For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a ‘saas-bahu reality check,’ to find out if these kitchen-politics serials have actually disappeared from our general entertainment channels or not. And the sad, annoying answer is — no, they haven’t. Those depressing throwbacks to 1960s melodramas in which the evil mother-in-law made her bahu’s life miserable still survive on our channels. It’s enough to make you want to throw a greasy paratha at all those large old ladies (yes, for some reason, many of them are vastly overweight and given to waddling around in a sinister fashion — believe me, it’s possible to do that).
The second question I’ve been trying to answer is: are there any ‘different’ serials on air? Or, more to the point, even if there are, are they any good? Because you can be ‘different’ and terrifyingly dull/irritating. The answer is that yes, there are a couple of ‘different’ and interesting serials out there. But they are too few. Mostly, even if they’re ‘different,’ they’re floundering all over the place.
I don’t know what will make our TV serials take that quantum leap and go from being assembly-line, parivar-focused, been-there-done-that shows to truly compelling, tightly-scripted, world-class serials. At the moment, I can’t think of anything that will make that happen so let’s not hold our breath.
The only possibility: if serials become finite. At least part of the problem will be solved then. Suppose producers and channels decide that it will take 25 or 50 or X number of episodes to tell a particular story and not one episode more. And then they stick to that decision. Immediately you have tighter scripts and better story-telling. (Doordarshan used to do it way back in the Eighties). If the characters of a serial become wildly popular and viewers crave to see more of them, TV channels can always go the way of international shows and bring in the concept of seasons. It’s a good way of ensuring quality and longevity. Right now we only have longevity, no quality. In their attempt to keep shows going for years and years, scriptwriters introduce nonsensical tracks, mess up story lines and characters, and drag matters so much (think of an endlessly stretched piece of chewing gum) that as a viewer, you either want to slash your own wrists or those of the production house.
Finite episodes will solve part of the problem, but the other part — hackneyed themes — will remain. So what will it take to jettison that? I wish I knew.
We’ve been through shows on Star Plus and Sony in the last two weeks. Looking at the newer serials on Colors, my vote for the one that’s most ‘different’ and interesting goes to the thriller, Chhal Sheh Aur Maat. So far, the story has some intriguing twists and turns — basically it’s a pleasant change to have a show in the format of a thriller (even if the thriller is set in your usual joint family). Unfortunately, Chhal Sheh Aur Maat’s lead actress is not going to win any awards, her acting is so laboured, it’s a strain to even watch her.
And my vote for the worst serial (among the newer crop of serials, that is; the older lot has some horrors such as Sasural Simar Ka) goes to Kairee — Rishta Khatta Meetha, which is a full-blown (literally, the mother-in-law is huge) saas-bahu soap. There’s a scary, horrid saas, her wimpy son who has a noodle instead of a backbone, and persecuted bahus. Where’s the barf bag, people?