As all of us know very well, Indian soaps and realism don’t mix. We understand this and swallow our disbelief politely. Yes, we cannot stop ourselves from rolling our eyes at the heavy makeup and unrealistic clothes characters wear. Or scoffing at the half-baked plots and settings. Or shaking our heads when good people fail to see through the obvious machinations of bad people. But here are seven things- really, really bizarre things which can happen only in the universe of Indian soaps:
A still from Kumkum Bhagya.
1. Revenge Marriages: Technically you could get your revenge on someone by sabotaging their career, doing them grievous bodily harm, deflating their tyres everyday or attacking them with water balloons when they least expect it. But if you live in the universe of Hindi soap operas, you would know that there is one and only one way of exacting revenge: to marry the person you would like to be avenged upon. Pratham and Gauri in Kutumb pioneered the prototype, but a large number of K-soaps revolved around these ‘revenge marriages’. Zee TV’s Kumkum Bhagya is now milking the trope for all its worth, with it’s male lead Abhi, a spoilt ‘rockstar’ marrying the poor Pragya out of revenge.
A still from Qubool Hai in Agra.
2. Fake Locations: Why go to all the trouble of setting a show in a specific city when the city won’t feature in the show at all? Now that Mumbai is passé as a location, shows are set in small town India. Nisha Aur Uske Cousins is set in Jaipur, Qubool Hai in Bhopal, Swaragini in Kolkata. How do we know this? Because the makers have gone to the trouble of getting precisely three shots of famous tourist spots from these places and interspersing them periodically between scenes. That’s how.
Sanam and Sehar, the 'humshakals' from Qubool Hai.
3. Everyone has a humshakal: If you judge by the regularity with which humshakals or people with exactly the same physical features appear on TV shows, you would be surprised that everybody isn’t walking around with a twin. Sometimes, these people are not even twins or related to you. And almost always, these people are evil crooks, willing to kidnap and impersonate you. Case in point: Sanam and Sehar on Qubool Hai and Zain’s wicked humshakal on the recently concluded Beintehaa.
Sonali Bendre in Ajeeb Dastan Hai Ye.
4. Different wardrobes for different phases in life: Here’s a question – do you have an entire separate wardrobe for when you are feeling sad or poor? No? Too bad. When TV characters are sad, they must immediately start dressing like sober human beings and not gift-wrapping paper. What good is misery if it doesn’t make you dress better? Sonali Bendre’s character in Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh is shown wearing saris before her husband’s betrayal and only kurta-trousers-scarf combos after she starts her job. Fair enough, but if you are low on money, where do you find the cash to buy a whole new wardrobe?
Stills from Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi.
5. Rags-to-riches and riches-to-rags: In TV duniya, your fortunes can be reversed in a day. One day you are rich, wearing three-piece suits or kanjeevarams all day and talking in lakhs and crores. The next day, you’re poor, homeless, wearing crumpled cotton clothes and don’t have enough money for food. There is no in-between. In Colour’s Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi, it takes only two years for our hero Ranveer, who worked as a lackey to the heroine’s father, to become a big business man and buy his old boss’ home and company.
Bye Bye!! ...... Wait, changed my mind.
6. Periodic character disappearances: This is actually inevitable. If you start a show with a joint family at its centre, like Nisha aur Uske Cousins, certain characters will slip in and out of the spotlight. But surely some explanation is needed for why these characters are missing at super-important/tragic/happy family events? Are they dead? Have they migrated to Canada? Gone underground?
7. Misunderstandings galore: Okay, so misunderstandings are a big part of all dramas. 90% of the plot in most shows hinges on them. But our shows take it to another level. The protagonists of Itna Karon Na Mujhe Pyar, a divorced couple reconnecting because of their children, go from one misunderstanding to another to yet another. It doesn’t matter that most of these problems would disappear if they actually, you know, ever asked each other. And if that happened, it would be curtains for the show!