Wanted: Readymade ideas from the south
Where would Salman Khan be if it were not for south Indian films? Short of three big hits, that's where. Wanted, Ready and Bodyguard were all copies of what Bollywood calls 'south' films. Nor is Salman the only Mumbai star to act in remakes of Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam blockbusters. (Otherwise, how would Aamir Khan have had one of the biggest hits of his career - Ghajini)?
Now the small screen has entered the picture and begun mining south Indian TV serials for ideas. The latest is Shubh Vivah (Sony), the remake of a Tamil show, Metti Oli. The latter - a full-blown family melodrama, from the sound of it - apparently enjoyed great success on Sun TV. It is the sentimental story of a father and his five daughters. All the daughters dream of marrying wonderful men (why don't they ever dream of making successes of their lives in non-domestic spheres as well - no, I don't seriously expect an answer), but of course that doesn't happen. Most of the girls end up in unsuitable/unhappy marriages (one supposedly gets saddled with an evil mother-in-law, an evil sister-in-law and an evil husband; why didn't they just throw in an evil father-in-law and an evil brother-in-law for free?). Maybe some of the over-the-top melodrama will be toned down, because Sony is not usually associated with unbearable rona-dhona; but I guess we'll find out in due course.
I saw the first couple of episodes, where we were introduced to the father (Rakesh Bedi), his five daughters and one of the male leads (Eijaz Khan). There was nothing to particularly like/dislike about the episodes, but for me, the story itself is so much been-there-done-that-wept-buckets that I'm not very hopeful.
(As an aside, another show currently on air, about a new bride being traumatised by her psychotic husband - Dil Se Di Dua… Saubhagyavati Bhava on Life OK - is also a remake of a Telugu show, Shravanthi).
Of course, for the longest time, entertainment channels have been taking international formats and Indianising them, whether it is Indian Idol or Sach Ka Samna or Survivor. The latest adaptation (from Fremantle) is the Colors reality show Zindagi Ki Haqeeqat Se Aamna Saamna, a sort of Aap Ki Adalat meets Rakhi Ka Insaaf meets God-alone-knows-what. Tears, shouting, violence, secrets, revelations, more tears, more drama, more violence… you get it.
Here's the set-up. Families with problems appear on the show and narrate their story to two counsellors who also do the cross-questioning. Then there is a jury which pronounces its verdict at the end. In the middle of all this there is an 'investigator' who, well, investigates things. Example: if there is a mobile phone which has to be checked for incriminating messages, it is handed over to the investigator (very gingerly, as if it might explode any minute). The investigator also goes out into the field to well, investigate. In the episode I saw, the parents of a girl want her to divorce her husband because they believe he's carrying on with another woman. The wife says he was with another woman at a hotel on a certain day. So the investigator duly takes off and arrives at the hotel, with a mike, a bit like a news correspondent, to find out if this is true.
There's only one catch. It all seems about as real as Mickey Mouse: The families look like small-time actors, and their stories and problems look totally scripted. And where on earth did they find the people who comprise the 'jury'? Did they just pluck them off the street?
We need the investigator right now!