her family even in times when the said family has betrayed her faith and love.

She marries a visually challenged character, Pankaj, but is never pitiful in her attitude towards him. Her respect for him as a person is the foundation for her love that happens eventually, gradually and normally. As the eldest daughter-in-law of a powerful family, she has a lot of responsibilities that she fulfils with great élan. However that does not stop her from taking care of the needs of her paternal family and she does so with the help of her own earnings. She does not depend on her husband and his riches to look after her wheelchair-bound father, old grandmother, her step-mother and her siblings. Her complete faith in her own abilities is praise-worthy and something that characters from other serials ought to emulate.

She is right now in the midst of tremendous personal grief. Her loving husband has thrown her out of his life and his house as his judgement has been clouded over by the actions of her erstwhile-lover-turned enemy, Brij. Brij has convinced Pankaj that Jyoti carried on an affair with the former while and in spite of being married to the latter. Humiliated and hurt, Jyoti has returned to her father’s house and has re-embarked on a journey to find her own bearings again. She had managed to gain employment at one place but Pankaj had her thrown out of there as well. Having found this out, she does not run away from him but instead goes on to confront him with such grace. She has just discovered that she is carrying Pankaj’s child. What this new life does to her story remains to be seen. Will this be a new beginning for Pankaj and Jyoti?

The battle between Tapasya and Ichcha - Uttaran on Colors

Ichchya is truly destiny’s child. Right from the time that she was adopted by the Thakur family as their de-facto ‘other’ daughter, she has been the source of tremendous jealousy and intrigue. Her once upon a best friend Tapasya and the evil Naani have made it their mission to make her life as miserable as humanly possible. Tapasya and Naani even plotted together and against her to ruin her perfect wedding. In all the drama that followed, Ichchya willingly gave up her position as Veer’s to-be-wife for her friend. She has always sought to find the good in Tapasya even when the latter has gone out of her way to belittle her.

Tapasya on the other hand has never ever really appreciated her one true friend. Even when this friend of hers (Ichchya) made the supreme sacrifice of giving up her love for this spoilt individual, she took it as an act of servitude. For Tapasya, Ichchya, the servant’s daughter has only one role to fulfil, that of bowing to her every demand. She even mocked and taunted her (reluctant) husband that while she Tapasya, had the dare to forcefully make him hers; Veer and Ichcya caught in the trap of being “good” people had failed to fight for their love. Such is the audacity of wealth and position.

Tired and maybe to a certain extent bored of her drab marital existence, Tapasya has crossed all limits of decency. She has ensnared an ex-lover and has enlisted his support to do away with Ichchya for good. Painting herself as the wronged person, she has convinced Sid (ex-lover) that once her friend is out of the way, she will be free of her marital ties and will divorce Veer to marry him. Goaded and tempted by the temptress, Sid kidnapped Ichchya while she was on her way home. As luck would have it, Veer happened to be at the same spot and saw the entire thing happening with his own eyes. Sid took Ichchya to a deserted forest area with Veer following closely behind. Veer is able to catch Sid but in the scuffle that follows, Ichchya is shot.

Luckily, Veer rushes Ichchya to a nearby hospital and she is operated upon. However this turn of events does not make Tapasya at all happy. Not only is her bete noire not dead but also has been saved by her beloved husband. Her ex-lover had been apprehended and now she stands the chance of being exposed for being the scheming manipulator that she really is. Whether Tapasya is exposed and punished for all her wrong doings is what remains to be seen.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What of Sidheshwari now? - Aagle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo

Okay, so now Shekhar wants to be “good friends only” with his legally married, socially accepted first wife Sidheshwari. He has even been kind enough to grant her the allowance to stay on in the same house. But he has made it very clear that he will only recognize and treat Laali as his ‘true’ wife and will not hand over their child to anybody. What magnanimity! …What travesty! One woman’s sense of dignity and respect, does it always have to come at the price of another woman’s place and position in her family and her house? If you were to go by the recent happenings in the Zee Serial Aagle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, it would appear so.

The makers of this vastly popular serial have struck gold with this story of exploitation of women in rural India. Their attempt ought to be lauded for the singular fact that they had the courage to bring in a new setting to Hindi Prime time Television-rural, poor, caste-ridden, woman-centric. Having done this the makers are unwilling to consider the plight of the many woman characters of the story, choosing instead to focus only on Laali, the central character. So while Laali faces many trials and tribulations single-handedly and emerges victorious, the other female characters though caught in the same double bind of caste and patriarchy do not seem to inspire the imagination of either the production house or the channel.

One such character whose story could have also been at the centre stage is that of Sidheshwari. Initially, the beloved of her husband, she has been cast aside as Shekhar now decides to remain committed only to Laali. Her identity has been taken from her and given to another. She is being made to feel like a guest, one whose presence or absence will leave no impact on others. Like yesterday’s newspaper, her husband has tossed her away for another, robbing her of her sense of self, leaving her without a position in society. So while Laali finds her rightful place, Siddheshwari is being denied what is rightfully hers. Like most serials here too, one woman has turned out to be another woman’s bête noire.

The road ahead for Sidhheshwari seems uncertain. She is no longer what she was-beloved wife, much adored daughter-in-law, a woman of position (even though that position was derived). Now she has lost a lot of that. Anchorless, she might drift into oblivion, becoming just a footnote in this whole story. Or she might resurrect herself as a woman out to avenge and get back what was hers once upon a time. Where does she go from here is something that can be an entirely new and interesting track. Indeed it will be interesting to see how the writers and makers of this serial are able to justify or redeem this gross appropriation of role and relationship.

Bad times for both Maa-sa and Ammaji on Colors

Thursday (7th January, 2010) night happened to be a very “happening” night for Colors. Two of their major protagonists, namely Maa-sa (Surekha Sikri, Ballika Vadhu) and Amma-ji (Meghna Mathur, Na Aana Is Des Laado) were made to feel the meaning of the word “powerless”. Ironic, given that these two ladies are the centres of power in their respective universe. Maa-sa was rendered speechless and defenceless by her arch enemy Mahaveer Singh who claimed that she had run off with his infant son and thus denied him the one chance at redemption. Amma-ji on the other hand finally succumbed to all the planning and plotting that had been going on under her very nose as a single bullet brought her to her knees.

These two strong female characters are perhaps the best example one can think of the popular adage, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Maa-sa is the undisputed queen of her fiefdom-her family. She derives her power from emotions and sentiments. Her two sons, two daughters-in-law, their children and the rest of the extended family unit are mere pawns who have to do her bidding unquestioned or else face dire consequences. Her word is the law and she is brutally practical and self-centred in all her emotional dealings. Her past is held accountable for her present hard-heartedness. She is almost male-like in her delineation of the head and the heart and chooses to make all her decisions listening to the voice of reason. The irony of the situation is that all her relations willingly or unwillingly bow down to her diktats giving in to their emotions for her and all that she represents.

Amma-ji on the other hand draws her authority from two essentially ‘male’ concepts-money and fear. As the most powerful landlord in her region she owns not just land but also human fate. Her subjects are not only bound to her by their actual monetary indebtedness but also because of her iron fist which she uses mercilessly. She is all male in not only her posture but in the ways she ruthlessly puts out any threat to her notions of right and wrong. She too is queen of her fiefdom and even her close relations are her subjects.

In both cases it was this sense of an-all powerful female lording over and challenging the male ego that brought about the downfalls, and that too at the hands of male characters. While Maa-saa has been able to restore a sense of balance in her relationships, Ammaji has succumbed (for the time at least). However it would have been more interesting if their fall from grace had been orchestrated by female characters. For indeed their (Maa-saa’s and Ammaji’s) sense of justice has inflicted more pain and anguish to the female characters of the serials-Cases in point- Anandi and Sia. However the lesson to be learnt from these two episodes is that power is free of gender bias and corrupts equally.

PAVITRA RISHTA - The Individual or the Family?

Will they or won’t they? In case you are confused, the topic for discussion here is the impending divorce of Archana and Manav of Zee Tv’s Pavitra Rishta. Trust Ekta Kapoor and Balaji Telefilms to stretch out what must be one page of writing into seven days worth of prime time television. So while the main players just want to get on with their respective lives (at least that is what they would like to believe) by signing on the dotted line; those around them are trying their level best to stop the duo and make them see sense. This brings us to a very interesting point-the role of family in India in the very private affair called marriage. And especially so in today’s transient times where live in relationships seem to be what young couples would be most comfortable with. Serials like Pavitra Rishta go a long way in enforcing and re-establishing the role of family in the institution of marriage.

Unlike the West, where marriage is most often looked upon to be a relationship between two consenting individuals, marriage in India has been very much a ‘family’ affair. It is the family which decides who gets to marry whom; like it was Archana’s Aai who handpicks her suitors and finally her husband. Similarly, it is her mother who is eager to get her divorced from her husband, Manav, because it is her view that he is not ‘good enough for her beloved Archana’. Here Archana’s feelings and views are of secondary importance. Archana and Manav too, are considered to be ‘good and dutiful’ since they follow and agree to whatever their elders and the larger family unit has to say.

On the other hand, Archana’s sister-in-law who is keen on setting up a nuclear family unit is cast as the trouble-maker. Similarly, Archana’s younger sister Varsha, had to undergo the heartbreak of a bad relationship in order to understand that her individualistic take on life and relationship is all wrong. Her being dumped by her lover (a much married man) is seen as her just punishment for daring to stray from the notions enforced by her Aai. She is now back in the family fold as the dutiful daughter who realises that the family is always right.

Wouldn’t it be lovely for once to watch characters that are not cast as black and white based purely on their views on individuality? The family has to give space to its constituent element-the single person-so that he/she can grow and realise their full potential. Otherwise the degeneration of the larger whole into fragments is inevitable. For how long can you stretch the elasticity of the bond (?) without it snapping into pieces? Serials too need to mirror this reality of society-that of families where the individual is not lost in a crowd, for in a crowd even your shadow is lost to you.


The birth of a new serial is always reason for great excitement for the channel, the Production Company and viewers. NDTV Imagine has double celebration on its hands as not one but two new serials begin their journey on the 18th of January- one titled Do Hanso Ka Joda and the other eponymously titled Devi. The teasers for these two serials have been on air for some time now and have created the required amount of buzz. However the problem with television is that there are these certain basic premises upon which stories are built around and makers tend to work within these given permutations and combinations. And these two upcoming serials seem to be based upon two popular trends.

Do Hanso Ka Joda starring, Shubhangi Atre (she shot to fame as Kasturi ) and Shaleen Bhanot ( of Nach Baliye 4 fame) seem to follow the recent trend of being an inspired take of the film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. One look at Shaleen’s get up and you will immediately be struck by the similarity between him and Shah Rukh’s character from the film, Surinder Sahni. Like the movie, this serial too promises to delve into the question of “Prince Charming”. Atre’s character is shown to be romanticizing about her future husband whom she has cast according to her favourite film hero- Shahid from Vivaah, Salman from Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and others. But the person she actually ends up marrying is a far cry from the man of her dreams. Gawky, geeky and a far cry from the dashing debonair hero of her dreams, her man in no way resemble her dreams. Whether she is able to discover the true meaning of the word ‘Mr. Right’ will be the journey that both she and the audience will have to take together. Star One had started a serial on similar lines last year, titled Hum Dono Hain Alag Alag. That serial unfortunately failed to strike the right chords and had to be pulled out. We will have to wait and see how this serial (based upon the same premise of a woman redefining her definition of Prince Charming) is able to sustain viewers interest or not.

The other new offering from NDTV Imagine is that of a serial titled Devi. The teasers have been showing us images of a rain-starved village, poor parents abandoning a little baby girl due to their impoverished state and the same infant then being hailed as reincarnation of a Goddess as she brings in rain. Spirituality and mythology has always been a big draw for television audiences. We love to see stories centred on Gods and Goddesses. Of late most major channels have been focusing on the power of the female deities-be it Maati Ki Chowki ( Sahara One) or Maa Durga (Star Plus). In a country that ritually and customarily render its female population powerless, it is indeed heartening to see serials where there is an attempt to restore power to women, albeit by divine intervention. Adding Devi to this trend is indeed very encouraging not only for viewers at large but for women too.

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