After being bombarded by praise and tea-time discussions about the daily soap operas on television, I decided to spend few evenings with the Tulsis, Parvatis and Anandis of the great world of Indian daily soaps.
The study I did with so much of trouble was after all, successful. (Though I had to support myself with two bottles of cold soft drinks to get through it, and because of it I even caught a cold.)
Anyhow, in the end, the study revealed to me a few very hilarious and surprising stereotypes.
The very first thing I noticed was the high percentage of female characters in these shows. It’s always higher than those of the male. It seems that the men are there only to populate the frame like props on a set. Also, the male characters are almost neutral, and have no authority. (This makes me wonder, why is it that our patriarchal society never raises any objections to it.) All the decisions are either taken by the evergreen Ammaji or Mataji; who surprisingly, never ages during the course of the serial. They remain the same age starting from the first episode till the very last one; keeping in mind that a typical soap can run for several years.
And then there are always two types of women in the family: one, the good, ‘devi jaisi’ and always teary-eyed, who always wears a sari or suit, keeps quiet, and has a heck lot of patience and forbearance. She is also the one who always gets into trouble.
The other, of course, is the vamp. She is obsessively after the family property and conspires to get it, by hook or crook. Also, which I find very interesting, the vamp is always conscious of her sexuality. She wears all the top designer clothes, does over-the-top make up, and god knows why, wears really heavy jewelery. But what I find even more surprising is that the vamps have an amazing capability to eavesdrop on people and not get caught. If I were ever to meet James Bond someday, I am gonna recommend one of them for the role of a female Bond. And the way they manage to come clean out of every situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn out to be better than mister Bond himself.
The heights these girls will go to in order to get the family property amazes me. Planning a murder or a kidnapping is nothing more than an evening tea time chat. Strangely though, such cold bloodedness also goes unnoticed and unpunished. How? Beats me!
And, god! How can I forget the most irritating thing of them all. Some characters die only to turn up alive again with a new face. (How you ask? C’mon guys, don’t be so dumb — plastic surgery, what else!) The person always turns up at the most crucial point of time and blows your mind, sweeps you off your feet, and then disappears when the director wants him to.
The costumes are also something I couldn’t avoid noticing. How do the ladies manage the heavy saris and suits, which are in fact heavier than the ones normal people wear even at the weddings. And then upar se, they don the Mascara-eyeliner-kajal-lip colour-blush-and-what-not look, even when they are sleeping. And I think only these girls, and maybe god, knows how they manage to wear heels even at home. (Are they on local anesthesia or what?)
The cherry on the top is, even after all of this, they take another half-an-hour to get ready in case they are going out.
Well, all the boys, who are jeering at the girls after reading this last paragraph, let me tell you, men are no less in these shows. They are always perfectly (as it is said in the desi style) “suited-booted.” These people are always ready to attend a high profile meeting or a party at a seconds notice. Not even a single strand of hair is out of place guys, not even a single one!
And the thing which beats everything else is: the endlessness of the serials. The vamp keeps on hurling troubles at the good girl, and the poor good girl keeps on facing them with patience and tears (bechari). There is never a, “and they lived happily ever after” kind of a situation coming her way.
There are a lot more things which I can mention, but, I guess it’s already time for some serial, and you are probably itching to go and watch it, so I should put a full-stop here.
Enjoy them if you do — because I don’t.