Our TV world has been in an absolute ferment lately. Our favourite teddy bear-like business tycoon, Mr Kapoor, got shot at in Sony’s Bade Achche Lagte Hain (fear not, he’s well and alive and looking pretty robust for someone who’s just had a bullet pumped into him – though the promos sneakily tried to indicate that he’d died). Star Plus’s Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai took a time leap, that ancient plot device so beloved of our serial makers (as did many other shows). Also, Yeh Rishta’s… hero slipped into a coma (well, of course, he’s going to wake up one day; but he too is looking rather rosy-cheeked and fresh for someone who’s allegedly a bedridden, dead-to-the-world patient). Balika Vadhu’s Anandi is getting married to her dashing Collector saab and feeling all teary and apprehensive about it. (Nothing works better on our desi shows than a wedding, and Colors promises feverish festivities for several days. One can almost see the neighbourhood designer aunty sitting next to the TV set, pen and pad in hand, diligently taking notes about Anandi’s lehngas and and Sumitra’s saris).
There are a few new shows too. For starters, there’s Anamika (Sony), a love story-meets-horror-meets happy families kind of drama. Large parts of every episode are devoted to showing us a warm and jolly extended Punjabi family where the unlikely matriarch, Bebe, is addicted to her iPad and video games (nice!), the son Jeet is a happy-go-lucky aspiring boxer, and the family pet is a fluffy little dog called Chiku. But each episode also throws in some spooky stuff: a missing bracelet that suddenly reappears, a twisted ankle that miraculously heals overnight etc. It’s not that hard a mystery to crack though, since we (the viewers) have been given so many clues that we’d have to be absolute duffers not to figure it out. We’ve already been introduced to the enigmatic young woman / spirit (or should I say ‘chudail,’ because she definitely seems evil) who is behind all these mysterious happenings. She seems desperately keen on Jeet, and so the cheerful young man is unlikely to remain cheerful for much longer. So far the serial is quite nicely done, even though it does make for slightly schizophrenic viewing because it keeps oscillating between family soap and horror show (though the horror -- so far -- is low-key and restricted to gusts of wind and fluttering curtains).
The other new show is Shaitan (Colors), yet another offshoot of the super success of the gritty crime drama series, Crime Patrol on Sony. Here too there is a narrator, Sharad Kelkar (like the excellent Anup Soni in Crime Patrol) who keeps popping up to tell the story (based on real life police cases). But this me-too show, despite its unfortunate name, is actually rather good. The dramatization is hard-edged and tense, the acting is good and it makes for compulsive but unsettling viewing. In a sea of TV content that consists largely of overdressed women, palatial homes and family themes, Shaitan (like the pioneering Crime Patrol) is disturbingly different. Not for the squeamish though.