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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Unending search for well-packaged shows

Poonam Saxena, Hindustan Times   November 02, 2012
First Published: 22:02 IST(2/11/2012) | Last Updated: 22:04 IST(2/11/2012)

There are two new serials on air: Veera (Star Plus) and Qubool Hai (Zee). The former, set in rural Punjab, is about a deep brother-sister bond, or, as the channel puts it, about a brother becoming like his sister's 'mother' (that scrambles your brain a bit, doesn't it?; why not just 'father'? Because a 'ma' is always superior to a mere 'daddy,' I guess. Which daddy would stay up nights hunched over a sewing machine, coughing desperately, in order to put his offspring through school? And make gajar ka halwa on top of it. That's a 'ma' for you).

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Anyhow, as Veera begins, we are introduced to the brother in question, at the moment only a small boy who is positively craving for a sister (because none of his friends can come out to play; it's Rakshabandhan, you see, and all the other boys are at home getting rakhis tied by their sisters). The little boy (Rannvijay) is so enamoured by the idea of having a sister that he carries off a baby from the local hospital and brings her home. Not a Good Idea, Rannvijay.

Qubool Hai is a love-and-family saga, set in a Muslim milieu. An introverted, sombre hero Asad (Karan Singh Grover of the Popeye muscles fame) meets a modern, brought-up-in-America miss (Zoya, played by Surbhi Jyoti) and sparks fly. Now their love story will unfold with the whole family thing in the background - the only difference is that since these are Muslim families, the characters will be called 'abbu' or 'aapa' instead of 'baba' or 'jiji' and everyone will exclaim 'Hai Allah!' instead of 'Hey Bhagwan!' And they'll speak a little more Urdu than Hindi. And so on. (So far, Qubool Hai also has much singing-dancing, which sits a little oddly on the show).

But here's the big problem - all our serials look and sound the same, never mind if the setting is Punjabi or Gujarati or Bengali or whatever; and never mind if the stories occasionally incorporate some 'bold new' tracks. This is such a pity. Because if there's one thing Indian audiences like, it's seeing our own stories and characters. I, along with many other viewers, watch and enjoy several international TV fiction shows (their production values are light years ahead of ours).

But I still want to see Indian shows. Sometimes, you simply can't identify with the characters in foreign shows, they seem so neurotic and self-obsessed (their 'normal', I guess). For example, in Grey's Anatomy, Meredith is sleeping with Derek who's sleeping with Addison who's sleeping with Mark who's hooked up with Callie who slept with George who also slept with Meredith who's also dated Finn… Seriously? So yes, give me the whole Indian emotion thing any day. But can we please have it packaged and scripted and acted better? Okay, make that much, much better. It's a mystery why TV channel executives don't cough up serious money and request talented Bollywood directors to make at least one or two good dramatic series for them. Nothing arthouse, just well-done commercial stuff. How hard can that be? And how can it not work?

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