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Of rooftop dramas and epic dynasties

tv Updated: Jul 23, 2011 14:34 IST
Poonam Saxena
Poonam Saxena
Hindustan Times
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There's a new serial called Chajje Chajje Ka Pyar on Sony. If you thought the chajjas in question were the Chandni Chowk-type chajjas full of fluttering pigeons and charpais, with sheets of red chillies drying in the sun, you'd be quite wrong. The chajja here appears to be straight out of an artificial set, with dim shapes flitting around in the background (to denote other people on other chajjas presumably).

It all looks about as authentic as Cyrus Broacha wearing a suit and trying to pass off as a banker. But - at least in the couple of episodes I saw - the chajja doesn't play a very stellar role.

Mostly, all the members of the family in the serial stand around in little tableaux in the main courtyard/room (a semi-circle is the preferred formation) to discuss urgent family matters. (Climactic moments in serials usually have all the major dramatis personae gathered together; then one person makes some earth-shaking pronouncement, after which we are treated to close-ups of each and every character, to see their individual expressions of shock/horror. All this can take up about 23-and-a-half minutes of a 24-minute episode.)

In the case of Chajje Chajje Ka Pyar, the family conclave is because everyone is waiting anxiously to find out the response of the 'boy' who had come to 'see' the girl of the family. They are informed by the matchmaking priest that the 'boy' has 'rejected' their 'girl.'

That's the cue for the pater familias to instantly get into heavy father mode (slightly difficult because the role is played by actor Virender Saxena who is tall and thin and looks more like an impoverished poet than a forbidding father). He declares the 'boy' to be henceforth persona non grata for the family. But his offspring has different views on the matter, thus leading to intense conflict and confrontation (the heart of every serial; what would scriptwriters do without these words?). In the case of Chajje Chajje Ka Pyar, the serial doesn't quite match the old world charm of its title. Chandragupta Maurya is the title of another new serial that's just started on Imagine.

But after watching the opening episode, the makers could easily have called it Chanakya (maybe they didn't want any comparisons with Chandraprakash Dwivedi's much acclaimed serial, Chanakya, which he made in the early Nineties for Doordarshan - sensible of them.)

Chandragupta Maurya begins with Chanakya (if he were more stony-faced, he'd look like he was playing 'statue!') travelling to Magadha to warn its king about Alexander's approaching army.

The king throws him out and Chanakya takes a grim oath to overthrow the king. (Oaths were wildly popular in the old days, weren't they; characters in epics and myths were forever taking terrible oaths which they would then adhere to with grim determination. Will power is clearly a lost ancient art).

Watching a period serial such as Chandragupta Maurya is fraught with peril (ironic because shouldn't things be far advanced these days when it comes to look and feel?).

When you see the shots of Alexander's advancing armies (you know they are armies only because they tell you so; you could probably create better armies on your home PC) or when you see the Magadha king's palace (you know it's his palace only because they tell you so; otherwise a large-ish building with two stray guards doesn't seem much like a royal dwelling), you can't help but feel a little put out.

The truth is that TV still doesn't know how to do period properly. Period.