Kasautii stars are Bhutanese heart-throbs
The popularity of Hindi soaps is high in the tiny kingdom of Bhutan but Kasautii Zindagi Kay is the most talked-about of them all.Updated: Jun 18, 2007 17:21 IST
The skyline was afire with tints of red and gold with the sun beginning to set over the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Middle-aged Lily Tashi and her two sisters-in-law were busy, their hands in full flow, sowing paddy in this village on the outskirts of capital Thimphu.
The clock was ticking and the three women were getting restless to get back home.
"What will happen to Ap Baja?" asked one. "Will Am Pena and Anura come together as a couple again?" wondered another before the three hurried back home with bamboo baskets slung over their backs.
Guess who Ap Baja, Am Pena and Anura are? Ap Baja (Ap means Mr in Bhutan) is none other than Mr Bajaj (Ronit Roy) of the popular Indian soap "Kasautii Zindagii Kay" telecast on Star TV, Am Pena (Am means Ms in Bhutan) is Prerna (Shweta Tiwari), and Anura is Anurag (Cezanne Khan).
Speaking just a smattering of Hindi, the three Bhutanese women - their national language is Dzongkha - pronounce Prerna as Pena and Bajaj as Baja - but that doesn't deter them from following the serial.
"For us, 'Kasautii' is almost a religion - we have been following the serial for years and have never missed it," Tashi said.
"I have just about two hours to complete all my household chores - freshening up, cooking and other things - before I get to be in front of the TV."
Such is the craze for Prerna and Bajaj that any Hollywood or Bollywood actor would be put to shame in this Land of the Thunder Dragon of 700,000 people.
"Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz, Priyanka Chopra, or even John Abraham would go unnoticed, but if Prerna or Bajaj or Anurag happen to come to Bhutan they would surely be mobbed!" said Pema Rinzin, a well-known Bhutanese film-maker.
The popularity of the Hindi soaps has its flipside - the timings of the serials have led to several family discords, even triggering a divorce.
"I have two TV sets at home and by 9 p.m. (Bhutan time is half-an-hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time) both the sets are blocked - my wife watches 'Kasautii Zindagii Kay' and my teenaged daughter loves watching 'Indian Idol' on Sony TV," Rinzin said.
"I catch up with world news on TV only in the mornings and often have to miss football matches at night."
In 2002, a couple in Mongar village fought over a World Cup soccer match and a Hindi soap as there was only one TV set at home and different tastes to cater to.
"The fight reached such a stage that the husband in a rage pushed his wife, leading to a fractured arm. The two later got divorced," Sherub Gyaltshen, general secretary of the Motion Picture Association of Bhutan, told IANS.
It's not just the women who are crazy about Hindi TV soaps - a village council meeting that was to discuss urgent local issues was adjourned because many of the male members pleaded with the headman to stop the proceedings when it was time for Kasautii Zindagii Kay.
"If someone casts Prerna in one of the Bhutanese language movies it would surely be a hit because she is so popular in the towns and suburbs of Bhutan," said Dorji Wangchuk, an award winning documentary filmmaker and vice president of the association.
First Published: Jun 18, 2007 17:15 IST