There's a new channel out there - Life OK (yes, that really is what it's called). It replaces Star One, a flanking channel to the Star network's entertainment (read woman-oriented family sagas) juggernaut, Star Plus. Initially when Star One was launched (in 2004, if I'm not mistaken), it had a younger, more modern vibe but after a while that focus got slightly diluted.
I remember Star One primarily for Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, probably one of the best comedy serials on TV in recent years, and for its hit reality shows, Nach Baliye and The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. (I was not a regular viewer, but the channels also telecast what is perhaps Indian television's first vampire serial, the Twilight ripoff Pyar Ki Yeh Ek Kahani.)
Now Star One has become Life OK. The new channel introduces Madhuri Dixit as a sort of sutradhar: she pops up every now and then, giving viewers little philosophical nuggets on life, all of which are linked to the different shows on the channel. In one line, the message seems to be this: appreciate what you have, don't let the past or future/your ambitions or aspirations negate your chances of happiness in the here and now. It's a good message but I'm not sure if all the shows on the channel mirror the message.
There are about eight new shows and I've managed to see three of them at some length. The first is Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, a serial about one of the most powerful and intriguing of Hindu deities, Shiv. At the moment the story is focused on Sati, who finds herself drawn to the charismatic, ascetic Shiv, much against the wishes of her father, an unyielding Vishnu devotee. The handling of Devon Ke Dev Mahadev is in the usual TV serial style, though the look and feel is a shade better than most routine mythologicals.
The second show I saw was Sau-bhagyavati Bhava, in which a young girl's parents fix her wedding to a seemingly 'good' catch - a rich, khandaani man. But once she's married, she discovers he's abusive and psychotic. (So I guess the message here is not to confuse 'rich man' with 'nice man.') The couple live alone in a remote, palatial home somewhere in the hills and Mr Crazy finds different ways of torturing his bride every day (which includes tying her up and branding her with hot iron). Not exactly pleasant bedtime viewing. (Here's the problem with the soap format - everything is stretched beyond endurance. If the story of Saubhagya-vati Bhava is about how a new bride escapes her scary husband and finds a new life for herself - I don't know if this is the story, but frankly what else could it possibly be? - and it had to be wound up in a finite number of episodes, all would be well. But since this is a soap format, there's no knowing how long this charming part of the story will stretch. It could drag on for weeks.)
Equally traumatic viewing is a show called Meri Maa, in which everyone cries so much, they could fill the Pacific Ocean with their tears. The serial is set in a Marathi joint family where the daughter-in-law loses her little daughter at a Ganesh Chaturthi pandal. Five years down the line, she still weeps for her lost child. Her mother-in-law keeps shouting at her, saying it was all her fault. Meanwhile, the little girl is growing up on the streets, amidst much hardship. It's all too much crying, too much melodrama, too much saas-bahu. Too much like the kind of show I can't watch. The rest of the shows next week.