Getting ready to watch a new show is like preparing to open a gift – and hoping that the wrapping paper conceals something more desirable than the same old same old. I caught up with three new shows recently, the first being Star Plus’ weekend crime show, Arjun. With the long-running success of CID and more recently, Crime Patrol (both on Sony), crime shows are popping up on entertainment channels faster than you can say “Khooni kaun?”
Arjun is the latest in line and clearly inspired by American TV shows, from the yellow tape at the crime scene (seriously? In India?) to the sexy shoulder holsters.
The protagonist is the flinty, taciturn cop Arjun Suryakant Raute (played by former Roadies participant – don’t hold that against him – Shaleen Malhotra). He’s a loner with an attitude problem but his forbidding exterior hides a painful past – Arjun’s wife was murdered and the only purpose in his life is revenge. This kind of tough-tragic character has a long, solid history in television and movie lore, especially when offset with other characters who serve as an effective foil. So you have Arjun’s abrasive boss, Sameer Rathod, who can’t stand Arjun’s guts; the token female on the team (Sana Khan), who is wary of Arjun and at the same time keen to prove her professional capability (which she does by reeling off crime statistics every five minutes, sounding a bit like, er, Salman Khan in Dus Ka Dum). And so on and so forth. There’s plenty of action and, in a nice change, it takes place in picturesque outdoor locations (Goa, Rajasthan).
Whether the show will work with viewers or not I have no idea – it is so difficult to fathom the whole ratings game (even harder than rocket science). One is aware of the broad trends – for instance, the fact that family shows usually work, but even this is no longer a given. For instance, Sony’s Byaah Hamari Bahu Ka and Star Plus’ Ek Doosre Se Karte Hain Pyaar Hum (both centred around traditional Gujarati families, with cut-copy-paste look and feel, from the seedha palla saris to the usual saas-bahu headaches) are languishing on the ratings chart. So yes, Indian TV audiences still enjoy their sprawling joint family sagas, but that’s not the only thing they like any more.
How will this audience react to the other two shows -- both of which air at 11 am on Sundays on two different channels: Zee’s Ramayan and Star Plus’ Lakhon Mein Ek? Ramayan has been made by Moti Sagar (of the production house, Sagar Arts), whose father Ramanand Sagar made the Ramayan that was shown on Doordarshan in the Eighties.
There is certainly pleasure to be derived in watching a familiar, beloved story unfold on the screen, but you do look for freshness in the re-telling. Also, the music – which should be one of the highlights of the serial – was disappointing. Perhaps it’ll improve in the forthcoming episodes.
Lakhon Mein Ek is based on real-life inspirational stories (shades of Satyamev Jayate?). I saw the episode in which a widow’s teenaged daughter helps get her mother married. It was nicely done, with decent acting and I’m looking forward to watching the other episodes.
But this weekend, if you’re looking for some light-hearted, totally stress-free entertainment (and some great dancing), my vote would go to Jhalak Dikhla Ja (Colors).