Monday, April 12, 2010

Plus or minus?

There is a wedding going on. Everyone’s pretty overdressed and wearing way too much jewelry. Then again, this is not a normal wedding. The bride finally agreed to move on and marry someone. You know, to get past the loss of her husband who drove over a cliff and his body was never found. His belongings and identification documents were totally intact though. Bad luck I guess. Just as the final act of the ceremony is being carried out a gentleman appears declaring himself as the lost husband. That can’t be, cries the bride. It is so, says the intruder and he quickly tells how he was rescued by some local villagers and as his face was totally distorted and there was no photograph available the plastic surgeon gave him the face of his own dead son. Silence! The cameraman goes wild. For some odd reason he not only captures the expressions of the main characters but anyone he can find; including all the badly dressed guests and the waiter holding the tray. I guess the next move would be to actually prove through an exhaustive question and answer session that he is in fact the same guy. Why he was out of the picture for so long is of course another story.

Sounds familiar right? This is a scene typical of all those Indian soaps on Star plus/One, Sony, Zee etc. Basically they’re predictable. Anyone can just think along the strangest lines and concoct a complete script. Here’s a list of some other clich├ęs we discover even before they are declared:

  • The guy and the girl who are totally in love with each other will never get married. At least not in the beginning.
  • The person who seems the sweetest will always be the villain.
  • Two people who totally hate each other in the beginning will ultimately wind up together.
  • There will always be a handy plastic surgeon nearby.
  • If someone is in an accident the only think that will be distorted will be their face. Thus the handy plastic surgeon.
  • People have selective amnesia like they have the flu.
  • You can buy the whole population in order to carry out an evil plan.
  • People talk to themselves aloud; very very loud thereby revealing their plan, good or bad.
  • There will always be a handy eavesdropper somewhere. His job made easier as the doors will always be carelessly open, ALL the time.
  • The script writers have no biological sense. For e.g. If a girl is unable to enslave a certain gentleman she will simply ‘pretend’ she’s pregnant and get away with it.
  • If something big has to be revealed, an unraveling of a previously discovered evil plot, it will all be done in the middle of some poor bloke’s wedding/engagement/reception. And then all the guests shake their heads and leave.
  • There is always an undiscovered illegitimate child out there.
  • Sometimes a guy/girl will consent to a marriage only to take some sort of revenge.
  • If a person is wrongfully blaming another, the other will never put up any defense. I actually pull my hair out when that happens.
  • People can waste their entire lives only to wait for someone to grow up so they can take revenge. What a waste!
  • The transition from good to evil and vice versa is as easy as a change of clothes.
  • There is no need to mourn a dead person. He’ll turn up sooner or later.

Everyday when I come down to dinner I’m greeted with the ‘dhum dhum tana nana dhum dhum’ soundtrack. I was never allowed to talk in between serials but now it is an even bigger crime. I repeatedly tell my mom that I only comment when the soundtrack and flashes come on. Also, when something big is revealed with an even bigger reaction and an additional soundtrack (dhak dhak dhina dhina dhaaa) you can actually listen to a full song on some other channel. Unfortunately, my strategic interruption is not appreciated. And thanks to the looming exam threat I seem to have lost my previous jurisdiction of holding the remote and commanding it. Of course I can avoid all that by just walking off but family TV time is something none of us wants to lose.

So yes I have to endure like many others. The funny thing is that we do end up watching them. I mean we curse, overuse the words ‘lame’ and ‘stupid’ over and over again but we end up watching; amidst the remote snatching and begging to change the channel. Is it because they are so totally impractical that our minds just go numb and simply get entertained without reason or logic. Having said that, sometimes there does come a serial that focuses on normalcy too. I remember watching one about four women and their individual lives. It had topics such as wife beatings, vulnerability of teenage girls and a mother fighting cancer. It was a job well done I must say. Anyway, that apart the question is what is so alluring about these dramas that our mothers, grandmothers and aunts totally weave their routines around them?

The first is easy; time span. You can sit for hours watching back to backs but technically its just 30 minutes each right? Second is the culture difference. Technically what they show is neither our religion nor culture so whatever moral or immoral goes on we don’t give a damn. Thirdly, even with all the riff raff I’ve talked about upstairs they are made to seem interesting. I mean even if something totally non practical as marriage for revenge happens the audience will be excited at such a concept; especially when they know that the girl/boy will fall for the other ultimately. And lastly, there is so much devastation around us that it actually helps to look at foreign faces. Add in the fact that the quality of Pakistani dramas went so downhill in the ‘middle’ ages that people reverted to Indian ones and well got too comfortable to revert back!

I really miss those times, the PTV prime time. A decent serial everyday from 7:45 to 8:45 pm. This is coming from the generation that experienced “Alpha, bravo, Charlie”, “Kashkol”, “Bandhan”, “Laag” and many others that I can’t recall. The comedy too was awesome. Imagine the “UFONE” team in a 45 minutes play and you’ll get the picture. If you go back even further you get names like “Aangan terha” and “Ankahi”. The emphasis at that time was on the writing and acting. It was never supposed to be fancy or anything. Dramas were about normal, everyday people going through ordinary and extraordinary experiences. You could relate to the characters, connect with their grief or joy. They were all of a decent length; maximum 13 episodes. Sometimes, they showed these single episode short plays based on some social issue. Nothing! And I mean NOTHING can compare to those times. Not all these three channels combined together.

Then came the dark ages. The funding probably halted. There was a national writer’s block probably. Only a few programs were worth watching. It was all downhill after that; especially when came the stampede of private channels. Writers and directors wanted new horizons where they could open up their wings more, think a bit provocative maybe. I’m not at all against the depiction of the taboos of society because frankly they’re a part of it. What totally pissed me off was the wrong depiction of our culture. Cultural shock it was. Scanty clothing, vulgar behaviour on national television and above all the embarrassment that all of this was transmitted abroad too. I mean just because they were private channels didn’t give them the right to go all out on everything. It was almost desperate. The comedy went to such a depth that I don’t think it can ever recover. If you suffer from bulimia you can actually try it out; it would make throwing up easier.

So it was then that the cable guys decided to bring in fresh meat. Lo and behold, Star Plus made an entry. This change was welcomed with open arms because to be frank Indian movies might be all stripped; the dramas are a total opposite. Yes, there are exceptions but they are prominently looked at as something rotten and unclean. The moral of the story is that no one forgets their roots; they might be going wayward due to the versatile nature of the film industry but here on television it’s all prim, proper, sacrificial and traditional.

However, I see an improvement now. Saw this drama on a private channel and found it very refreshing. It was realistic and you could actually relate to it. The strange fact is that it was a sad one but the sadness or the screw ups of the characters didn’t seem frustrating at all. The gist of Indian dramas is that they are wholly and solely based on misunderstandings. If you look at it this way these dramas are actually shows of pessimism. They stretch endlessly thereby justifying the fact that there can never be an end to problems or human devastation; it is like you get rid of one problem and another one just comes up. It all runs on evil I tell you.

Unsurprisingly I can go on and on but I promised myself I’d stay close to the point. No need to feel sarcastic, this IS to the point; just an elongated one. To conclude I would like to announce that PTV is sort of back again. Let us not ignore it anymore. If our channels are recovering we should at least give them a chance. Let’s just give the Indian background banshee singer a little break and dive into local waters. And that would also go for the aunty next door who’s watching a repeat telecast at two in the morning. It appears that the “dhoom tana nana” beat is my lullaby for tonight.

I will return soon my loyal readers. Till then, this sleep deprived person bids you goodnight! We shall meet again. Up up and away!!!! (Yeah I should definitely get some sleep now).

Until next time, this is Sara Q DOZING off! :)