When was the last time you watched a daku film set in the Chambal ravines? Can't remember? Not surprising, considering that the high noon of such films coincided with the time when the word 'Eastmancolor' was still there in everyone's vocabulary (even if nobody was quite sure what kind of colour 'Eastman' was). The template was well-established: Fierce-eyed baaghis (in dhoti-kurtas with tilaks on their foreheads) rode on galloping horses and hunted down evil, exploitative Thakurs. They (the baaghis, that is) had always been forced by circumstances to pick up the gun; none roamed the ravines because that seemed like a fun way to spend their lives.
Then the daku film got a new avatar with Shekhar Kapur's gritty Bandit Queen, based on the life of Phoolan Devi. No horses, no frills, no glamour. Not even an Arrey o Samba in sight.
Now television (Colors) has resurrected the traditional daku genre with its new serial, Phulwa. The first episode itself set the tone — we were introduced to a Phoolan Devi-type dacoit (complete with red bandana and khaki trousers) who, when asked her name by an innocent little village girl, went into flashback mode, when she herself was an innocent little village girl called Phulwa.
Naturally we will now be told the story of how little Phulwa became the grown-up Phoolan-type dacoit. Which means we will be shown all the terrible atrocities inflicted on Phulwa and her family by the heartless Thakurs. In a film, this would be a short-ish part of the story, because the movie would have to quickly move to the grown-up daku, but in television, this part can be (and will be) stretched for so long that viewers themselves might grow up by the time the TV child reaches adulthood. And I must confess, I'm not particularly looking forward to hundreds of episodes showing heartless-Thakurs-oppressing-innocent-villagers. (The serial, though, manages a nice outdoor rural look and feel and the child actress who plays Phulwa is very pretty).
Colors has started another new serial, Mukti Bandhan. This one is about a rags-to-riches industrialist, IM Virani (yes, a Gujarati setting again) who has become so wealthy and so important that he communicates with many of his family members only once a fortnight through the intercom (not a bad idea, did you say?) He also strides around grimly, intoning (even more grimly) how he has become such a big man, but how he will become even bigger, in fact the biggest of them all (or words to that effect; somebody give me that bottle from Alice In Wonderland). Now Mr Virani is going to be challenged by a young woman who also has her eyes set on becoming, er, bigger.
But corporate wars and skullduggery make for a good change from battles in the kitchen over laddoos and rotis.
That, by the way, is exactly what is happening in reality show Maa Exchange (Sony). Celebrity mom Pooja Bedi swaps places with middle class mom Radha Nigam, wife of a comedian, Rajiv.
Pooja wrinkles her nose at the dirty kitchen, is outraged at the thought of being ordered around by Rajiv and appalled by his son's school grades. Anuradha finds Pooja's house like a hotel, is having a tough time with her maids and seems to be giving a tough time to her kids.
Frankly, as reality shows go, it is pretty much more of the same. But here's my objection — why drag kids into all this? It wasn't a pleasant sight seeing Pooja Bedi's young daughter crying on screen because of the things the 'new' mother was saying to her.
Can we leave kids out of reality shows please? (It almost makes you long for those 'Aao bachchon' Doordarshan-type children's shows).