Why are soaps still pedalling backwards?

Hindustan Times | By
Apr 28, 2012 12:55 AM IST

The world may have changed but evil mothers-in-law and nasty vamps — the twin pillars of saas-bahu soaps —show no signs of making a graceful exit.

The world may have changed but evil mothers-in-law and nasty vamps — the twin pillars of saas-bahu soaps —show no signs of making a graceful exit.

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HT Image

All of us tried to brainwash our, well, brains that these two undesirable species had vanished from our TV screens and new kinds of shows/characters were finally making an appearance, but we were wrong. The leading channel Star Plus has its Diyas and batis and Saathiyas where martyr-like bahus flit about havelis and aangans in the manner of sad, dressed-up ghosts. But even a channel like Sony — known for its more modern programming — hasn’t been able to avoid these Bad Ladies altogether.

Query number one: what is a show called Shubh Vivah doing on a channel like Sony? What were the channel executives thinking when they decided to remake the highly melodramatic Tamil soap, Metti Oli? I haven’t seen it but whatever I’ve read about it — well, let’s just say that it doesn’t sound like a very modern family saga. There’s a rather roly-poly father (played by Rakesh Bedi, usually known for his comic roles) who has five daughters; and all of them, in the time-honoured tradition of Hindi soaps (okay, let’s make that ‘in the cast-in-stone tradition of Hindi soaps’), just want to get married. Well, one of them does and lands up with an unfaithful, violent husband and an equally charming mother-in-law. Fortunately, Sony viewers like the soap so little that they don’t bother to watch it. Which means poor ratings, which means that the show is in imminent danger of being pulled out any moment (can we make that any nano second?).

Query number two: when you have a good thing going, why spoil it with the mother-in-law/vamp angle? An unusual soap like Bade Achche Lagte Hain, which got huge media attention because of its ‘different’ story — of how love blossoms after marriage between a 40+ businessman and a 30+ teacher — hasn’t been able to avoid the Bad Ladies trap. (On second thoughts, how could it, it’s produced by Ektaa Kapoor, the original saas-bahu queen).

Currently the heroine’s mother-in-law is busy plotting and planning to break the marriage and create misunderstandings between everyone. Come on people, can someone save us from this already? I’m sure there are a million ways to move the story forward with the requisite amounts of drama but without forcing the mother-in-law angle?

The good news: Sony has many other shows where the dreadful saas-vamp combo doesn’t keep popping up. Such as the nice serial around parenting (Parvarish Kuch Khattee Kuch Meethi) or the (mostly) heart-warming joint family saga, Saas Bina Sasural (doesn’t the name say it all?). In Kya Hua Tera Vada, Mona Singh is dumped by her husband for another woman. But her friends rally around, giving her strength and purpose. Kuch Toh Log Kahenge is all right if you forget that it is supposed to be based on the Pakistani drama of the Eighties, Dhoop Kinare (the latter was so much better).

But the real feather in Sony’s cap: crime shows such as CID and Crime Patrol. CID has been around from the beginning and has retained its loyal fan base all through these years. ACP Pradyuman, Daya and Abhijeet — the beloved CID troika — are the three men who really rock the show. Crime Patrol’s success has immediately spawned me-toos (does Savdhan India on Life OK seem familiar?). But it’s never easy to beat the original, and Anup Soni is first rate as the narrator who takes the story forward and also breaks the tension.

So dear Sony, more CIDs and Crime Patrols please. And can you promise to never look at the likes of Shubh Vivah again?

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    Poonam Saxena is the national weekend editor of the Hindustan Times. She writes on cinema, television, culture and books

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