Sis (on phone) - So what were you doing?
Me - Nothing much. Just got back from the office, finished making dinner. Watching TV now.
Sis - What were you watching?
Me - Oh, Desperate Housewives.
Sis - Desperate Housewives?? Ha ha ha!
Me (offended) - Hey! It's a smart show, okay?!
Sis - So what were you doing?
Me - Nothing. Just watching TV.
Sis - What were you watching?
Me - Oh, Ugly Betty.
Sis - Ugly Betty?? Ha ha ha!
Me (offended) - Hey! It's a very clever show, okay?!
Sis - What is with you and these shows?
I wasn't sure if she was talking about shows whose names started with an adjective, or commenting on my general taste in TV.
Me - I watch other stuff too...
Sis - Like what?
Me - Like Zee TV?
Sis - What on Zee TV?
Me - *mumbles incoherently*
Sis - What???
Me - Okay fine, I watch Banoo Main Teri Dulhan!
Sis - Banoo Main what?!
Me - Teri Dulhan!
Sis - *stony silence*
And just when I thought she'll shriek a "Oh my goodness! Me too!" thus bonding us forever in a bond beyond sisterhood, she laughed. That's right. She just laughed. In my face. Except that she was on the phone on the other side of the world so technically it wasn't in my face. But she laughed.
Sis - Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!
Me - Hey!
Sis - What? This is a 'clever show' too?? Ha ha ha!
Me - Fine, laugh all you want.
So here's the thing. I watch this show. I can't imagine why, but I do remember how I got started.
8 pm is my free time. I get home from office at 7 pm, and am done with making dinner by 8 pm. On the rare days when I'm not being hounded by my publisher for manuscripts, I do a variety of things - check email, blog, reply to comments, check Facebook, read the news, and watch TV. So it was just another 8 pm when I stumbled across this serial while channel-surfing. Mom was here then, and both of us started watching it, and she told me a bit of the background.
Evil woman wearing a cotton sari, and most importantly, NOT wearing dark blue eye make-up or purple lipstick, AND wearing a blouse with her sari (you don't see a lot of hindi serial vamps doing that), enters the room and the background is filled with a resounding echo, “Sindoooraaaa!” Ha ha ha! I liked it so much I considered hiring people to say “Sayeshaaaaa!” every time I entered a room. Imagine me entering a meeting room in the office, and everyone standing up to the echo of “Sayeshaaaaa!” Muahahaha!
Last year when I was trying to decide which of the hindi channels to subscribe to, I asked my mom for suggestions. “I have time for only one. Whichever has the least number of saas-bahu serials.” I told her. She suggested Zee, not just because it doesn't have any Ekta Kapoor serials but also because of Saregamapa which she knows I love. Ah well, the last season of Saregamapa put me off because Amanat did not win, and Aneek “poor man’s Sonu” Dhar and Raja “poor man’s Sukhwinder” Hassan did. Also, the hounding publishers started to take up a lot more of my after-office hours. But I still did not want to unsubscribe to Zee as it was my only link to Bollywood trailers. (Of course, lately what I only see is Harman “Harry Puttar” Baweja going, “What? The parday’s over?” Sheesh.)
Mom went back to India, but I continued watching it. It was interesting at first. Good guy and good girl are good-looking people. Hell, even Sindoora is good-looking, albeit on a scary level. The saas was nice for a change. The serial was not called 'Kkkaun Hai Terii Dulhan?' The atypical nature of the serial may have been what attracted me to it initially, but lately it has become as typical as it can get. Every must-have element of a typical hindi serial has been used. Sample the following:
Access to all kinds of deadly living and non-living things
The ease with which evil woman Sindoora manages to get her hand on everything that can kill amazes me. Guns, knives, liquid poison, powdered poison, snakes, scorpions - you name it, she produces it from the pallu of her starched cotton sari!
Dhakkan good guy
The good guy is a dhakkan. He has no frickin’ clue that evil woman is trying to kill him. He has been shot at, stabbed, run over by a truck, flung into the river, put in the same bed as a snake and a scorpion, but he thinks she is devi ka swaroop and that good girl is a liar. No wonder the good girl is so frustrated. One of these days she will just leave him and the darn serial will come to an end. No dulhan, no serial.
So Sindoora has a sidekick sister whose sole purpose in the serial is to go, “Lekin aapne aisa kyun kiya?” every 5 minutes so Sindoora has a chance to explain her painfully obvious evil schemes to the audience.
Dead but not dead
I have lost count of the number of characters who have died, but didn’t actually die, and reappeared with all sorts of ahem… ‘explanations’ of how they did not actually die.
Just when you watch Sindoora kill good guy and good girl and you go, “Aha! Nice try! They are so not dead!” it appears they really are. "Twist in plot" you see. And the only way to make them come back is for them to be born again. And thus starts phase II (bees saal baad) where everyone looks and talks differently. Sindoora now sports translucent long-sleeved blouses with her saris and a ring which is as big as her nose. Good guy is now some Banaras ka chhora-ganga-kinaare-wala, and good girl has forsaken her phase I pativrata saris for short dresses (temporarily, of course. The moment she remembers her past life, she promptly switches back to her saris and vrats and what not). Everyone has changed. Except grandma, who brings me to my next point.
Super old grandma
So the grandma exists in both phases, which are incidentally two decades apart, and yet looks exactly the same in both. Gotta find out the name of the night cream she uses.
Zoom in zoom out
Anytime anything (1) happy, (2) sad, (3) shocking, (4) surprising, or (5) ironic happens, the camera pans to the face of each of the characters present around the incident, including the children, pets and soft toys. It focuses on each face for about 10 seconds and then suddenly starts zooming in and out as if possessed. If they didn't have this, each episode would last a grand total of seven minutes.
In phase I, good girl is Vidya and good guy is Sagar. In phase II, good girl is Divya (wah wah!) and good guy is … no, not Gasar as you’d think (well, I did!), but just plain old Amar. But he is a tourist guide whose taxi is called 'Vidyasagar'. Wah wah!
Amnesia and other strange diseases
Of course. No serial is complete without the mandatory amnesia which makes the good guy forget that the good woman is good and the evil woman is evil. And then there's the very popular disease where a man has the mind of a child. So the 20-something Sagar runs around in a Disney T-shirt and shorts with suspenders, and a cap, and perpetually holding a lollipop, while dulhan Divya runs after him to 'cure him with her love'.
So the babies are swapped at birth, exchanged 20 years later, and the good guy decides to entirely ditch the parents who brought him up, and enjoy his newfound daulat which he is the sole heir to.
Item numbers and cameos
Every ten episodes, there’s an item number where characters from all Zee TV serials make random appearances. Good guy misses good girl as he walks through the park, and what do we see? All the other serials’ couples strewn over the benches of the park, reminding him of good times with good girl.
Every twenty episodes, we also see a subtitle over a completely fresh face with the text “The character of XYZ will now be played by this actor/actress.” After a while, you just lose it. What if they change the actress who plays Sindoora? I think the people who do the ‘Sindoooooraaaa!’ echo will also get confused when to do it.
The know-it-all babaji
The babaji apparently knows it all, and for the last twenty years he has been telling Sindoora “Sheegra hi tumhara sarvanash hone wala hai.” It’s been twenty frickin’ years! Give up, old man. You don’t exactly know-it-all.
Every time Ramu Kaka appears, it’s a different guy. Maybe the director just catches hold of any random spot boy and asks him to step in.
Director – Oye, chai rakh aur idhar aa. Aaj tu Ramu Kaka hai. Yeh le, dialogue yaad kar.
Spot boy – Ji, sa’ab.
Director – Arre wah! Shabash! Badi jaldi yaad kar liya! Yehi toh bolna hai tujhe scene mein!
Sometimes, as I settle down on the couch at 8 pm every day and turn on the TV, I wonder - why, oh why, am I still watching it???
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Sis (on phone) - So what were you doing?