TV soaps’ obsession with the unreal

Updated: Oct 24, 2010, 15:59 PM IST

Gone are those days when Indian Television showcased serials like ‘Hum Log’, ‘Buniyad’ , ‘Nukkad’, to name a few in the 1980s. Dealing with the nation’s middle class families, their efforts and ambitions, these soap operas had characters, which mirrored real life people. The shows dealt with matters which a commoner could easily identify with. Indian Television into its third decade of functioning has undergone major transformation. Change is a must and inevitable. But aimless deviation is uncalled for. <br/><br/>Sad but true, Indian Television has now adopted a new avatar, an image which is nothing but bogus. A hundred <i>karva-chauths</i> a year, polygamy, re-marriages over and over again, break-ups and swapping of spouses have become regular features of the Indian TV soaps today. Satirically, the <i>Pati-vrata patni </i>would keep matching her <i>pavitra magal sootra</i>( something which is never meant to be changed) with the colour of her saree. Paying least importance to content, television production companies go miles to create a visual extravaganza with larger than life “unreal” characters. The TV serial set could actually give even ace director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and “NRI stories obsessed” Karan Johar a run for their money!<br/><br/>Unlike Bollywood, Hindi soaps have women playing leading roles. They have created a “woman’s world” with a brigade of “coy” women playing the protagonists and the “barefaced” playing antagonists. With the majority of shows portraying upper-middleclass and the elite families of the Indian society, the head-to-toe jewellery decked women make their appearances in a stylised distinctive approach. Each as her own distinct look set, right from the kind of 6 yards that she drapes to the pattern of her blouse to her hair-do. To recognize the actor in person would become a tough task as she would be unfamiliar to the eyes owing to the thick layers of make-up she wears on-screen. <br/><br/>Coming to the men on the shows, they are business tycoons who deal in crores. Ironically, these men spend more time resolving their personal issues and are hardly seen at their work place. If such is the plight of millionaires, I doubt if the men from the Ambani, Tata and Birla families live such lifestyles. I really wonder where the producers of today’s TV soaps get these unrealistic inspirations from!<br/><br/>A romantic storyline enveloped in a thick carpet of hurdles unfolds with a series of controversies and rejections posed by the family members. The “I am God-like” approach of the lead lady and her endless sacrifices would make you feel she is plastic and not a real human of flesh and blood. And you certainly cannot escape the loudly dressed vamp with a background score especially composed for her, playing whenever she makes her presence in the scene. Her role, however, is unjustified often leaving you perplexed and confused. The story wouldn’t develop further in the absence of the vamp resulting in the untimely winding up of the show for lack of <i>masala </i> and elasticity. This is an answer to your question if you were whacking your brains.<br/><br/>A tiff between the lead actor and the producer would result in a new face replacing the older protagonist. The creative head would then justify the replacement by contriving a situation wherein the lead would undergo a plastic surgery as an aftermath of meeting with a fatal accident. <br/><br/>Understandably the face of the character will certainly alter, but the voice and the height of the character too transform like a fairytale story. However, the freshly cooked-up track is forcibly inter-woven with the wavering storyline. This clearly indicates the desperate attempt on the part of the producer to keep the show going. <br/><br/>Extravagant publicity, humongous sets, dreamlike characters and exaggerated editing have become the basic characteristics of today’s Hindi serials. It saddens me to the core to see TV soap standards awfully diminishing. TV serials provide a platform for aspiring actors to make quick bucks but leave little scope for them to exercise their abilities as an actor, thus stereotyping them. It must be said though that a few daily soaps have done exceedingly well. But the TV fraternity has miles to go to live up to the standards set during its inception both in terms of meaningful storyline and acceptable mise-en-scene.