There may be no new films in movie halls, but it’s raining new shows on the entertainment channels. Everyone, it seems, was just waiting for IPL to get over, and the moment the last ball was bowled and the last dance danced (Katrina Kaif unfortunately doing some highly forgettable dance moves), the channels rolled out their new shows.
Have you noticed how the age group of the protagonists of most serials and reality shows has been dipping lower and lower? Most channels have shows with very young girls playing the main leads.
There’s Balika Vadhu and Uttaran on Colors, Sabki Ladli Bebo on Star Plus. Zee TV’s latest is Aapki Antara about a five-year-old autistic girl, and the same channel is also starting L’il Champs (a music talent show for children). In any case, most serials never had protagonists older than 17 or 18 years (a 21-year-old female lead? Ancient and over the hill!) But now they’ve moved from late teens to early teens to pre-teens to small children.
Next, we’ll have serials about infants and toddlers who will gurgle and burp instead of speaking dialogues. Maybe even babies in the womb (a mythological on Abhimanyu? After all, he was taking classes on military warfare in his mother’s womb).
But why this obsession with small children? Here’s my explanation: The focus of most serials has always been a female protagonist who is severely tested by fate and family and spends much of her time crying or looking sad. The audience is encouraged to ‘feel’ deeply for her sufferings and weep with her through all the trials and tribulations of her life.
Now think of how much more poignant the story would become if the protagonist is a really young girl, even a child. Think of how much more strongly audiences will ‘feel’ for her, how much more they will sigh and weep.
It’s exploitative and disturbing. Just like talent shows with children. On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with such shows. After all, this is a chance for children to display their talent, isn’t it? How bad could that possibly be?
But what of the other parts of these shows — when the children are criticised by insensitive judges, when they are eliminated, when they are asked, “Kaisa lag raha hai? How are you feeling at being eliminated? Are you disappointed? Will your parents be disappointed?” And so on.
You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that all this is not exactly great for a child’s self-esteem and psychological well-being.
Anyhow, the other new shows include Seeta Aur Geeta (NDTV Imagine) which is a TV adaptation of the Ramesh Sippy film where Hema Malini played the iconic double role. Director Pankaj Parashar did a version with Sridevi many years later (Chalbaaz), different because of its strong element of humour and comedy. Actually, the fun and games really start when Geeta takes Seeta’s place, but we have to wait for a bit before the serial reaches that stage in the story.
Star Plus has begun Mitwa, and according to the current fashion of serials around social issues, this one is about caste.
The high caste men stride around the village as though they own it (they probably do), while their womenfolk trail behind them, their heads covered, laden with mountains of jewellery. And the low caste villagers?
They keep prostrating themselves whenever a high caste person passes by (maybe they’re hallucinating and think they’re seeing Jayalalitha). I was reminded of those Seventies films about Thakurs and their subservient ‘subjects’ with Amrish Puri thundering about khandaan ki izzat and Thakuron ki shaan and the like.
Also caught Hans Baliye on Star One, in which husband-wife teams do comic acts and are judged by David Dhawan and Karisma Kapoor. All the acts borrow heavily from the most tired clichés — hen-pecked husbands, nagging wives etc. Not funny.