Joined: 26 November 2009
For the first time in years, there is something to smile about. Television has discovered the pleasure principle that can be experienced without the pain. In 2010, we have spent many happy hours watching TV shows without any alcohol content but still in high spirits.
So raise a toast to Toasty (we kid you not), the chirpy-chirpy cheep-cheep star of Saas Bina Sasural (Sony) who looked happy to be married, who cheerfully arrived at her in-laws' home and who is dewy-eyed each time she looks at her beloved husband. And who unselfconsciously utters dialogues like, "Promise me, you will not flirt with me in the kitchen", when he offers to help her cook. She is the antithesis of the traditional TV bahu, normally forced into marriage, bullied by her new family, ignored by her other half or betrayed by him, and generally so thoroughly mistreated, Cinderella's step-mom pales in comparison.
Toasty is not alone. Suhana from (Sasural Genda Phool, Star) — note the titles of two shows — is another winsome damsel who may find herself in distress but only momentarily. As the rich, spoilt brat married to middle-class Ishaan, she invariably does the wrong thing. But guess what? Rather than suffering lightning attacks from special effects, 360-degree camera shocks, temporary deafness from ear-splitting music and other harmful sound defects, the saas smiles at her bahu. Yes, smiles and laughs at her inadequacies, dismisses her failings, loves her.
Suddenly, love floats. Pavitra Rishta (Zee) shares many of the unfortunate histrionic qualities of the old melodramas but it has a touching love story. Archana and Manav recreate a screen romance not seen since that of Prerna and Anurag in the early episodes of Kasautii Zindagii Kay. Manav is a garage owner, that's new for TV entertainment where the lead man is usually a macho machine born and living in the lap of luxury. Work for him is work-out. Archana worked — another novelty. Typically, female protagonists do nothing more strenuous than exercise their mouths.
We've got a whole lot younger, too. If Balika Vadhu (Colors) made a child protagonist, Anandi, the most popular character on TV followed closely by Ichcha and Tapasya of Uttaran (Colors) two years ago, they're now all grown up and are pushing the older people to the edges of the screen. Although these three still suffer from the saas-bahu syndrome, TV entertainment is teeming with younger characters more like Toasty and Suhana. So hope floats.
This shift from untold misery to youthful joy has meant producing TV shows — and watching them — is no longer manic. Instead of the pyrotechnics employed to create emotional tsunamis, there's a measure of calm and sanity in the approach. Camera shots are straightforward, still, not jerking a la Malaika Khan in Munni badnam hui. Characters speak more simply, they have a conversation, they don't deliver dialogues like heavy courier packages weighed down by melodrama. Realism floats.
And it's not just the serials. If there is one show that captured the mood of 2010 it is the latest season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (Sony). The elder statesman of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan returned to the role that remade his career. In his wake, Bollywood. There wasn't an actor who didn't host a show (Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar leading the way), appear as a judge on reality shows or make guest appearances. Even Aamir Khan graced TV with repeated visits to promote his films.
KBC combined Bachchan's star quality with the charm and the exuberance of its participants, many of them young and from different parts of India. Television entertainment has deserted the metros, gone to the heartland: Lucknow's Pankaj Bhadouria won Masterchef India, Rahat Taslim from Giridih, Jharkhand won KBC. Of course, the participants were flattered to be seen with AB and showered him with rose petals. But they were stars too, enjoying their moment of fame in a way we haven't seen before. On other reality shows — Bigg Boss, Khatron Ke Khiladi, Swayamvar, Masterchef India, Indian Idol — the contestants thrive on the element of anxiety and the fear of elimination. But on KBC, they thrived on the challenge of the questions, the joy of a correct answer or, simply being there.
In all these ways, TV entertainment has reflected the profile of today's India. Happiness floats. Hopefully into the new year. Unless you happen to be watching the news...
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