If anyone had told me a decade ago that I would get addicted to Indian soap operas on TV, I would have brushed their comments aside with a “you don’t know me at all “ look ! But in the year 2011 when I was diagnosed with the big C my mother came to stay with me for the duration of my treatment which lasted about 10 whole months. During that time I would go to work (I worked in a travel agency for 37 years) but stay home on the days of treatment.
My mother used to watch her serials without fail in Chennai and would get upset if any visitors showed up at those times … till she was gifted with a system where she could record her favourite programmes and watch later at her convenience. But she still was not happy as she felt she was seeing it live when she watched it at the prescribed hour! So when she came to Hyderabad I did not want her getting bored and hence started spending time with her watching TV after work.
What started off was a harmless routine and a reason to tease my mother about the nonsense she was watching. But these serials slowly and surely got their tentacles into my being and made me wait anxiously for their next day’s episode! The interesting part was that we managed to get my husband initiated into the delights of the make-believe word on the small screen.
Over the next few months, I realised the hold that these serials had over society at large and me in particular. I do not wish to name any particular serial or the language in which I watched them as according to me it did not matter …. they were all the same. But I gleaned a lot of knowledge from these daily episodes.
However rich the character was you never saw help at their house, one merely mentioned them. Maybe the director anticipated the COVID situation and was training the artistes for the same. Similarly, there would be only one landline connection and that too in the living room … it would take one whole episode for a person to come from the first-floor step by step to answer the call! The call would disconnect the minute the phone was picked up leaving the viewer in a state of suspense as to who had called and why.
Another couple of unique features in serials is that information is transferred mainly by eavesdropping and disguises so idiotic that while we knew who they were the family or friends of the character were unable to identify him or her ….strange indeed!
My husband looking at my dishevelled appearance every morning would ask me why I could not be like the heroine in the serial who would look great at any point of the serial. My answer would, of course, be that she was being paid to look terrific while I was not. However, it baffles me how these ladies could go to bed with a lot of jewellery on them and wake up hair and makeup in place and the beautifully draped saree sans any wrinkle.
I wish I had attended the school and college that these characters attended. No dress code, no attending classes ….just romancing or arguing with the hero in the beautiful parks of the city. Sometime ago watched one such leading lady following the above routine ending up as a gold medalist of a medical college. Then surprise surprise on day one of her taking up an assignment in a hospital she is forced to perform a major brain surgery all by herself with just a couple of nurses to assist. Are MBBS freshers qualified to perform such complicated surgeries?
If yes why would we need to run after specialists? As the serial progressed the now pregnant doctor gets poisoned and in another instance, the baby’s movement stops for a couple of days. But lo and behold everything is fine the minute she goes to a place of worship and threatens the deity with dire consequences if anything untoward happens to her unborn child. But most baffling was when her boss, a neuro specialist, the villain of the serial, performs surgery on her husband and erases his memory of the preceding five years which results in his forgetting his wife. I am sure if this were indeed possible a lot of husbands would be consulting this doctor.
Another point to be noted is whether a doctor, a police officer or an IAS officer the Character is only Involved with issues which concern her family! How fortunate. My boss would have thrown me out if I involved myself only with the travel of my family. So unfair
In another serial, we saw 5 sets of look-alikes! I guess each time the TRPs dropped they would introduce a new set …after a while it got so confusing even for the producers that one day they just wrapped up the show … thank god!
Another one had a woman throwing money(bribing ) at every everyone to achieve her goal. It was always in lakhs and crores … somehow Forbes seems to have overlooked her name and only talk of the wealth of the Ambanis!
The shows were getting more ridiculous by the day …. but watch we did every evening without fail, new ones, old ones, discussed, dissected, very often irritated that the story was not progressing, laughed at its improbable situations but yet not willing to discard our viewing.
My mom departed from this world in April of 2019 and I continued to watch these serials with the same interest that she did. I felt I owed it to her to tell the rest of the story when we meet again in another world. One exception however was I had decided that if any serial wrapped up I would not start watching the new one. But now with the coronavirus bringing the world to a grinding halt my serials too have met with the same fate. But our new BFFs now are Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar etc. What do we do without these channels under the circumstances? My deepest fear is that we may run out of films and web series to watch if the present scenario were to continue!
My kids make fun of me ( like I did my mom initially ) for watching these serials. But as my mom very wisely said “ I feel the house is full of people when I have the tv on, it is my main relaxation after taking care of all the household chores. I really don’t care what others think “. I tend to agree with her on this as my children live overseas so it’s just my husband and me at home. It is really wonderful or time pass (like they say in local lingo) to be involved in such mindless serials and more so as there was absolutely no strain on the brain
I sometimes wonder that if my sons spent sufficient time with me would they too get addicted to the serials provided of course life (as we knew it earlier) returns to normal.
I have come to the conclusion that the art of making TV serials is much more difficult than making full-length feature films. When you watch the latter it is over in a couple of hours but in the former to sustain the viewer’s interest day after day for years is definitely a difficult task. Hats off to the makers and producers of these serials… may their tribe increase..