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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dil Mil Gaye - Siddharth remains furious with Dr. Riddhima after her attempted suicide

How can things suddenly change so much in a serial. In the serial Dil Mil Gaye (on Star One) till now, Dr. Riddhima was totally against Dr. Siddharth, and even when he saved her life by providing his body warmth to her (the familiar cliche about the body warmth being the only thing that can save a life in extreme cold), she was furious and wanted him to have let her die rather than saved her by this close intimacy.
However, the ever present concept of Indian society of honour makes its way, and now a marriage was planned between the two characters. However, she had to agree because of family pressure, and she did not want to see her family getting hurt. But, she really did not want to go through this marriage and attempted suicide by consuming poison. This was discovered by Dr. Siddharth, who managed to bring her back from the brink, and also managed to hide this truth from her family, who were just outside the door.
However, this attempted suicide shook Dr. Siddharth to the core, and he lashed out at her strongly, saying that he never wanted anybody else to give up their life for him, and now he rejects her. This brought about an abrupt change in her, but he is now very cold and hostile to her in private, although he is still polite when in company.
In a side note, Yuvraj admitted to this love that his story was false, and that he is not really who he claimed to be.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge - the final three contestants need to be decided

The 4 remaining contestants on the Rahul Swayamvar show are Harpreet, Dimpy, Mrinmai, and Nikunj. And now one of them will be eliminated to make the final 3. This is after an interesting week whereby all of them got a chance to invite Rahul to their homes, and most of the interactions were shown very positively.
In each case, the family members welcomed Rahul a lot (even though the age gap at the minimum is 6 years, and more than 10 years in many cases, and not a single family member seemed bothered by this in any way). Some of them fathers / elder relatives did take the chance to ask Rahul about whether he was serious about marriage, and Rahul did his best to sound sincere and assure the family members that he was going to get married in this show, as opposed to Rakhi Sawant who finally did not get married in the show and because of whom, everybody doubts all these contestants.
What was interesting in the depiction of Rahul's visits to all the contestants home was that they all committed to him that they were in deep love with him, but he was not willing to commit in any way in this way, although he was much closer to them than it was in the past.
In the end, it was down to Mrinmai and Harpreet in terms of eviction, one of them would be the one who would be evicted from the show. And finally Mrinmai was the one who was evicted, and she did not go politely, telling him that Rahul was wrong in evicting her.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

12/24 Karol Bagh - the good pair of Simi and Abhi have to continue to suffer

As expected, in any Hindi serial, it is the good people who are always shown as suffering. After all, this is what the viewers also want to see. So, in the case of the Zee serial 12/24 Karol Bagh, it is the good pair of Simi and Abhi who are suffering and out on the road. Simi almost got sucked into a marriage to Nakul when her mother wanted her younger daughter Neetu (already pregnant from her relationship with a driver who is now in jail for theft) to get married to Omi from the rich family, and a condition was that Simi should also get married to Nakul, the elder brother. Getting Omi married was a necessity since he was not totally of sound mind, and it was important that a girl was getting agreed to marry him.
However, at the time of the marriage of Simi, when Neetu and Omi had already got married, Abhi arrives on the scene and declares that Simi was to get married to him. Nakul creates a big scene, beats up Abhi, and almost kills him with a sword but Simi stands in the way. This creates a scene where finally Simi's mother denounces her, and claims that for her, Simi is dead. Her dad however is not happy at this, and there is almost a breakup between Simi's mother and father. In the meantime, Neetu is now married to Omi, and is very unhappy with the relationship and is very rude to most people in her inlaws place.
When Abhi's father, Mr. Taneja arrives back to his house and sees Abhi and Simi there, he turns them out and they have to leave the house. They are now out on the road, and wondering for a place to stay. Her father is frantic in worry, with only Simi's middle sister worried about her fate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The latest events in Yeh Rishta Kya Kahlata Hain - Akshara only back for a visit, but Naitik is not bending

The serious nature of the misunderstanding between Akshara and Naitik grows even more in the serial. From a time when they were so much in love, Naitik is not able to get over the behavior of Akshara, and has also started hating his close friend Mohit. As a result, Akshara had to leave her house when Naitik told her that it would be better if she left back to her parents house, and she finally did so after a lot of crying.
It became much worse when her parents finally got to know that Akshara had left her in-laws after this dispute, and they were not sure what to do - and her father took a fairly sensible decision that she should not go back unless both Naitik and Akshara were willing; something that Daddaji was not initially comfortable with initially.
However, things are never so clear, and the amount of misunderstanding does not really get clear. When Naitik comes to the house, Shaurya does not treat him with a lot of respect (and given how Naitik had behaved in the past, that seems something perfectly clear); so when Akshara comes back to her inlaws house for one day, naitik does not stop her when she tries to go back (with the expectation that Naitik will try to stop her). Now it the elders of the house who are meeting in order to try and resolve things.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pratigya - Will she be able to stand up to Krishna’s bullying ways? - Need to show the girl as being more fearless

Pratigya (Star Plus) began with a lot of fanfare and loads of promise. The promos that were telecast on television before the programme began talked of Pratigya as a bold and fearless girl. She was shown standing up to eve teasers, taking to task all those who meant to put her down and being a spirited individual. However the show has yet to live up to that promise as Pratigya is a far cry from what she was portrayed in the promos.

Pratigya is the daughter of an honest college professor who lives by his morals and values. She soon catches the attention of the local ruffian, Krishna, who loses his heart to her. From that day begins her story of grief and humiliation. Krishna is a school drop out who considers himself to be lucky to be born in a family where he has everything and he need not work. His attitude towards women in particular is coarse and he feels that women are merely objects of pleasure and comfort- as long as you give them food; you can treat them the way you want. He treats his mother and all the other women of his family with disdain and nonchalance. He considers himself to be extremely romantic and believes love is just acquiring.

On the other hand Pratigya has been brought up in a household where women are considered equal to men. Her father Shyamji Saxena has given equal opportunities to all his children and has educated them well. Pratigya is allowed to do as she pleases. Unaware of Krishna’s growing obsession with her, she agrees to get engaged to her father’s friend’s son. At the engagement party Krishna turns up with his side kicks and declares to one and all that he and Pratigya are in love. In his selfish, boorish mind this is true as he is unable to comprehend that Pratigya does not love him back. He feels that the girl is bound to love the boy she marries, so it doesn’t count whether she loves him before marriage or not. He believes that anything he does for Pratigya, which includes threatening people and sending her love notes, is because he loves her.

Krishna even beats up Pratigya’s fiancé so gravely that he has to be hospitalized. Her engagement is called off and Pratigya decides to leave town. This too does not suit Krishna and he drags her back to the town. As Krishna weaves dreams of a life with Pratigya, the latter is left paralyzed with shock and helplessness at Krishna’s inability to understand the word “No”. Indeed this is true for a large section of India’s society where boys are made to believe that girls are merely chattels, who are meant to live the way it has been ordained for them by the man in their lives. It is time to change such thoughts and hopefully in the coming days Pratigya will do just that.

Marriage on the cards for Dr. Riddhima and Dr. Sidhant? - A moral question due to their becoming intimate

A few weeks back the buzz in the television industry had been that Dr. Riddhima and Dr. Armaan, the hottest pair of Hindi serials, from Dil Mil Gaye were set to return. Viewers had been waiting patiently, albeit a bit anxiously, for this beloved on screen couple to return and recreate their magic. Indeed such has been the chemistry of this duo that they had become the defining word for love and romance on television. Many loyal viewers were left heart broken when the lovely couple were taken off from the show. Despite the introduction of many new characters, the show was unable to recapture lost loyalty.

The creative team behind Dil Mil Gaye then decided to bring in one half of the pair and Dr. Riddhima (Jennifer Winget) was brought back. The story then proceeded to build a love-hate relationship (that was to ultimately culminate in love alone) between Dr. Riddhima and Dr. Sidhant (aka Sid), one of the new characters introduced. However viewer response to the same was lukewarm. It did not take long for the producers to realise that people were still waiting for Dr. Armaan’s return. Wisely they picked up this vibe and tried to weave in a narrative whereby the entire fault for Armaan’s disappearance and abandoning of Riddhima was laid on Dr. Shashank’s shoulders.

The track showed Riddhima accidentally finding the truth about Armaan’s disappearance. It had been Dr. Shashank (Riddhima’s father) who had persuaded Armaan to get out of his daughter’s life. Upon learning the truth Riddhima is heart broken and sets out in search of Armaan. Dr. Siddhant who is in love with her, follows her without her knowledge. She goes to Panchgani searching for him and gets caught in a blizzard. Weakened by lack of food, she collapses and it falls upon Siddhant to save her. The two end up getting physically intimate with each other. A furious and outraged Riddhima, accuses Sid of raping her as she had been in a very vulnerable state, both mentally and physically, when the act happened.

A heart broken Sid, shocked at Riddhima’s accusations will propose marriage to her in order to protect her reputation. But will Riddhima accept? Is it right to force marriage upon two individuals when any one party is not in love with the other, just because they had been forced by external circumstances to become intimate? What matters more-morals or human life? If Riddhima and Sid were to get married theirs would be a compromise, not just for them but for the audience as well. It will be the channel’s way of telling the loyal fans, “Sorry we couldn’t get you Riddhima and Armaan, so here’s the second best option. Like it or leave it.”

And the Best Mamma’s Boy Award goes to… depiction of mama's boys from various Hindi Serials

The Indian man for long has been caricatured as the perfect ‘mother’s boy’-dutiful, obedient, respectful and forever toeing his mother’s line. Delve into history, look up all the mythologies, in fact even in popular mass media-the definition of a good person and a good son is synonymous. You cannot be one without being the other. Hindi serials too do their bit to uphold and strengthen this notion. The hero is most often and without fail, the good son to his parents. He is unflinching in his duties. He is loving, caring and values the happiness of his mother over and above everything. Here are a few good examples of Hindi televisions’ good sons.

The first position goes to Shubh of Maat Pitah ki Charno Mein. Brought up by his step mother, he worships the ground that she walks on. Her word is the Gospel truth for him and he is willing to go to any lengths to honour her commitments. So much so that he is willing to stay back with his injured step mother rather than pursue the villain who has kidnapped his wife and whose life is in danger. The questions is-does Shubh’s devotion to his mother negates all his other relationships and responsibilities?

Suryakamal, from Do Hanso Ka Joda comes to mind next. Surprisingly, here too the mother is a step mother. Suryakamal’s deference to this sharp tongued woman makes him come across as a wimp. Where is it written that you have to trade in your sense of self respect in order to show love and respect to you parents? Suryakamal is aware of his mother’s undercurrent of jealousy and hatred that laces her feelings and reactions towards him; but instead of standing up he takes it all with a smile.

Next in line are Raghav and Yoginder, Ammaji’s eldest and youngest sons from Na Ana Is Des Mere Laado. While Yoginder is a partner in crime in all of Ammaji’s evil doings, Raghav goes even a step further to prove his devotion. He marries the woman who has been a thorn in his mother’s life and then makes her a servant girl of the family. In order to avenge his mother (a mother who is evil and diabolical), he jeopardises the life of a young girl, destroying her faith in love and relationships. Where is it written that in order to be a good son, you have to give in to all the unjust demands of your mother?

A mother-son relationship is definitely a bond that is above all else. However the most important relation that one has is the one with our own self, our own conscience. Any act or relationship that puts a question mark over this crucial tie cannot be good for the individual.

The evolution of serials away from being saas-bahu to reflecting the evils of society

There is no denying the fact that content in Hindi serials has grown by leaps and bounds. There was a time not too long ago that Saas-Bahu themes were ruling the roost in television. There were a few stereotypical characters and a few time-and-TRp-tested story lines that found favour with the channels and the production houses. Right from the characterisation of the main leads to the looks, the sets, the premises of conflict situations to the heroes…oops the heroines and the anti-heroines. The striking element of these soaps was that it was a woman character versus another woman character.

The leading woman v/s woman conflict that comes to mind is that of Tulsi (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) and Mandira. Even though it was Savita, her mother-in-law, who made her intial years of married life miserable; then it fell on Mandira to be her bete noire for the rest of her adult life. Remember Kkusum, the dignified, honest middle class girl who married into a rich family and an unwilling husband? For her as well most of the miseries in her personal and professional life were created by women. In fact for all most all serials it was a woman who made another woman’s life a living hell. Remember ‘Neka’ Kamalika and the grief she caused in Prerna’s life? This one-dimensional viewpoint of life camouflaged the various realities of life.

Thankfully, the past few years has been witness to a paradigm shift in terms of content, story lines, settings, characterisations and the man-woman conflict. All of a sudden there was a certain avalanche of serials with interesting and different stories. There was an attempt to talk about the ills that plagued societies, to bring into focus the unjust practices and value systems that still exist in India. From child marriages; female infanticide; rural impoverishment; bonded labour; casteism-almost every significant social theme is being focussed upon. Apart from themes, in terms of characterisations too, there is a tendency to bring out the male-female disparity and conflict. The uneven social structure is either talked about in clear terms or hinted at.

Every Ammaji has a DM Vohra or a Dharam Veer. Every Maa-sa has a Mahadeo Singh. Even though Ammaji and Maa-sa are clearly the ‘bad guys’ of the serials, it is made very clear that the prototypes and standards that they are following are essentially male in their form and ideology. There is also an attempt to bring out the tyranny of the male-centric social structure where in a woman is considered to be the property of a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a lover. Her destiny, her fate is not decided by choices she makes but by decisions thrust on her. This confrontation of the sexes that is being increasingly talked about in our serials brings into sharp focus the gender conflict and gender hegemony so prevalent in our society.

Hindi Serials - the evolution of serials to have mass market appeal

Hindi serials have so far been considered the poorer cousin of Hindi films. The sheer scale of Hindi films is hard to duplicate for its lesser counterpart. Films have also been around longer and have been a part of popular culture much before television even came into existence. Since its inception films have mirrored (or at least tried to) the realities of life. They have often been the repository of middle class values and beliefs. Thus while cinema in 50s and 60s talked about post independence hope and social reconstruction, the angry young man theme of the 70s and 80s reflected the growing angst and post 90s there has been a steady increase in candy floss movies and those that target the NRI segment.

As movies in the twenty first century became more and more urban and metropolitan in its theme and characterisation, the smaller cities, towns and bigger villages turned to television to seek out values and themes that talked to them in their own lingo. In fact it can be safely said that television since its inception has been the medium for the average, middle-middle class, semi-urban and even rural Indian. Take for example Hum Log. The first blockbuster (borrowing a ‘filmy’ parlance) Hindi serial, it depicted the lives of a typical lower middle class Indian family. Buniyaad that followed in its wake talked of a family that faces the trauma of partition and then seeks to rebuild an identity for itself. Here again, the characters were very real, their conflicts, believable.

As television witnessed its first revolution in the form of private channels, there was a change in the grammar of story telling but not in the broader themes of the basic story. Thus Sailab, Zee TV’s first mega hit serial broached the issue of extra-marital affairs but in a very conventional tone. The straying partners returned to their respective spouses seeking forgiveness. Star Plus’ super successful serial X also talked about the same issue keeping in mind the middle class perspective. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, two serials that dominated the Hindi serial market, despite having rich settings, talked of essentially middle class values and ethics.

With the birth of multiplexes and the death of single screens film have become increasingly expensive and urban in its stance. In films, the conventional middle class institutions and norms are fast disappearing. Take for example, a film like Love Aaj Kal where in the focus is entirely on the two lead characters. Deepika’s character’s family gets a blink and you miss kind of presence while Saif’s family is not even given that due. Serials on the other hand have taken up the cause for the middle class India. Thus institutions like joint families are serenaded (Yeh Risht Kya Kehe Lata Hai) and values like sacrifice and selflessness upheld and individualism condemned in Hindi serials. As Hindi films seek out a global audience, Hindi serials are happy to touch the lives of those millions who travel by bus and local train and for whom an INR 200 ticket is a luxury and not a necessity.

Swayamvar Season 2-Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge - Moral problems with the show

Swayamvar Season 2-Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, has raised the heckles of many people for what they construe to be anti-India values; while for others it is a fine example of the marriage between notions of small-time celebrities to cooked up reality shows. Such platforms provide a very good opportunity for channels to create a certain buzz about their brand while for those associated with the show itself (the celebrity=Rahul Mahajan and the contestants) it is all about getting those fifteen seconds of fame. In fact for many of the participants it is the stepping stone that they need to bolster their flagging modelling/acting careers.

The moral police who deride the show for its blatant disrespect of so-called Indian values and tradition, such shows go against the concept of the ‘ideal’ Indian woman who is supposed to be all coy and demure. In fact surprisingly the contestant themselves come with pre-conceived notions of the ‘ideal, Indian wife” and look down upon and back bite fellow contestants who do not fit into the stereotype. This was clearly evident in the kind of comments received by a contestant Dimpy Ganguly last week. Dimpy is a fun loving, high spirited girl from Kolkata. A model and actress by profession, her easy charm and dimpled smile had clearly won over Rahul. The two were seen cosying up to each other while taking a hot air balloon ride.

Things came crashing down for Dimpy when it was revealed that a man name Neil Shah had been repeatedly calling her up from Australia. He even sent her a Kuala Bear stuffed toy as Christmas gift. Immediately she was put under the moral scanner by all her fellow contestants. It was shameful to see an open trial being conducted on national television that questioned her integrity and her honesty. Granted that she had put herself in the spotlight by agreeing to be a part of the show; but that did not give the producers the right to question her about personal affairs so openly. The only person who had the right to question her motives and actions is Rahul Mahajan since her affairs are of direct consequence to him, if he were to fall in love with her.

Instead the entire thing was up for public consumption. Agreed that it is this voyeuristic trait of reality television that makes it so ‘happening’ but there has to be a line of decency that ought not to be crossed no matter what the compulsions. It was very disconcerting to see her squirm with embarrassment and a certain amount of shame as the host of the show Ram Kapoor came at her full guns blazing. What was even more disgusting was the manner in which the other female participants reacted-venomous barbs, spiteful comments and a lot of sniggers. No wonder then that a woman is considered to be another woman’s worst enemy!

Miley Jab Hum Tum - Talking a look at some social issues

It is sad that in a country like India with such a large young population, there is a dearth of serials that talk address issues faced by the young generation of today. Hindi serials on air presently talk about a whole spectrum of problems and concerns from farmer suicides due to indebtedness or female infanticide or the urban-rural/men-women hierarchies. However stories that have college based themes tends to focus only on the problems caused by ‘stupid cupid’. Miley Jab Hum Tum began as such a serial. The focus was entirely on the development of the love stories between the two lead couples.

Gunjan and Nupur are siblings who come from a different city to Mumbai and join its premier college. Here the two meet Samrat and Mayank. Sparks fly between Gunjan and Samrat and Nupur and Samrat. Following the laws of nature, opposites attract and the shy and reserved Gunjan falls for the flamboyant Samrat, while the gregarious Nupur feels herself drawn towards the reserved and studious Mayank. While one pair’s story (Gunjan-Samrat) progresses from friendship to love; the other pair (Nupur-Samrat) fights their way to love.

Once the love stories are settled in their grooves, the show does something unique. It gets one pair-Nupur and Samrat married and brings in to focus the problems and concerns of a newly married young couple who have to strike a balance between their academic lives and their personal one. Across India and across a diverse cross section of society, the marriage of young couples is very common. In most cases the girl is made or in cases has to give up her education as she has to fulfil diverse roles and obligations. In Nupur, these young women can find a role model who struggles in juggling these two diverse roles but does not give up on any. It is unfair to either expect or force women to give up their future, their sense of identity just because she is a married woman. Nupur can give hope and strength to those many nameless, faceless faces and encourage them not to compromise.

Eve-teasing is also a common problem faced by most young women across India. The coming episodes of Miley Jab Hum Tum will raise this pertinent issue that has caused many a death and brought pain and suffering to many lives. It is sad when a young and relatively educated individual behaves like a boor or a bully and most eve-teasers normally do that. It does not speak well about the younger generation (or for that matter any generation) if they were to indulge in such behaviour. By focussing on this very important youth-based problem that has ruined the lives of many women, Miley Jab Hum Tum is helping to spread social awareness.

Behnein, Star Plus’s new evening show - 4 daughters

Behnein, Star Plus’s new evening show began with a lot of pomp and grandeur. The occasion for all the celebrations is the Sangeet ceremony of the eldest daughter of X family, Purva (Alisha Khan). We are introduced one by one to the four daughters of the house-Purva, Smriti, Akashi and Anokhi. Their parents Sevantilal and Y shown to be extremely loving parents who look upon their daughters not as burdens but as treasures that they have nurtured with a lot of care and thought. The heartening aspect of this family was the bonding that was depicted between parents and kids. It came across as very real and warm.

Each daughter is shown to be unique in a particular way and this adds to the drama of the show. Purva the eldest child is shown to be very loving and respectful. She is excited at the prospect of getting married to her best friend Amar. She is a cleanliness freak and is forever trying to reduce the clutter around her. The most important thing in her life is a silver pendant gifted by her parents and she always kisses it before anything important because to her the locket stands for their love and blessings. Smriti the middle child is a complete contrast to all her sisters. She is nervous, lack confidence and has a weak physical and immunological constitution. Her husband Mihir is totally devoted to her but her mothe-in-law and sister-in-law hold her in contempt.

The second youngest daughter is Akashi (Adaa Khan) and is the most beautiful among all siblings. She has tremendous love and respect for all her siblings and is not scared to speak her mind. Anokhi (Ojaswi Oberoi) is the youngest child. Vibrant and fun loving, she is passionate about dancing. She shares a great rapport with Amar and also learns dance from him. Apart from the siblings, the other important character of the Shastri household is Neema Fai (Ketaki Dave), elder sister to Sevantilal. Sevantilal respects her immensely but is unaware of her real side. Besides being vindictive, she is also very authoritative and has the last word about any decision. The four sister are immensely scared of her.

The Sangeet ceremony beings on a happy note but ends disastrously as Purva’s parents die in a fire. Shattered and heart broken, the sisters get their first dose of reality when Neema Fai forbids them from performing the last rites of their parents. The siblings however chose to assert themselves and perform the last rites. This angers Neema Fai who tells them not to go against her commands any more as she now controls the property. Now it will be up to the siblings to face the trials and tribulations that will face them successfully and hold on to their bond of sisterly love.

Balika Vadhu - a path-breaking serial on Colors, depicting the clash between the generations

Balika Vadhu has been a path breaking, trend setting and award winning effort in the world of Hindi serials, ever since it began. The entire set up of prime time serials had been fashioned in a particular mould till Balika Vadhu came along and brought in a paradigm shift in terms of content. Moving away from city-centric shows that usually focussed on the personal lives of a particular family, this show set itself in rural Rajasthan. For sure it had a woman protagonist as is the norm in television; it also talked of child marriage for the very first time.

For many of us child marriages are a relic of our cultural past, something that we got to hear about from our grandparents who experienced it in their lifetime. However in many parts of rural India and smaller towns, this is still a reality, a part of the social fabric of life. Balika Vadhu brought it into our focus by introducing us to Anandi and Jagiya- a pre-teen girl and boy who get married. It showed us the trials and tribulations faced by Anandi as she struggles to adjust to her new home, her new life and her new roles. As a daughter she was used to a carefree existence, concentrating on her education at which she would excel. Post marriage the first thing she is forced to give up is school.

As of now the focus is on the unfair discrimination between sexes when it comes to education. Anandi does not attend regular school but because she is such a brilliant student that she is able to take her annual exams by doing self studies. However her Dadi-sa forces her to spend maximum time tutoring her husband who is not as good as Anandi in studies. She also has to complete her share of the household work. On the morning of her examination, Dadisa makes her prepare tea knowing fully well that she could have used that time for revision. In her haste Anandi spills tea on her writing hand which Dadisa construes as heavenly intervention. In the evening when Jagdish tries to feed Anandi, Dadi-sa takes offence as a woman is not supposed to have food before her husband. Anandi has forever been subjected to Dadi-sa’s derision, recrimination and hurtful jibes and this act made the feisty old lady fly off the handle.

As a tearful Anandi looks on Dadi sa attacks her fierecely for making her husband work for herself. Jagdish protests as he considers it only fair exchange since Anandi has many times in the past helped him in a tight situation. Her other family members, especially her father-in-law (he has more faith in Anandi’s faith than in his own son) is more sympathetic to her. Dadi-sa is symbolic of all the old and traditional customs and norms, the not so good beliefs and values that need to be changed.

A tale of two serials that talk about the plight of women in our society!

The very real portrayal of the status women of women in small town and rural India is a heartening aspect of prime time Hindi serials. Two shows, one quite well established and the other relatively new, springs to mind. The first one is without a doubt Na Ana Is Des Mere Lado that airs on Colors. Ever since it began its telecast, this serial has touched many new highs in terms of story and concepts. Its portrayal of the many female characters that lend the show its distinct flavour is commendable. The drama that unfolds in the lives of Ammaji, Sia, Jhumar, Santosh and others is totally believable.

Ammaji is of course the antagonist who in her effort to remain the sole power of her family and her town, assumes a very ‘male’ persona, not just in her attitude but also in her gait and mannerisms. Her bete noire and the show’s main lead, Sia, is her exact opposite-as virtuous as Ammajis is evil, as right and good as Ammaji is wrong and bad. Sia is the conscience of the show who is on a mission to change Ammaji and her evil army. Her trials and tribulations are very real. Thus she continues to love her husband who cheated her in the worst possible manner and now stands by as a mute statue while he marries another. Then there is Santosh, married to Ammaji’s elder son Joginder who is impotent but the blame of childlessness lies on Santosh and she accepts it silently. On the one occasion when she seeks reassurance and love from her husband, but all she gets in return is a strong push. The violence, the prejudice and bias, the culturally limited role and prestige that is such a big part of most Indian woman’s life is portrayed brilliantly through this serial.

The second show is Star Plus’ new show Pratigya. Here too the male protagonist Krishna struts around terrorising the heroine Pratigya all in the name of love. He is obsessively in love with Pratigya and has deluded himself into believing that she too loves him back. The fact that men often either misunderstand or chose to ignore the resounding “No” coming at them from the opposite sex is intelligently brought forward. For Krishna it is enough that he loves her and Pratigya has no choice but to love him back in his mind. He beats up her fiancé and manhandles anyone who tries to intervene between him and the love of his life.

Krishna’s psyche and attitude towards life and women can be easily understood once we become acquainted with his family members. The women of his house are completely subservient to the male members to the extent that Krishna’s mother considers it normal to be physically abused by his father. The tyranny of the male gender and the social bias against women that exist in our society till date is sensitively and sensibly portrayed in this serial.

Swayamvar Season 2 - The drama is yet to begin in earnestness! - On NDTV Imagine

Swayamvar Season 2- Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge has had a sedate beginning. Given the controversial nature of the ‘groom’ and his past exploits, Rahul has so far been extremely unassuming and not tried to hog the limelight. He has been courteous to all the contestants. In fact he has often appeared embarrassed and bashful, unable to deal with the girls and their clamouring for his attention. In fact, at times he has this look of incredulity on his countenance as if he is wondering to himself “Is this really happening to me? Wow! How did I get to be so lucky?” Indeed over the last couple of years, he has travelled from one end of the spectrum to the other-from being in the hospital for drug overdose to being divorced from his first wife and then becoming a much publicized playboy during Big Boss Season 2.

However the same attributes of timidity and bashfulness cannot be ascribed to the fifteen contestants. They are an over eager, in your face, ‘modesty be damned’ bunch of girls. Of course given the format of the show where they have to woo a man instead of things being the other way round, they cannot afford to be overtly modest. Thus you will find them tripping over each other in their bid to please, tease, coax, cajole, seduce Rahul so that he spends the maximum time with a particular contestant. Some try to show off their culinary skills by preparing various dishes, while still others try to woo him by their singing, dancing and other such skills. The winners of various competition winners get the invaluable prize of getting to spend one-on-one time with Rahul.

So far two celebrity guests have come on the show to judge the contestants. The first one to come on the show was Sambhavna Seth. She came as Rahul’s sister and had a meeting with all the girls individually, forming her own opinion of the aspirants. The fact that Sambhavna’s credentials are as dubious as Rahul’s is of little consequence to the show producers. As a co-participant with Rahul during Big Boss 2 she had created as much trouble and controversy as the man himself.

The second celebrity judge happened to be the lovely and glamorous Gautami Gadgil Kapoor, wife of the host Ram Kapoor. Gautami came on as Rahul’s sister-in-law and she too judged the various contestants by spending time with them. She tried to gauge the persons behind the personas of the various girls and also gave them valuable advice. She selected Swati as the person she found most compatible to Rahul. As the days pass, competition is bound to heat up. It remains to be seen how the girls handle themselves from here and on and more importantly, how Rahul handles all the attention.

Nakusha wants to take off her ugly duckling disguise in order to woo Dutta!

Who says love is blind? For if this was true then Nakusha would not have to worry about her ‘ugly duckling’ image. Made to deliberately hide her real looks from the world at large by her mother, Nakusha is happy hiding behind hideous eyebrows and a very dark complexion. In fact on the occasion where her real beauty was revealed to the world she managed to land up in trouble with the evil and diabolical Inspector More who wanted to forcibly marry her and then sell her off. She was saved from More by Dutta Patil, the underworld don, who was gravely injured in the process.

Nakusha saves Dutta’s life and Dutta’s mother, who is hugely indebted to Nakusha, brings her and her parents home. She gives them a roof over their heads and employs the entire family as hired helps in various positions. Nakusha had been in her disguise of ‘ugliness’ when Dutta came into her life. As such Dutta and his entire family have no idea about Nakusha’s real looks. Nakusha meanwhile falls in love with Dutta as she finds him to be brave, loyal and loving. He treats Nakusha with a lot of respect and does not judge her by her looks-it is almost as if for Dutta Nakusha is as ‘normal-looking’ as the rest of his family and friends.

Dutta’s marriage has been fixed to Supriya, a fair and beautiful girl. Her entry into Dutta’s life makes Nakusha uncomfortable and jealous. She longs to be by Dutta’s side, to claim Supriya’s position as her own. However more than her position as the maid, it is her disguise that puts her at a disadvantage. The very fact that people in the house feel Supriya is really gorgeous brings tears to Nakusha's eyes. The only option left for Nakusha now is to reveal her true self to Dutta. She evens confronts her mother and tells her that Dutta will surely fall for her if she were to reveal her real looks to him. She is confident that Supriya’s looks are nothing compared to her own. She waxes eloquent about the beauty of her almond eyes, her long and lustrous hair and perfectly shaped oval, lovely face.

Nakusha is so desperate about the whole affair that she even acts a bit abnormal and paranoid. However Nakusha needs to realise that true love is beyond triviality. It is not dependent on looks. She needs to understand that in love what matters is inner beauty and appearances are transient. The day Dutta is able to appreciate her for the person she is, Nakusha will not have to worry about her ‘ugly betty’ disguise.

Ek Veer Stree Ki Kahani…Jhansi Ki Rani - on Zee TV

Historicals are very difficult to pull through given the fact that the audience already has a definite opinion of the story one is about to narrate. It is almost next to impossible to carry out an interpretation that will closely fit into the collective imagination of the person or the period. Ek Veer Stree Ki Kahani…Jhansi Ki Rani, is Zee TV’s attempt to capture the essence of a woman who is revered and much adored till date in India. Indeed Laxmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi is for many India’s Joan of Arc-the brave lady who fought the oppressive British rule and took part in our very first Freedom movement.

It must be said that the channel, the producers of the show and the different creative heads by deciding on this particular historical figure took on a huge risk. The charisma of Jhani ki Rani is such that she is known through the length and breadth of the country. To capture the essence of such a dynamic and much loved character required a tremendous amount of guts and skill. To the credit of the entire team of the show, they have pulled it off. In fact it can even be said that their interpretation of Laxmi Bai has helped to strengthen the aura around her. The makers of the show have put more focus on characterisation than on the setting or on costumes. They have tried to delve into the psyche of this young girl/woman who rose above her ordained position to carve out a name for herself in history.

The makers of the show are keen to capture the entire social and political milieu of the story that helped to give a Laxmi Bai a distinct personality and they are doing so superbly. The attention to detail is evident in the characterisation of the principal cast. Thus be it the child yet rebellious Manu (Laxmi Bai was born Manikarnika, nicknamed Manu) or the young girl of twelve, queen of Jhansi Manu; there is a distinct persona that comes across. Manu was born in Bithur where her father worked in the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II. She grew up with the young Nana Sahev who was her friend and taught her to ride horses and sword fight. She then moves to Jhansi at the age of thirteen to the court of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar. Her idyllic childhood comes to an end with this important transition as she finds herself surrounded by court intrigues and politics as the Rani of Jhani.

The handling of the various schemes underway to render Gangadhar Rao ineffective by his own clan and the British rulers is very interesting to watch. Luckily, the treatment of the court politicking and intrigues has not been reduced to shams and melodrama-filled sequences. As a young bride, we can fully empathise with Manu who is on the one hand trying to cope with a much older husband and on the other hand keep at bay the gorgeous courtesan Moti Bai. As her timely intervention once again saves her husband, it places her in a path of confrontation with Moti Bai. Who will win ?

Pavitra Rishta - Mellowed down drama, time for truce?

The high pitch drama of Pavitra Rishta has been scaled down a bit ever since Archana met with an accident. For now it seems a truce has been declared between all warring factions. Manav’s mother Savita Tai, who has nothing but harsh words and taunts to give to Archana ever since she moved back in has tried in her own way to care of a convalescing Archana. Given her motives are not too altruistic, she only wants Archana fit and fine so that she can leave as soon as possible, even then it was nice to some ‘tension free’ interaction between the two.

On the other hand Manjusha too has returned to her in-laws house. She had moved out of her husband’s house once Archana had proved that it had indeed been her (Manjusha)’s brother Ajit, who had falsely implicated Manav. She had walked off in a huff, promising never to return till Archana apologised to her and her brother. Once with her mother, she had refused to let her husband or anyone from her in-laws side visit her and her daughter. She had also tried to cause a lot of problems in Archana’s marital life. However all her and her mother’s efforts to cause a rift between her husband (Vinod) and his parents and sisters have come not been successful. Her mother being a wiser woman convinced her of the fallacy of being adamant and stubborn and has made her go back to her in-laws house.

Archana’s younger sister, Varsha, has been through a bad relationship in which she was in love with a much married man. She had even moved out of her parents’ house in order to move in with her lover. However the lover turned out to be cad, as expected. Once bitten, twice shy, she is now averse to the idea of love and marriage. Satish, has fallen in love with Varsha and has proposed marriage. Despite Satish’s mother’s subtle disapproval, the match has moved ahead and soon the two families are planning to solemnise the wedding. Satish is very happy as he loves Varsha with all his heart and soul; Varsha is still undecided but has given in.

The general atmosphere of bonhomie and the reduced level of tension and negativity has made for pleasant viewing. Like too much of mush is difficult to digest, similarly too much of unpleasantness is also not good and can often turn off loyal viewers. With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, this toning down of melodrama is sure to be beneficial for the serial.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are Sadhna, Ichcha, Suman… good only because they are ‘yes’ guys?

The clash between individual and a bigger unit, be it the family, peer/professional group or even society, will go on forever. There is a constant push and pull movement that goes on. While the individual will try to push away from bigger unit and its demands; the bigger unity will try to pull in the individual into its vortex of expectations and role playing. In the Western world and the Occidental value system, this conflict has been somewhat resolved with the individual tasting some sort of success. Thus as a result, the ties that a person chooses to honour and commit to (be it primary or secondary relations) is his/her decision solely. In India it is a different story.

India is still a world caught between transitions. Apart from the urban-rural divide (in terms of values and lifestyles), there is the caste factor, the language factor, big town-bigger town reality and a thousand other variables that complicate this equation. There is a world that dresses Indian and yet likes to eat out at McDonalds, sporting the latest hair colour shades. Globalization, standardization, urbanization-the name of the game is different but it throws up complex questions for the individual. On the one hand, the market is egging him/her to throw off all primitive ties and obligations; on the other hand society is putting increasing pressure on the individual to stay true to the bigger group. And nowhere is this reality better expressed than in our serials.

In Hindi serials, the ideal hero is someone who does exactly what his/her elders, societal norms and ritualistic codes expect of him/her. The individual consciousness is totally submerged into the collective one; it is considered ideal if there is no notion of the “individual consciousness”. The individual is expected not to have dreams and ambitions apart from and exclusive of the larger group. Personal goals, personal achievements, private affairs and private thoughts are all frowned upon and viewed as the source of all evil. Having a mind of your own and having a voice to express an opinion is sinful. The individual is expected to be as pliant as a creeper, entwining its existence with that of the bigger, more powerful reality.

Characters like Suman (Palkon Ki Chaaon Mein), Ichcha (Uttaran) , Sadhna (Sapna Babul Ka Bidaai) , Radhika (Chhoti Bahu), Shubh (Swarg) come to mind immediately as individuals who are so enmeshed in the group that they do not even have a shadow to call their own. Individualistic notions and ideals are branded as evil while ‘goodness’ is the sole domain of all those who try relentlessly to negate their uniqueness, their personal hopes and dreams in order to do what the group asks them to. But what is so wrong in doing something that gives one a moment of bliss without it harming anyone else? What is so wrong if the individual wants to walk alone breathing in his share of the air and basking in sunlight meant on for him/her?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jyoti - Here’s to a fresh start! (NDTV Imagine)

A visually challenged individual Pankaj, marries a ‘normal’ girl from a middle-middle class family Jyoti and sets off on a new journey of discovering love, romance, faith and togetherness. Much had been expected from this unusual pair. As individuals they inhabited two different worlds-while Pankaj belonged to a very rich family, Jyoti came from the other end of the spectrum. Their upbringing, their environment, their sense of priority, all these were vastly different. But in terms of core values, it would be difficult to find two people who resembled each other so closely. Both Pankaj and Jyoti are fiercely independent, principled, caring, honest, down-to-earth and dutiful individuals.

Pankaj came into Jyoti’s life when she needed a friend more than a lover. He became a confidante and slowly their love blossomed. Their feelings for each other were not born out of heady first sight attractions. Instead they were nurtured carefully by Pankaj’s tremendous patience and love and Jyoti’s immense respect and sense of fairness. At the time of marrying Pankaj she had a deep-rooted respect for him, but within a very short span of time, she fell in love with him and surrendered herself completely to him.

Things were going smoothly for the pair till such time that Jyoti’s revenge-seeking and diabolical ex-boyfriend Brij, decided to play havoc in their lives. Soon he had rocked the foundations of this lovely relationship. Brij planted seeds of jealousy and doubt in Panakj’s mind regarding Jyoti. He forced Pankaj into believing that Jyoti had married this visually challenged individual only for his money and had carried on a clandestine affair with her ex lover behind his back. Pankaj’s ego could not swallow the notion that his wife had a past and that he might have been her second choice. He throws her out of the house and refuses to accept Jyoti’s unborn child as his own.

Unlike most soap heroines, Jyoti does not go pleading and begging for forgiveness and understanding. She tries to make her husband see sense, tries to talk to him but when everything fails; she does not hesitate to sign the divorce papers. To begin life afresh takes a lot of courage and Jyoti is indeed very courageous. She does not wish to compromise on her self respect and is willing to let go of a relationship in which she has lost her husband’s trust. Many women would have gone back for the sake of the unborn child, or asked for a huge alimony; Jyoti refuses both the options. Pankja will soon marry again and Jyoti will try to carve out a niche for her dance school. But if their paths were to cross again, will Jyoti accept Pankaj into her life and will Pankaj have the guts to admit that he had judged poorly?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Hindi serials content is king, or should we say queen!

The emergence of woman as the centre of narration is perhaps the most heartening aspect of Primetime Hindi Television Serials. And with the passage of time women characters are being etched in their true colours. The striking aspect of all these stories is the fact that they are superb pieces of story-telling. Content is truly king (or should we say queen) in Indian Television. The many unknown (and some known writers) who with their gift of imagination and their powerful pens are able to not only transport us daily into the lives of a ‘Akshara’ or a “Lali” but make them an extension of our ‘real’ world. With the same stroke of pen they have the power to make us fall in love with one character while making us hate another.

In this context I find the situation of Bindiya (Bhagyavidhata, Colors) and Tapasya ( Uttaran, Colors) strikingly similar. In both cases they are married to unwilling partners. While the background to the two marriages are very different (while Bindiya’s husband married her at gunpoint, Tapasya got married to her husband holding the knife over her best-friend’s head), the treatment received by both are almost same. Both husbands are willing to go to any lengths to get rid of their respective wives. While Bindiya’s husband is reluctant to even share the same room with her and expects her to stay in the cowshed; Tapasya’s husband Veer misses no opportunity to shower her with cruel hard words. The lack of respect shown to these two women by the two most important men in their respective lives is at times downright shameful.

But herein we get to experience the mastery of the writers. In Bindiya’s case, she has the viewer’s sympathy and we are all rooting for her; praying for her moronic husband to develop some sense that will help him see her for the wonderful person she is. But in Tapasya’s case the exact opposite sentiment is extracted from the viewers. For the viewer she is evil personified, where no punishment is big enough for her; egging Veer to dump her and return to his true love, Ichchya. We say “bravo” every time she is put in her place. But do we ever stop and consider that at the end of the day these two apparently different characters are standing at the same cross road of their lives. Married to uncaring and unloving husbands, their future is full of uncertainties. But such is the mastery of writing that we are unable to stand back dispassionately and see things as they are. It is the writing that makes Bindiya a ‘heroine’ and Tapasya the ‘anti-heroine’. So here’s to the coming of age of Hindi Serial writing and may they spin a million such wonderful stories of women-flawed, imperfect, ordinary and yet so real, so you and me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saanjhi Dopahar - New beginnings for Colors

Indian Premier League (better known as IPL) began in the year 2008 and was a huge success. The success of IPL dealt a heavy blow to the TRPS of Hindi serials. Most of the daily primetime shows took a heavy beating in terms of TRP numbers as women too switched their loyalties and their channels from Tulsi to Tendulkar and from Star Plus to Sony. However the second season of IPL (2009) saw a complete turnaround as it was IPL that failed to recapture the magic and awesome TRPs of 2008. In fact in 2009, IPL was convincingly beaten back by serials like Balika Vadhu, Bidai, Na Ana Is Des Mere Laado and so on.

The third season of IPL begins on March 10th and channels are already feeling the heat as this season the matches will be played on Indian soil unlike season 2 where the venue was South Africa. Channels and production houses are in a mad scramble to launch off as many new shows as possible before IPL 3 begins so that they can retain and hold on to loyal viewers by giving them a mixed bag of old favourite shows together with some interesting new ones. Colors is one such channel that will be launching a couple of new serials in the afternoon time slot (1.30 pm-2.30 pm) that it has christened ‘Saanjhi Dopahar’. The two new soaps being launched from 15 February are Agnipareeksha Jeevan ki… Ganga and Aise Karo Naa Vidaa.

The promos of both the new shows are on and they are quite promising. Agnipareeksha Jeevan Ki...Ganga is the tale of a young girl Ganga who hails from a small town in U.P. called Sunder Nagar. Ganga, unlike the might river after whom she is named is not worshipped and loved by her near and dear ones but is ostracized by one and all with the exception of her father. She is a pretty, obedient daughter and a talented singer, but people prefer to keep their distance from Ganga as they believe that she is cursed. Ganga’s journey like that of the river promises to be an interesting one.

Aise Karo Naa Vidaa is the story of young and effervescent Reva who hails from a small sub district of Bundelkhand. Reva’s charm soon attracts the attention of Prince Randheer, the young prince of the palace. He molests her on the day of her wedding finding her alone and helpless. Reva is completely shattered and to add to her humiliation her family is set to marry her off to the man who sullied her honour. What does Reva do? To find out the answer to this question we will have to wait till February 15th.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Raising the question of substance abuse in Hindi Serials

Substance abuse may be defined as the overindulgence in and dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol or a narcotic drug. Of the two, drug abuse is far more fatal and dangerous as it has the power to handicap and debilitate the future of our society-the youth of India. Drug trafficking is the third largest business in the world with a turnover of around $500 billions. India too is caught in this vicious circle of drug abuse, and the numbers of drug addicts are increasing day by day. According to a UN report, one million heroin addicts are registered in India.

Drug abuse is a difficult trend which has various social, cultural, biological, geographical, historical and economic features. The break-down of the old joint family system, lack of parental love and care in modern nuclear families where both parents are working, decline of old religious and moral values etc lead to a rise in the number of drug addicts who take drugs to escape hard realities of life. Drug abuse has a damaging impact on society. It has led to increase in the crime rate as incidence of eve- teasing, group clashes, assault and impulsive murders increase with drug abuse.

Given the seriousness of the problem it is strange that the television medium refers to be mum on the subject. Leave alone a whole show, not even a marginal character gets to talk about this grave issue. While the bold new face of Hindi Television is raising its voice about a number of taboo topics, like rape, female infanticide, extra marital affairs, we are yet to come up with shows that also deal with such problems. There are only two exceptions to this. One is a newly started show on Sony Television called Power and the other is a character in Color’s Uttaran called Vansh.

Powder is set in the frightening scenario of substance abuse. Powder is the story of drug lord Naved Ansari and his empire. It tries to provide an insight into the world of drug peddlers and pushers. The vicarious system is often operated by those who are either addicted to the dangerous stuff themselves or those who will never give in to temptation. Powder is also the story of an honest team of officers from the Narcotics Control Bureau led by Usmaan Malik who plans to nab Ansari. The web of power, compulsion, money, values, corruption, justice, and deceit is what powder will take you through on its journey.

Vansh is an important character in Uttaran. He is an addict and has been so since childhood. His struggle to fight off the addiction has been a major turning point of the serial. If Vansh is able to emerge victorious he will help to send out a positive message to other people in the same boat. Uttaran producers deserve a pat on their back for daring to make a ‘junkie’ a major character in the serial, thereby helping to raise awareness about substance abuse.

Children of lesser Gods find their voice via Antara and Baa Bahu aur Baby

Rarely in Hindi serials do we get to see characters considered by the ‘normal’ population to be ‘abnormal’ or differently able. At times they do put in an appearance either as fringe characters-the comic relief, the dark shadow hidden behind a curtain of lies. Zee TV’s Aap Ki Antara and Star Plus’ Baa Bahoo Aur Baby are two such brilliant exceptions to the given. For not only do they dare to talk about such characters and make them inhabit the normal world but also have the courage to make them central characters.

Zee TV’s Aap Ki Antara focuses on autism. Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. It affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. Antara the lead character of the show suffers from Autism. On top of that she is the illegitimate child of her father. Her father learns of her existence only when her mother passes away. She is then brought in to her father’s house where his wife and son have a difficult time first accepting her existence and then her disease.

However in all her struggles she has a strong support system in her father who refuses to slot her as a ‘problem’; he refuses to hide her from the world or hide her behind a veil of lies and stories. Slowly but surely Antara’s step mother Vidya falls in love with the innocent child and accepts her into her life as a complete individual. In fact she goes on to love and care for her more than her own flesh and blood, her son Abhishek. Antara goes to a school meant for normal children and her parents try relentlessly to find for her acceptance in mainstream society.

Star Plus’s Baa Bahoo aur Baby has Gattu and Baby the two central characters of the show as individuals suffering from learning disability (Gattu) and afflicted by Polio (Baby). Yet they are not shunned by their family members as handicapped individuals. They are treated like any other so called normal character and given hopes, dreams, opinions and even vices. Gattu is the serials conscience while Baby its voice of reason and courage. The story woven around their lives focuses on their trials and tribulations.

Shows like Aap Ki Antara and Baa Bahu aur Baby are path breakers and have done more for the marginalised voices of the differently abled than any other civil platform. It helps us realise that people like Antara, Gattu and Baby are as entitled to their own slice of the blue sky and the brilliant sunshine like any one of us so called ‘normal’ people.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Themes yet unexplored by Hindi Serials...

Till recently Hindi serials had been under the strangle hold of the formulaic “Saas-Bahu” serials with its high pitched drama, forever sacrificing heavily bejewelled women and settings that were far removed from reality. Just as viewers had had enough, a sort of coup happened that changed the face of Hindi serials. A few new channels, some bold production houses and producers and some very good writers ushered in the new phase of Hindi serials. As stories and content became more issue-based, there was virtual explosion of new themes that tried to capture a slice of the real life. Shows like Balika Vadhu, Na Ana Is Des Mere Laado, Uttaran, Bidaai, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai slowly set the new grammar for Hindi serials.

Like all good things spark off a herd mentality, this trend too did the same across channels. Thus the new benchmarks of good television shows began to spawn off pale imitations that tried to imitate the success stories without quite getting the tone right. In fact it is time that some well meaning individual should take it upon herself/himself to point out the themes that have been unexplored by serials. Here are a few themes that come to mind immediately.

• Anandi-Jagiya but with a difference- The strong teen school going teenage population of India is yet to have a show that caters to them exclusively. The genre of teen-centered shows remains largely unexplored in films as well as television. Thus a serial that can speak their ‘lingo’, talk about the issues that bother them and that they have to face as part of everyday life (like exam related stress, competition, dating, drugs, consumerism) will surely be a hit with this segment. It will also appeal to the older audience as it can help them to understand their kids better.

• New-age families-Urban India has become a hotbed of relations that have so far been on the margin-the live in couple, the single parent, the step-parent, the single and not interested in dating individual, the single working woman unit-all of it will surely make for interesting themes.

• The Plain Jane/Average Joe Story- where the individual has nothing remarkable about himself/herself, not even a heart of gold. The journey that every common, regular human being undertakes without having to resort to a makeover or a miraculous turn of fortune can be an interesting story to narrate.

• The story of a neighborhood/mohalla/nukkad- where no one family gets to dominate proceedings and the story is populated with small families, individual characters and the interaction that they have with each other and the outer world.

• Karamchand Revisited- where the detective genre is treated with respect and dignity and not made out to be a farce. Stories can deal with crimes that are unique and common to modern India. And of course a very enigmatic detective figure has to be the lead.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shyam - The truly good guy! (Balika Vadhu)

Shyam (Vikran Masey) of Balika Vadhu is a person that any of us would like to have in our lives as a brother, son, son-in-law, friend, acquaintance. His nature is such that it draws people to him like magnets. Shyam is warm, caring, giving, large-hearted and open minded (a rare combination). He is respectful of his elders and tradition but he recognises himself as a young man living in the twenty first century and acts his age. He is straight as an arrow and is not afraid to call a spade. His strength of belief in himself and his values helps him to overcome all odds.

Shyam enters Sugna’s (Vibha Anand) life at an important juncture. She is on the verge of giving up hope and he comes into her life like a ray of sunshine. Initially Sugna dislikes his easy open smile, his incessant chatter and the care in his eyes. This dislike is intensified when Shyam proposes to marry her. Instead of being grateful to him for rescuing her from a ‘cursed’ existence (that of a young widow), she accuses him of trying to take her away from the memory of her first husband Pratap. Shyam goes earns the ire of a lot of people including his parents when he declares his intentions. But he stands firm in his conviction and soon, he is married to his love Sugna.

Sugna’s already weak belief in Shyam receives a jolt when she learns that he had hidden the news of her pregnancy (from her first husband) from his parents. Shyam however refuses to throw in the towel. Slowly he sets about trying to win Sugna’ trust. He marries her against his parents’ wishes and even stays back with Sugna’s parents. He wins over one and all by his warmth and honesty. Slowly Sugna starts thawing. When Shyam saves Sugna and her unborn child from sure death despite being gravely injured himself, Sugna realises his worth. She accepts him as her husband and starts to respect and care for him.

Shyam and Sugna move back in to her in laws house where Shyam helps her to find her rightful place. He stands by her side like a rock, deflecting off all danger. Shyam even goes against his own uncle when he finds out that the latter had been planning to harm Sugna. He waits patiently for Sugna to truly fall in love with him, accepting the fact that she still places her dead first husband above him with great magnanimity. Now that Sugna’s child has been born, he has given the baby boy his name and identity and accepted the little bundle as his in front of the entire world. Indeed if men like Shyam were found in every household, life would become so much better for women.

Two for the price of one - New Trend developed in Television Industry !

Of late serials have developed the trend of either doing overlapping episodes where the story of two different serials are brought to a common point or where popular characters from one serial do special appearances. A few days back, Star Plus’s prime time serials, Bidaai and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai had one such common journey where Naitik and Akshara (lead pair of Yeh Rishta…) and Alekh and Sadhna (Bidai) had an interesting run in. But why do channels and producers indulge in such gimmicks? Where is the need to bring two divergent story lines on to a similar track?

The obvious advantage is that of time. The extended time limit (normally daily serials run for half an hour) helps to heighten the drama and gives more freedom to the writers to play around with different ideas. It helps to build a buzz around both the serials and thus increase audience interest quotient. Then again it brings in combined viewership, meaning, that those who watch only Yeh Rishta…and those who watch only Bidaai will have to watch both for that special episode in order to stay abreast with developments. And one might never know a non-viewer might be tempted to follow the serial that he/she had not been following because of the parallel track. So it helps to increase or supplement TRPs. Thus it turns out to be a win-win situation for the makers of the respective shows- as it helps to add more drama and generate more eyeballs.

The other popular trend is to make stars of a popular show perform at a special occasion for another show. Very soon, we will get to see Manav and Archana (Pavitra Rishta) perform for Choti Bahu. In an earlier episode, Laali (Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Ki Jo) had performed for the same show. Choti Bahu’s lead actors Dev (Avinash Sachdev) and Radhika (Rubaina Dalaik) have a lot to celebrate. They will soon be going off for their long pending abroad after Radhika’s burn marks are completely cured. Manav and Archana will be seen performing at a family celebration.

Such special appearances and guest acts help to generate a certain amount of bonhomie after long days of misery in serials. Most of the time the guest actors dance to popular Hindi film songs and this helps to lighten the dramatic quotient. It also helps to strengthen the particular image of the guest actors. Thus Manav and Archana’s performance is meant as a signal for the audience that these two will remain a couple come what may. It helps to reaffirm popular conceptions about particular characters. But in both cases, audiences have no reason to complain as for them it is value for time and money as it two for the price (and time) of one.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yeh Main Ghar Ghar Kheli- Chandra Prabha says ‘enough is enough’ to her dominating husband, Thakur Uday Pratap!

The discrimination against women takes on various forms and different perpetrators. Oppression often does not have to be as violent as rape, domestic violence, female infanticide or even dowry death. There are subtler forms of male tyranny-the kind which is not written about in newspapers or discussed during women’s conventions. Thakur Uday Pratap is one such character. He is the decadent Thakur of a huge mansion where he lives with his wife Chandra Prabha and his children- a son (Swarn Prakash) and two daughters (Swarn Abha and Swarn Lata). He lords over his relations like his forefathers would over their subjects.

Thakur Uday Pratap’s pride is his palatial mansion Swarn Bhavan. But soon he is forced to vacate his ancestral property as he is neck deep in debt and his creditors have claimed his property. He moves in with his brother-in-law in to his house. Even though he is forced to leave his house, he is unable to forsake his airs and ways. He moves into a small house but his expectations from his near and dear ones remain the same-he expects total subservience. Untrained in any trade, he has to depend on his only son to bring in the money to run the house. However unbeknownst to everyone concerned, it is his daughter, Swarn Abha who finds a job and helps to burn the kitchen fire.

Thakur Uday Pratap’s notions of gender roles segregate the outer and inner world for the two sexes. Men are meant to work outside and bring in the moolah. Women are meant to stay in and look after the house. While men are meant to uphold family prestige by climbing the stairs of success in the outside world; women are meant to protect the family name and honour by being good wives and daughters. This strict classification of roles based according to gender forces his daughter Abha to lie to him. However Chandra Prabha is aware of Abha’s contributions and she supports her daughter’s efforts.

Soon Uday Pratap comes to know that it is Abha who has become the bread winner for the family. He is further infuriated when he comes to know that his wife had known about this all along and yet kept quiet about it. He spews venom against his wife and his dutiful daughter. It is at this juncture that his wife speaks out and her voice echoes the sentiment of thousands of other women across the country. She lashes out at her insensitive husband accusing him of being bigoted and uncaring. She cries out that she is tired of being the mute spectator to her own life and that of her children. She fights for her daughter and in doing so fights for her own right as an individual who has been forced to live like a subject, denied the right to even say the word “No”.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kartik and Suman- What new name is their relationship about to take? - Palkon Ki Chaon Mein

Suman has been facing a lot of ups and downs in her life as has become the normal pattern. Having been thrown out of her marital house after the death of her husband, she is heartbroken and without a roof over her head. Her uncle-in-law is unable to accept the injustice of the treatment meted out to Suman and he leaves along with her. The two of them find shelter in Chachaji’s friend’s house. Prabhu Chacha is a widower with two children. Suman befriends the kids and they grow extremely attached to her. She also finds employment at the nearby school.

Just as things were going right for her, she finds herself being the object of some unwanted attention. Prabhudayal is taken in by her good looks and simple ways. Unbeknownst to any one he proposes marriage to Suman. Suman is shocked beyond belief for she has looked upon this elderly man as her uncle’s friend. The thought that he had been harbouring such sullying notions about her leave her extremely despondent. She decides to leave town as she knows that if she were to tell the truth to her uncle, he would have killed his friend.

As she is about to leave, she is stopped by Kartik, her deceased husband’s elder brother and her true well wisher. Kartik assures her that he will help her to find a job and true to his words he does find her a teaching job. Kartik has loved Suman from day one. In fact his mother had intended Suman to be his wife but upon finding out that his younger brother Karan and Suman was in love, he had gotten them married. Karan’s death had devastated him as had the way his mother had treated Suman after the accident. He has always tried to be a friend to Suman, protecting her from harm, believing in her and always reminding himself that she was his younger brother’s widow.

Kartik’s fiancé Nandini (an arranged marriage to which Kartik reluctantly agrees) finds out that he still nurtures romantic feeling for Suman. Insecure and terribly concerned she rushed to Suman and tells her that Kartik will never truly commit to her as long as Suman was around. A desperate Suman then convinces Prabhudayal to help her out by agreeing to a fake marriage. To the world at large they appear as husband and wife but in reality they have not tied the knot. Kartik unaware of Nandini’s actions is hurt by Suman’s step. On the day of his marriage he comes to know the truth and rushes to Prabhudayal’s house to save Suman who was being attacked by the elderly man. As everyone waits for Kartik, the groom to appear, he comes in with Suman. What new turn will Suman’s life take now? Will Kartik be able to accept his feelings for Suman? Whatever be the case, Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein promises to get better.

Bindiya Chastises Vinay for all his pretence! - Bhagyavidhata on Colors

Bindiya speaks out against Vinay for the first time. Bravo girl! It is indeed heartening to see women dismantling the pedestal meant for their husbands to stand on and rule from. For long women have been at the receiving end of unfair often inhuman treatment from men-be it their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons or other near and dear ones. Culturally forbidden to speak out, tutored and socialized from a young age to hold one’s tongue, women have generally not had the words or the voice to say the simple words “Stop it for it is wrong”. But slowly things are changing with more and more women learning to stand up to their male tormentors. Bindiya speaking out against her husband is an example of this act of emancipation.

Married to Vinay at gun point she has been disliked by her husband from day one as she is a constant reminder to him of his own weakness. Resilient and immensely strong, she has born all his acts of hostility with tremendous patience and fortitude. However the past few weeks her husband has shown considerable thaw in his attitude. He has taken care of her, protected her from unsavoury elements, enjoyed a game of badminton with her and even shared a bowl of rice pudding with her. Overjoyed at this change, Bindiya has been sporting a shy smile through out.

The family decides to celebrate Bindiya and Vinay’s first marriage anniversary by throwing a grand party. Much to her delight Vinay agrees readily and even buys her a beautiful saree. A happy and resplendent Bindiya is convinced that Vinay too has started to develop tender feelings for her. However her hopes come crashing down when she overhears Vinay tell a group of his friends that he is pretending to like Bindiya only to keep his parents and relatives happy. In reality he has not forgotten the shame he experienced on the day of his marriage and given that, he will never be able to accept Bindiya as his wife.

A heartbroken Bindiya is devastated and so when Vinay asks her whether she has liked his gift, she lashes out. She asks him to stop pretending and tells him that she knows the truth. She tells him that he is a coward for playing with her emotions and those of his family members. Her words are intelligent and use reason rather than emotions. She asserts herself as a human being for the first time by telling her errant husband that he is wrong. Unfortunately the scene turns out to be a thought bubble. But at least she took the first step and confronted her cad of a husband in her thoughts. As they say actions follow thoughts; maybe some day in the near future Bindiya will truly say out to loud to Vinay “Shame on you!”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It’s a girl..No wait it’s a boy! Sugna delivers baby boy much to Maa-sa’s delight.

It is time for celebrations once again in Maa-saa’s family. First her daughter-in-law, Gehna, gave birth to the all important male heir and now her grand daughter, Sugna, has held aloft the family prestige by giving birth to a baby boy. As she held the baby close to herself, her face was infused with a warm glowing look. However minutes before she had worn a different expression-one of dejection, sadness and pain. The reason-the nurse had come out of the delivery room and had told the waiting and anxious loved ones of Sugna that she had given birth to a baby girl!

In a country where we worship women as Shakti, the Female form of power, the news of the birth of a baby girl received such mixed reactions. While most of the male members of the family rejoiced the birth of the little girl, hailing her to be Maa Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth); the women reacted to the news with shock and dismay. Maa-saa and Sugna’s own mother (most shockingly) appeared very disappointed. Maa-sa in fact even refused to go in and talk to her one and only grand daughter just because she had let down the family by bringing to the world another burden-a girl child!

As soon as she was convinced of the fact that Sugna had indeed given birth to a male baby, her joy knew no bounds. She was immediately up and about rejoicing in the birth, making plans for a grand celebration, thanking the lord for keeping her grand daughter and her son alive and well. The sheer unfairness of it all is a telling commentary on the still existing male child bias in India, be it rural or urban. Male babies are greeted with smiles and sweets, girl babies are welcomed with a sagging of the shoulder, a knitting of brows. On the one hand we try to propitiate Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, on the other we call the girl child a financial burden meant to be lugged around for life. Such is the charisma and pull of the boy child that Sugna’s erstwhile in-laws who had disowned her after the death of their son (and Sugna’s husband) Pratap, has come back to lay a claim to the child.

Sugna’s news of pregnancy had been treated with disbelief and anger by her in-laws as Pratap and Sugna had not had the opportunity to live like husband and wife. They had called her all sorts of names and had even openly stated that she was not carrying Pratap’s child. The very news of a male heir and they are back before the blink of an eye, laying their claim to the new life. Would it have been the same if instead of a boy, a girl had been born? The answer is a resounding NO!

Do Hanso Ka Joda - Reaffirming the stereotype of the ‘good boy’!

The process of image building and image sustenance is a part of modern day entertainment media. Advertisements, films, serials, and public relations-all these businesses are in the business of creating stereotypes of images, institutions and characters. Suryakamal’s entire ‘look’ for the character of a ‘good’ boy reaffirms this fact. He is dressed in monochrome colours of a single shade with black heavy framed spectacles, a moustache and oil slick hair. His stride is hesitant and he smoothes his hair ever so often to hide his shyness. He is a classis example of the preconceived notions that is attached to ‘goodness’ and the way media goes on reinforcing the stereotype rather than destroy it.

Preeti’s first reaction of dislike for her to-be-husband, Suryakamal stemmed from the way he looked. Had he been a cool T-shirt and jeans wearing ‘dude’, her reactions would have been far more favourable. This totally irrelevant correlation between looks and values has been the cause of many a heartbreak and misunderstanding as it is between the lead characters of the serial. Can a person be good only if he/she dresses in a particular way and sports a particular look? Are we not propagating a certain myth about ‘goodness’ by dressing it up in a certain way? Preeti’s response to Suryakamal is a very good pointer to what image construction does to human psyche.

Preeti has grown up on a strong does of Hindi films and her head is full of notions of love that are straight out of a film. Of course she dreams of a man who will at least in the looks department strongly resemble all her favourite heroes. Her dreams are shattered when she is married off to Suryakamal who is a far cry from all her dreams. Yes, he has a heart of gold. But does a heart of gold always have to come in a package so lacklustre? Can not a decent looking, smartly attired guy also have a good heart and soul? Why do the two notions of looks and character have to be mutually exclusive? If you have one, you cannot or rather you are not supposed to have the other. The good guy does not have to be a ‘Greek god’ in his looks but he also does not have to be doormat in the looks department. Let us just focus on the book and focus out its cover; for what matters is what is inside.

Nakusha and Dutta Patil- Beauty and the Beast set to fall in love?

Fairy tales have for long have had a sway over public imagination. Such is their pull that the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel are still much loved, much read and much talked about. In Laagi Tujhse Lagan (Colors) one can easily draw a “Beauty and the Beast” inference. However this is the twenty-first century and here things have to stand on their heads. Thus Nakusha, is the beast (in terms of looks) with her rather scary countenance. She is easily one of the least attractive faces to have appeared on television, leaving a bespectacled, wire mouthed Jassi far behind.

On the other hand, Dutta Patil whose life Nakusha saves is handsome and fair. He is the beauty in the story. He is tall, strong, courageous and not afraid to face problems-in short he is an ideal man. Dutta’s powerful persona acts as a lovely counterpoint to Nakusha’s hesitant self. Once again the beauty and beast will be powerfully drawn to each other, now that they have met. The beauty of fairytales is that they are layered with sub text and hidden meanings and so there is another way of interpreting things.

Nakusha as we know is actually a very pretty girl and it is her mother who makes her look the way she does so as to not draw unnecessary attention to her breathtaking beauty. Not only this, Nakusha also has a heart of gold, as it is seen when she helps out a complete stranger like Dutta when he badly needed a friend. She saves his life by not only taking him to the hospital in time but also donates her blood to save his life. She runs to warn Dutta of imminent danger when she sees gun wielding men barge into the hospital without worrying about her own safety. Thus she is a true beauty. On the other hand Dutta Patil is an underworld don. Many lives have been either trampled upon or held hostage to his evil designs. He is a ruthless gangster who must have killed many a time. In this instance it is Dutta who is the beast, in terms of demeanour and the power he wields.

Yet another interpretation can be that the Beauty and the Beast reside in us all. Nakusha’s outer looks make her a beast but the person she is makes her a beauty par excellence. Similarly Dutta is a beauty because he stepped out to help a stranger (Nakusha) as he wanted to help out a distressed woman. But his profession makes him a man of passion who kills wilfully without feeling remorse. Thus he is a beast. This wonderfully layered story of inner and outer beauty will surely be very interesting to watch in the coming episodes when the two elements-beast and beauty- end up falling in love.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Na Ana Is Des Mere Laado-Inspired writing helps to take show to No.1 slot!

The team behind the show “Na Ana Is Des Mere Laado” have much to rejoice about. The high voltage drama of the past couple of weeks in which Ammaji was killed off and then brought back in time to nab her killers has helped the show to garner maximum TRPs. It has now become the Number One show across all General Entertainment Channels (Hindi). The entire build up to Ammaji’s (fake) death, the revealing of her true enemies and then her return to prominence and life, very much like the proverbial phoenix, has helped to entertain millions of viewers across the country. Such is the appeal of this show that even men (who generally stay off serials and soaps or so goes the myth) try to not miss an episode.

The escalating pitch of the drama found its culmination point when Dharam Veer and DM Vora were punished by Ammaji, even though the latter did manage to escape. Kudos to the writing team of the serial for they have immediately changed the tone of the show by introducing a love track between Raghav and Sia. Just as viewers were preparing themselves for the full fledged development of this relationship, with some even hoping for Ammaji’s consent to it, the makers decided to add in another twist. They brought in Raghav’s ex girlfriend, Sonali! Even before the lovebirds could have declared their true feelings for each other, the entry of this other woman has added more drama to the show. To top it all, Sonali has even impressed Ammaji who sees in her a reflection of her own younger self.

But there can hardly be a good love story without any obstacle barring its path. Sonali and Ammaji’s mutual admiration society has driven a sharp wedge between Raghav and Sia’s about to flower relationship. In fact Ammaji has made up her mind to marry Sonali to Raghav. In this decision she is supported by her eldest son Yoginder. However the women of the household, namely Jhumar, her mother and Yoginder’s wife are preparing for a silent coup. They have decided to put an end to Ammaji’s tyranny by not allowing the Raghav-Sonali union. They are determined to not allow Ammaji’s wilfulness destroy Raghav and Sia’s happiness for they are convinced that the two are meant for each other. They also believe that if Raghav decides to join hands with the good and righteous Sia, then Ammaji will be dealt a severe blow as it will mean the fall of her most trusted soldier. Indeed if Ammaji’s fall is orchestrated by those who have suffered most due to her and that too in such a silent and peaceful manner, it will symbolise the true victory of the oppressed over the oppressor.

Arjun kills Yashoda - High drama expected from Swarg

The mother son bond is one of the most revered of all human relations. Revered in myths, worshiped in folklore, deconstructed in high literature and stereotyped in pulp fiction; the image of the mother figure has not lost its hold on human psyche. Hindi serials too have not been left behind in throwing up immensely popular mother figures who have captured the heart and soul of millions of television viewers. Laajoji, Tulsi, Parvati,Baa are some of the names that come to mind immediately. In fact Tulsi (Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) won the admiration of millions of Indians when she shot to death her errant and diabolical son Ansh.

Yashoda (Maat Pitah ki Charnon Main Swarg, Colors) has moved many with her loving ways. She loved and cared for her step son, Shubh like her own flesh and blood. In fact such was her dedication to this son of hers that her biological off springs Arjun and Ansh, faded into the background. In Shubh she found her mission in life and poured on to this son of hers all that she had to offer as a person. Her values, her ideals, her beliefs-all that made her an outstanding person-she gave to Shubh as one bequeaths wealth and property. Shubh also revered this step mother of his like God and put her on a pedestal befitting divinity.

Yashoda’s first born son Arjun has however always resented this bond. He has looked upon his mother’s feelings for Shubh as something that rightfully belonged to him. Miffed and angry at this unfair (according to Arjun) treatment he hatched an elaborate plan along with his wife Lolita and a small time crook Madhukar to get rid of Shubh and Suhani. He succeeds first by poisoning his mother’s mind against Shubh; then he gets Shubh thrown out of the house and lastly by carrying out a killing attack on the pair.

This plan of their failed but helped Yashoda understand her son’s true character. Now the devilish trio are holding Suhani hostage and demanding a big ransom amount from Shubh. Yashoda earnestly wants to correct her past mistakes (that of not trusting Shubh and Suhani) and goes against her own son. She will try to save Suhani from Arjun’s clutches and mother and son will end up scuffling over the gun. The gun will go off accidentally killing Yashoda. Thus for the first time, a son will actually murder his mother. Whether Arjun is punished for this heinous crime or will he escape unpunished, only time will give the answer to this.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When do we say enough is enough! - Ye pyar na hoga kam

It is heartening to see that Hindi serials have taken it upon themselves to question the many old and often harmful notions that continue to plague modern India. Be it child marriage, the stigma attached to widow remarriages, female infanticide, the helpless conditions of poor farmer who are forced to sell their children, almost all the serious subjects are being covered. There are serials whose main pivots are these sensitive and topical issues. However there are other shows that are trying to do their bit by weaving in equally important issues as sub plots.

One such show is Yeh Pyar Na Hoga Kam (Colors) where the track is focusing on the unfair and unequal treatment that the bride’s family has to tolerate and endure. The structure of society is such around the world that women are pegged lower than men in terms of social status and hierarchy. In India there is a strong male child preference given culturally and ritually prescribed notions like the son’s right to light the funeral pyre, his sole authority to perform last rites and so on. Patriarchy, where property passes on from father to son, has helped to strengthen this system of unfair bias. Even during a marriage it is the bride’s side that has to bow down and give in to the demands of the groom’s side, no matter how unfair these are.

Rashmi and Madhav are in love and have decided to tie the knot. They belong to two different caste groups and also come from different linguistic background. Madhav’s parents unhappy with the match have been unkind and disrespecting to Rashmi’s parents from day one. Madahv’s mother especially has been cruelty personified. She has used every opportunity to belittle Rashmi’s parents, using barbed comments to hurt and wound. Madhav’s mother is so caught up with her power as the ‘groom’s mother’ that she has not stopped to consider how her behaviour affects her son’s happiness. The final straw in all her evil schemes was when she refused to let the bride’s family perform any ritual according to their own tradition.

The final obstacle will come in the way of the demand for dowry that she will put forward. Reshmi’s family has stood by mutely with folded hands accepting every taunt and insult with tears and pleas of understanding. This is drama, but there are thousand families across India who would have experienced a similar situation during the time of a daughter’s marriage. Women in their different forms-mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend- are one half of the population and the pivots of families. Isn’t it time we stop harassing them and their family members all in the name of tradition and custom? Isn’t it time to change for the better?

Maa-sa and Sugna both walk down memory lane – Balika Vadhu

It was a time of remembrance and nostalgia for the main characters of Balika Vadhu. Maa-sa (Surekha Sikri) finally shows her vulnerable side by reliving her past. The event is triggered off by Mahadeo Singh’s act of entrusting his property and his haveli (palace) under Basant’s care. A non-believing Basant smells a rat in this ploy too and refuses to accept the responsibility. Bhairon asks the Munim of Mahadeo Singh’s estate to hold under his care all the important documents till such time that Singh comes back from the hospital. At this point Maa-sa says that she will keep the keys to the haveli with herself.

As a bewildered Bhairon and a surprised Basant look on, Maa-sa literally snatches the keys. Basant asks his mother what made her accept the keys in spite of knowing the fact that it had been built from Mahadeo Singh’s ill gotten wealth. To this question Maa-sa answers defiantly that the haveli is a symbol not only of Mahadeo Singh’s wickedness but it represents all the hard work that has been put in by generations before him (Mahadeo Singh). It is then she takes a walk down memory lane and we get to see her relive all the tender moments she had spent in that house. She lives through all those moments that transformed her from a tender child bride to a confident of a mother of two.

For the first time the viewer gets to see a softer side of this hard-hearted woman. She makes a telling remark at one point, saying that it is almost as if she has not lived a breath ever since she walked out of that place. All her struggles, the many battles she has waged , won or lost, the umpteen times she has fallen and picked herself up-all of it is captured so beautifully by this single remark.

On the other hand Sugna on her way to her prenatal check up stops at the same place that used to be her clandestine meeting place with her first husband Pratap. The flood gates are opened unto her once she steps under the familiar yellow flower tree. She remembers and cries for her lost first love. Shyam (her present husband) finds her in a pensive mood and instead of begrudging her the tears she has shed for the dead soul, he comforts her. He reassures her that he will never ever hold her past against her. Such generousness is so difficult to find in men, who are forever ready to find faults with women while perpetually overlooking their own.

While Maa-sa’s memories helped us to connect with her better, Sugna’s reliving of the past prepared the viewers for better and happier times that are soon to come.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Saying goodbye to Kis Desh Mein Hai Mera Dil and Tujh Sang Preet Lagayi Sajana!

What do you do once a serial loses its steam, its key actors and of course the much needed TRPs? Sensible makers tie up all the lose ends and bring down the curtains; while those who pray for a miracle (that of improving TPRs) keep flogging the dead horse till such time that the channel just yanks off the offending serial. Thank God the makers of Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil and Tujh Sang Preet Lagayi Sajana belong to the former group! Very soon Star Plus will bid adieu to these two afternoon shows after tying up the lose ends.

Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil began as an evening daily and focussed on the star crossed couple of Prem and Heer. It began with a bang as the fresh pairing of Harshad Chopra (Prem) and Additi Gupta (Heer) worked their magic on viewers and their loyalties. Soon they had become the toast of tinsel town as their on screen chemistry set the television screen ablaze. As their stories became more tangled and complex with numerous near death sequences, viewer interest and TRPs began to taper off. Soon it was shifted to the afternoon slot, considered by many to be a demotion. Now the serial is all set for a grand farewell where lose ends will be tied. Heer and Prem will ride off into the sunset as a happy couple.

The other show, Tujh Sang Preet Lagayi Sajana began as the televised version of Subhash Ghai’s film Saudagar. Thus there were the two neighbouring villages who were sworn enemies and the hero (Yug) and heroine (Vrinda) belonging to these two warring groups. In Yug and Vrinda we found another fresh and youthful pairing. Soon the lovebirds were battling all odds trying to save their love story. But sadly the two had to part ways. Vrinda is married off to Rajbeer. She finds it difficult to settle down and accept Rajbeer as her husband. Slowly she gets to understand and appreciate her husband’s honest charm and falls in love with him, pushing to the back of her mind all thoughts of Yug.

As the show is about to wind up viewers were expecting Yug and Vrinda to end up together as Vrinda and Rajbeer have been facing difficulties in their relationship. But keeping in mind the Indian culture of marriages being for keeps, Vrinda will stay with Rajbeer. Had some untoward incident taken place with Rajbeer, it would have been alright to unite the two lovers. However Yug too will find a new love and begin his journey anew. So here’s a warm adieu to both the serials for having entertained us for so long.

Bairi Piya - Digvijay Thakur’s real face to be exposed to his wife, Urmila!

Digvijay Thakur’s (Sharad Kelkar) character in Bairi Piya (Colors) has to be one of the vilest characters ever written for Hindi serials. A serial womaniser, he has scant respect for women in particular and uses them like playthings. The most powerful landlord of his region and belonging to an upper caste, he enjoys a dual advantage. Economically and socially he is placed at the highest rung of the social and economical hierarchy. Women especially are more vulnerable to him as their fathers/brothers/husbands/friends are at his mercy.

Thakur’s only means of salvation is his wife Urmilla (Shubhi Mehta) - a loving and caring human being. She has not only been a good wife to her husband but also a loving surrogate mother to her many nephews and nieces. She looks after everyone in the family including the hired helps. In fact it might have been her good deeds that negated all the evil doings of her husband who escapes unpunished and unrepentant every time. Thakur’s pet fancy of late is Amoli (Supriya Kumari) a poor girl whom he got married to his servant Radhe so that he could take unfair advantage of her.

Urmilla has been so far unaware of Thakur’s evil deeds. She has stood by her husband like a rock, believing him to be a good and decent human being. However things are set to change. Thakur’s planning will see Radhe caught up in a political riot from which he is saved by Amoli. They will take shelter in a temple and complete their last “Phera” (circumventing the sacred fire) and complete their marriage. This will enrage the Thakur further. He will be furious to know that the marriage has been solemnized. He will then drag Amoli to the haveli (palace). Radhe will try to intervene but will fail to stop him.

As soon as he enters the haveli, Urmila will hear the entire conversation that takes place between Amoli and Thakur. He will narrate to her (with Urmila listening in unaware) all his past diabolical plans and threaten Amoli. Urmila will thus come to know that the husband whom she has loved and worshiped for so long is actually a cad. She will come to know that her husband has not only exploited Amoli but also the other girls of the village. Urmila’s faith in her husband will receive a big blow hearing this. Whether she decides to stay back with her womanizing husband or leaves him for good, only time will tell us all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rahul Mahajan begins his swayamvar with a bang!

Swayamvar Season 2-Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayega has finally begun. Fifteen beautiful and very hopeful girls will be vying to win Rahul Mahajan’s affection and admiration. Like the previous season (Rakhi’s Swayamvar), the first episode was a grand event where the aspirants were introduced to their prince charming. Set in one of the beautiful palaces in Udaipur Fatehgarh Palace, the contestants alighted from expensive vintage cars to be greeted by Rahul, bouquet in hand. Most of the girls also carried small gifts in order to make a good first impression.

The fifteen hopeful girls came from all over India. The average age of the girls will be around twenty five years and most of them were visibly nervous as they were out to woo a man (and not the other way round) and that too on national television. It takes guts for a woman to pursue a man rather than the reverse. Most of the girls were either students or aspiring models and there even was a lecturer of a college. Most girls came bearing presents so as to make a mark in Rahul’s heart at the very first opportunity. Twinkle Mukherjee from Kolkata gifted Rahul an idol of Goddess Durga, “jor” and cheli– that marks the 'gathbandhan' (wedding knot) between a bride and groom in Bengali weddings. Charmy from Ahmedabad showered her affection and wished Rahul good luck by gifting him a showpiece of 'Farishtey'(angel). Nikunj Malik, an accessories designer from Faridabad made Rahul's day truly special by gifting him a wallet especially designed by her with her picture in it. Rashmi from Lucknow gifted him a set of a Lucknawi Kurta-Pajama.

Tannu from Faridabad and Mrinal from Nagpur gifted the Dulhe Raja a statue of Radha Krishna and a Bhagwad Gita respectively.Rahul was visibly overwhelmed and touched by these warm gestures and could not suppress his joy and happiness as the girls made his way to him one by one. A lovely party had been organised where the girls tried their best to spend some one-on-one time with Rahul. While some made him dance, others sang to express their joy and some even spouted poetry. It was very evident from the behaviour of all the contestants that they meant business and were serious about their efforts to woo Rahul.

The coming episodes will be interesting to watch as we will get to see the girls more up close and personal. The kind of chemistry each girl is able to strike up with Rahul will determine the length of their stay in the show. There will cat fights galore as the girls have already started back biting about each other from the first episode itself. Whether Rahul’s Swayamvar is as successful as Rakhi’s only time will tell, but viewers can certainly look forward to many entertaining episodes full of drama, romance and excitement.

Enjoy Nautanki TV