I think Malayali households have been struck by a strange malady. Hmm, and while, heart attacks are seen largely in a male population, this disease seems to have strangely affected the females in the family.
My mother loves to cook for me, especially when I come home for short vacations. She usually has a detailed menu, and I get to choose my dish of the day. Every evening we sit together, and have our evening palaharaam, discussing different issues – me about office and my friends, she about her colleagues, gossip about relatives, and gardening. It is nice to sit in the verandah, with a hot cup of tea, param poris and vadas; my mother watering the plants in the garden; my father sitting on the verandah steps, and me one step above – playing tabla on his bald head. It is my special time with my family.
Over the years, things have changed. My relationship with my family has changed a lot, and a lot of factors have contributed to it. None of which I am going to think about now. But I do have a tangible enemy now. Someone who has in a remote way contributed to the current state of things. The idiot box. And Asianet serials.
Today, my mother finishes all her work by 7 in the evening. That is when Asianet news ends, and all the ‘soaps’ begin. From then on, the only conversation that survives is whether Archana is real in Sthri or who is the murderer is Black and White. And it gets me mad. Oh I dont have a problem watching TV, but I refuse to see homely daughter-in laws crying all the time, big moustached cops sprout foul language in english, horribly dressed vamps, sobbing mothers and scheming mother in laws. Well, maybe that is an exageration, and I am generalising, but the fact is that the quality of these serials is pathetic. There is no storyline, the characters are not etched properly, and there are under-par performances. And sadly, there are a lot of really talented artists who act in these serials. And they are sadly under utilized. For example KPAC Lalita. And I hate the fact that you have to watch the same crap every day.
I remember the good old Doordarshan days where a single episode used to be aired every week and we used to wait for that, counting every day. We had serials like Phir Wahi Talaash, Nukkad, social commentries like Discovery of India (which was extremely interesting). Even Buniyaad, which could be considered as our first soap was so much better than the crap we are seeing today. We had the Mills and Boon serial ‘Farmaan’ and the defence drama ‘Fauji’, both of which were considered ‘youth’ serials. There was something called as ‘Neev’, which was based on life in a hostel. Neev means ‘foundation’ and it was a teenager’s dream. There was Chunoti, and a serial called Hum Panchi Ek Daal Ke. It was based on the lives of street children; am not sure but I think it was a Sai Paranjape serial.
Nowadays, all that I see on TV is a glossy imprint of life. People with mobile phones, cars, and accented english. Housewives who wear perfectly pined up silk saris when they go to sleep, children who seem to have so ‘uninnocent’. Do directors even realise how unreal these characters are? How could anybody possibly relate to them? I used to laugh so much when I watched Nukkad or Intezaar. Laugh and yet cry for their disappointments, smile at their idiosyncracies. I used to pray that the middle aged Kanwaljit Singh propose to the heroine in Farmaan. I wanted to be a social worker when I watched Hum Panchi Ek Daal Ke. Discovery of India was a treat, even though the costumes and lighting was atrocious. And the last episode of Phir Wahi Talaash, with Himani Shvpuri starting on her Talaash afresh made me smile..and cry.
I didnt watch too many Malayalam serials, but I do know that there were quite a few good ones. There was one particular one – A MT Vasudevan story, which was excellent. There were O Henry and Vaikom Basheer stories. Dont know where all of that has gone. I grew up on these serials, and it angers me that my kids will not see any of it.
And as much I am angry, I realize that these serials are very popular. And I dont know why they should, unless these characters strike a chord with the audience. It is weird. I know in a lot of households, the sitaution is same as in my home. We are a middle class family with middle class values; so I am not really sure how these characters have hijacked my home.
Am so so mad.