Escapism is a wonderful thing. I am a devoted fan of the argument that there's so much rubbish going on in the real world, we should at least be suitably entertained in the reel world. But Indian TV entertainment channels are laggards in this matter. By and large, their idea of entertainment is — yes (deep sigh) — tears and suffering.
They should consider making weeping women their brand ambassadors. So when there's a press conference to announce a new show, a sad sari-clad woman loaded with jewellery can proclaim, with a catch in her voice, "Our new show is called Aansoo Bhari Hain Yeh Jeevan Ki Raahein [because you can no longer make a serial where the title is not taken from a Hindi film song]. It is about a sweet, innocent girl with strong Indian values, who gets married to a man who doesn't have strong Indian values. Her mother-in-law also hates her and treats her very badly. But our heroine fights for her happiness..." (That's 987 excruciating episodes down the line, by which time the show is in its death throes, and so are we).
That's why I was so relieved to find the new 24-hour comedy channel on my set — Comedy Central. This is an American channel available in many parts of the world, and now it has come to India. Except that I'm not sure we should call it a ‘new' channel because much of its content is not exactly 'new' (Seinfeld, 30 Rock, That '70s Show, The Wonder Years — new?).
Comedy Central doesn't have just American comedies, it has some British shows too, including desi comedies such as The Kumars at No 42 and Goodness Gracious Me. (For real nostalgia buffs, there's even Fawlty Towers and 'Allo 'Allo. Next they might show us Father Dear Father and Here's Lucy). There's also the very funny Coupling, a show around dating, sex and relationships, a sort of British Friends.
Apparently, Comedy Central has localised content in many of the countries where it is aired. There isn't any here as yet, unless you count a clip of Cyrus Broacha wandering around the streets of Mumbai asking people where they can find Comedy Central and getting answers like "Kamathipura?" and "Dadar Parsi Colony?" Or one of the promos, (admittedly hilarious in a gross kind of way), Bone Setting Clinic.
What Comedy Central does do is give you a chance to catch up with comedies you may have missed, or go on a nostalgia fest and see your favourite shows again, or just, you know, laugh.
Not that there aren't comedies on other English entertainment channels. Zee Café, for instance, has just started Outsourced, in which an American flies out to India to head a call centre in Mumbai and the result is a chaotic cultural clash. It's all a bit clichéd and full of stereotypes (okay, we get it that the head wobble — do they mean yes or do they mean no — is the biggest unsolved mystery for Westerners, and that arranged marriages are the weirdest things known to humankind; but really, can we move on?). However, Outsourced is good for a few laughs.
And finally. I plead guilty. I'm not very familiar with our own desi comedy channel, Sab. I tried watching the most popular show on it, Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashmah, and found one of the lead characters (Jethalal's wife) speaking in such a weird way, it reminded me of fingernails scraping down a blackboard. So I gave up. But I will try again.