Dark heroes, heroines on dangerous journeys to discover their roots, love stories that begin with hate: these are some of the themes in two new serials: Mujhse Kuchch Kehti… Yeh Khamoshiyan on Star Plus and Junoon - Aisi Nafrat Toh Kaisa Ishq on Life OK. If that sounds more exciting than it actually is, I plead guilty.
Khamoshiyan began with a high-pitched publicity campaign in which ABP News was roped in to put out a series of bulletins shrilly asking the whereabouts of some missing girl called Gauri Bhonsale. I don't know if it's an indication of how true-to-life or how true-to-fiction our news channels are but many of us genuinely thought - even if momentarily - that there was actually a real missing person called Gauri Bhonsale (relative of Asha Bhonsale?).
But if the exercise was supposed to pique one's curiosity I guess it succeeded. So I dutifully tuned in and here's what Khamoshiyan seems to be about so far. Gauri Bhonsale is a sweet, nice young girl who lives in Southampton with her parents and is engaged to be married to a sweet, nice young man. She is under the impression that her extended family in India will turn up for her wedding.
But when she finds out that they won't, she secretly takes off for India to meet them. Once in India - or more specifically in Kolhapur - all sorts of dark family secrets start tumbling out. (Oh she also comes across a local hoodlum-type who definitely looks like he's going to play some sort of role in her life).
If Khamoshiyan has a Maharashtrian setting, Junoon - Aisi Nafrat Toh Kaisa Ishq is set in the north Indian hinterland. Here, our heroine, a city miss, comes to the boondocks to fulfill her mother's dying wish and promptly runs into the rugged, rustic, rough hero (very macho in his dhoti-kurta, a black thread around his neck and tiny silver rings in his ears). He is rude and unpleasant, she's pleading and bitchy in turn. But they will - of course -- eventually fall in love.
Both stories sound reasonably interesting. They create their respective milieus reasonably well. Some of the actors are reasonably good. So why don't they max it? Why aren't we hooked? Could it be the hackneyed serial-making style which TV serial-makers just can't seem to get rid of? And what's wrong with the style? Well, for starters, how about the tendency to stretch every dramatic or semi-dramatic moment as if it were a piece of endlessly stretchable chewing gum? Few things in the world can drag as much as a Hindi serial.
My old grouse: Anytime anything happens, we are shown close-ups of every person repeatedly (in case we forgot what they looked like when they were /angry/upset/whatever). Secondly, the story-telling keeps faltering. All serials made anywhere in the world have to crack this problem: how to find a balance between the long story arc which will continue over months and the shorter arcs where something happens and ends over the course of an episode or two.
But both have to mesh for a show to work. But do they? I think you know the answer.