Ladies and gentle men
Let me ask you a question, How many of you have daughter, wife’s, mothers, sisters who sit glued to the idiot box for hours at a stretch gorging over the flood of tv soap operas, I feel many of us might be having such characters in our house. For those who are present here and watch them will agree with some of the instances and those who don’t watch ---well-will thank their stars for doing so. ….Yes ladies and gentlemen let me take you on a satirical journey through a common audience perspective of what irredeemable and to some extent ridiculously senseless stuff we are forced ot watch under the pretext of television entertainment. So please join me ladies as gentle as I explore my topic-
Indian Soap Operas- Tragedies Twists and Time leaps.
Let me take a moment here in explaining the Post privatization many important medias gripped the attention and imagination of Indian Masses. As government hold was loosened many major players stepped in challenging the monopoly of govt controlled entities like AIR, DOORDARSHAN ETC. Competition broke monopoly and gave way to cheaper means of acquiring entertainment medias like radio and television which were earlier a distant dream for common man. In the early 1990’s cable connections provided more fodder to the never satatiating hunger for entertainment among Indian. Thus we no longer had to wait for an entire week unabatedly to watch an commercial riddled Chitrahar and the occasionally good movie on Sunday evening. Came 2000’s and the amount of channels offered by cable grew manifold. Eventually the number of programs grew with it as well. An average channel shows a minimum of about 25 channels everyday. Most of these are soap operas which have a huge fan following. The target audience is mostly comprised of females between the ages of 16-70. The reason of taking this topic here in front of all of you is the fact that it has always intrigued me how people really rant and rave about these mindless soap operas that can hardly be differentiated from one another and inversely have so little to offer. If we observe these serials carefully we will come to know how the same hackneyed plot is played on and on for years at length without loosing the TRPs. One of the main reasons is the fact that Melodrama is one of the major attribute of Indian sensibilities. Melodrama has always been an integral part of the Indian social fabric.
One of the example that I can give you here can be that of Hindi cinema has been a major point of reference for Indian culture in this century. It has shaped and expressed the changing scenarios of modern India to an extent that no preceding art form could ever achieve. Television has been taken over by the soap storm as I would like to call it. The most evident matter-of-fact is the sudden sprawling of the K series. There is no main stream commercial channel that does not offer a K serial. Initially serials like Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi ,kahani ghari ghar ki etc were all drawn from the central theme of Ramayana and Mahabharata propagating values of family-life, Strong Indian beliefs, ability to stand against all odds for truth, shouldering the family responsibilities. In the age of nuclear families, the idea of a joint-family was instantaneously liked and adored. Thus in eh early 2000’s initiated a trend of typical soaps more or less based on the common foothold of elite rich joint-families and their never-ending “spin-a-yarn” tell tales about betrayal, love and did I mention betrayal and love. I literally stress on the word never-ending, because it’s been 7 years and Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi is still going strong. The evergreen baa or granny must really be a supernatural woman, if we count her age till date after 3 20 yrs leap it sums to 125 human yrs. Though they did well in their main track records after so many years of grinding the same story and chewing it, story plot, actions, dialogues and sequences have got predictable. Let me deliberate of some of the findings that make these serials a classic piece of fictional art. All these serials are stereotypical in their looks, storyline and presentation. At Most of the times they r based on unrealistic showcasing of incidents and events to an extent that fictional serials like shaktiman, alif laila , chandrakanta seem to be more believable . Like for example
all the characters in these serials seems to have drunk the elixir of life or nectar. That explains how they manage to return back form the dead. Sometimes the return is immediate or sometimes after 20 years. But the person does come back especially after the second marriage of his or her spouse to add an exciting twist in the tale.
All these serials seem to have made law of their own. Polygamy is practiced as easily as getting a car. I do remember in a certain serial called kasauti zindagi ki , the hero got married 4-5 times. Out of which twice with the same lady…Also power of attorney seems to be acquired faster than you can spell it.
Coming to medicines and medicinal cures anything and everything has a cure even the patients incurable diseases like aids and cancer can be saved if the heroine sheds tears in front of god in temple during a thunder storm raises her mangalsutra in protest. Miracle is always bigger than medicine here. Plastic surgeries seem to be as easy as getting a facial done. Coz sometime or the other almost all the characters undergo plastic surgeries, an easy method to maintain continuity just in case the actors are to be replace( And trust me this happens way too often). Things like DNA exams and other such scientific boons seem non-existent in these serials. And even if they are their facts are twisted and new facts are invented.
Lavish set-ups of houses, grand mansions decorated with exotic furniture, filled with many persons to wait upon the characters focus mainly on the Ritchie –rich life. How come none of the characters play just a pauper with big dreams like mungeri lal ke haseen sapne or for that matter just a boy next door like mani from malgudi days.
All the heroines in these serials are forever mannequined in expensive designer sarees that are just worn once and never ever repeated in the entire serial. They are decked in gaudy colorful costumes and big junky jewelry even if they are playing dead. And how can we possibly forget the icing on the cake, heavy layers of make-up that the heroine adorns even when she is sleeping.
The dialogues are especially written with a complete Indian theme, constantly bombarding the audiences with comparative references from history, mythology and religion like for example a heroine says, I am sacrificing as sita sacrificed her life for ram. The dialogues are generally large monologues which are power packed with highly emotional drab which gets nothing better than too boring.
The background score is generally based on the tune of some popular hindi film song. Sometimes when the villain or vamps enters a funny sound like meowing or strange noises take place of instead of music. I am sure we all know the famous or let me put it as infamous background score for the infamous komolika in kasauti zindagi ki.
This brings us to the vamps and villains on these serials- Most of them are heroines turned vamps because the hero rejected their fancy love for the plain –jane heroine. These scheming vamps and villains are constantly ploughing their minds to yield fertile ideas to ruin the family in question. Most important trait of a Vamp and Villain is that they are suggestively dressed in scanty clothes with gaudy tattoos- I’m sure you have not forgotten Ramona Sikand from kahin kisi roz with hideous elaborate bindi designs. The whole point of making them look like they do is to visually make them appear evil and conniving. Another trait of these vamps and villans is to continuously plan strategies by talking out loud to themselves, for some strange sort of reason.
Coming to the Heroes and heroines of these are the quintessential perfect Gentleman and ladies who have traces of none of the 6 bad vices in them. They are dressed in sober clothes mostly Indian and exemplify the richness of Indian Tradition. The men are shown to be the “too good to be true” sorts, most caring husbands, fathers, considerate employers and very intelligent at business. Their female counterparts are not far behind them. They are dressed in a sari remember parvati and tulsi most of the times. They love and respect all family members, They r so good to be true that do not even challenge their husbands stance when he gets a mistress. Heroines are idols in their own way they r doting mothers, dutiful wife’s and good daughter-in-laws. These ladies are constantly thinking of ways to challenge the vamps strategies.
Extra-martial affairs are present in each serial as if the serial won’t work if it doesn’t have one. This is soon followed by illegitimate children who pop up after 20 years out of nowhere to demand their right on property.
Time leaps are yet another way to move ahead with story, I have already told you baa’s age……keep guessing what tulsi’s is, though she continues looking just a little ripe with whitener in her hair. Some of the favorite directorial shots are Surprises are often showed with everyone standing in an anxious manner or some1 dropping the tray in their hands.
Generally the wedding ceremonies are huge and pull over 15 episodes, it doesn’t matter if the hero-heroine is getting married for the 4th or 5th time, and it is celebrated with equal anticipation and aplomb every time.
I am sure you would have understood that watching Tom and Jerry is far better than gluing your eyes to any of these mindless larger-than-life melodramas.