How much can you flog a story? If you’re Star News, you can flog it for months – that is, months after the event has taken place. I refer to the Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding, which happened aeons ago. But Star News announced with much fanfare that they were going to show us – gasp! – the never-seen-before wedding video. “Yaad kariye woh din,” breathed the anchor. (Why?) “See for yourself,” he continued, “Aishwarya ne varmala kaise pahnayee (how Aishwarya put the varmala on).” Unless you’re a circus acrobat, how differently can anyone put a mala around someone else’s neck? If you hung on with bated breath, waiting to see whether Aishwarya threw the varmala like a lasso or flipped it up with her feet, this is what you would have seen: shaky, blurred images of Aishwarya and Abhishek sitting on gold thrones, with other members of the family like Shweta Bachchan moving around jerkily. This ‘exclusive’ footage, months after the actual wedding, was about as exciting as watching a camera print of Hum Aapke Hain Koun 10 years after its release.
Sony has started a new serial called Tujko Hai Salaam Zindagi, which is allegedly about a young girl getting trained in a police academy. I’m not unreasonable enough to expect an authentic depiction of a police academy; but the ‘academy’ in this serial left me speechless. PYTs in midriff-baring cropped tops and young men looking like they’re about to audition for modeling assignments hang around hip canteens; occasionally the producers remember that the serial has something to do with the police, so we’re shown shots of the PYTs and wannabe male models jogging prettily.
Since we’re on serials, I also saw – after a long, long time – the Zee serial which has now become the country’s No. 1 show (yes, it really is goodbye to Star Plus’ Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi). It’s called Banoo Main Teri Dulhan and in case none of you has ever seen it (which, for your sake, I hope you haven’t), the story – as far as I can make out – goes something like this. A young woman gets married to a man who is mentally challenged. Except that he isn’t really mentally challenged, but his wicked sister has ensured that he becomes like that. Then he is cured but the good bahu continues being harassed by the nasty sister-in-law.
I decided I had to see the serial that has now become India’s most popular show. Having seen it, I despair for India. Banoo Main Teri Dulhan has got all the worst clichés you can think of, from the sweet-as-homemade kheer bahu draped in sari with bindi-mangalsutra-sindoor; to the bad vamp with all the plotting and scheming thrown in. In short, the works. But I guess sometimes you have no option but to accept the unacceptable: the fact that this, apparently, is what viewers want to see. (It’s just that since they’re not getting anything else, what can they do? It’s like that old argument of the Hindi film industry, where the industry brass always said that they always made a certain kind of film and never any other kind of film because that’s what audiences wanted to see).
By tomorrow all the channels will be full of Gujarat and the election results. So far, the score is as follows – NDTV: plodding with disappointing exit poll programmes; Times Now: as loud as always but then who watches it for the political coverage anyway; CNN IBN: the most energetic and also the most openly pro-Modi but then perhaps that is merely a nuanced way of looking at mass murder and making new friends. No doubt the channels will go head to head on the results but I’ve a sinking feeling that viewers are getting very bored of Assembly elections and of Gujarat in particular.