One of my favourite characters on television happens to be from an American crime drama called Bones. Temperance Brennan is an anthropologist who investigates murders along with her husband who works at the FBI. They solve crimes with absolute precision, the show is full of facts, accurate facts at that. I know quite a lot about the different bones in the human body now. What is more important is that the show has love, family drama et al. It has an element of suspense and thrill. The show has its light moments and the only evil plot is hatched by the killer. Plain simple logic.
This little introductory jibber jabber about my favourite character has a lot to do with my attention being redirected permanently from hyper ventilating mothers in expensive sarees or sly in-laws planning and plotting the execution of the newly wed bahu from the house or some secret, waiting to be flashed about a character so as to stretch a five year old serial even further. Yes, I described all the Hindi TV serials in under 50 words. And no, I am not being overly critical.
When India stepped into the 21st century, tragic events happened, like the earthquake in Gujarat, the Tsunami that hit Nagapattinam and ravaged South India, the Mumbai terrorist attacks and Ekta Kapoor. She brought with her an incomprehensible string of soap operas that thrived on the religious and cultural stereotypes that existed in the society and did a great job in blowing them out of proportions too.
Right from the ill treatment of widows to the ever luminous diya losing its light from a wind that auto generates itself in a closed room sans windows and blows that diya off because somebody died in a car accident. (Maybe it was the Death Eaters from Azkaban, you never know.) The evil saas finding a way to drive the bahu away from her son like in Pavitra Rishta or Dadisa pressurising Anandi to copulate and hoping that the foetus will have the XY chromosomes instead of the double X. Or when Rishabh Kundra a.k.a RK thinks he owns Madhubala because she is his wife steers everything to an entirely different derogatory level. The hoopla around inter-caste marriages in Diya aur Baati Hum or the portrayal of women in these serials wherein the perfect lady, the epitome of femininity and grace is a submissive saree clad woman whose only mission in life is to take care of the family, take all the blame, adjust with the husband’s extra marital flame and what not. Whereas the women in A -line skirts, crisp shirts and trousers working in an office are the ones either trying to get revenge or trying to impress a married man or simply wanting to break homes, both literally and metaphorically. Reminds me of Kya Hua Tera Vadaa, the serial that discontinued to my absolute pleasure.
Also, the prototype of a perfect family is almost always a North Indian Hindu family. How come there are no families from the North- East or from Down South? Or a family that belongs to another religion? No, I won’t count Qubool Hai, since even that serial follows all possible stereotypes, both religious and cultural. It is frustrating to sit in front of the television and watch the same thing, the same plot line, same characters just different faces, screaming, wailing, accusing, plotting, bribing, tampering with documents, bringing characters back to life, putting them in jail and preposterously releasing them too and a dozen weddings all of the same person!!
Serials like Sarabhai VS Sarabhai, Khichdi and most recently 24, have been like a breath of fresh air. I like Smriti Irani so much more as an active politician than a wailing and suffering Tulsi. Talented actors in the industry need better scripts to be able to do something new, something extra ordinary. Something they deserve being actors of immense calibre.
Maximum shows on air today are marred with superstitions, clichÃ©s, religious and cultural stereotypes and violence. Hardly anything in them to help the society with something positive. It might be aimed at only entertaining the masses with little messages in the end (hardly makes a difference), after all it is a capitalist venture, we must not forget. For all I know, women are affected the most, the home makers mostly, who find their escape through these serials. I have tried my best to sit with a straight face and not annoy my grandmother when she is watching these serials. But I cannot help not notice the discrepancies, the oddities and the bizarre happenings.
Hindi TV serials need to come of age now. Need to find a better formula to engage all age groups and treat them visually with nothing much, but a little bit of sense to start with.