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Journalists hear the TV channels and production houses proclaiming at the launch of every second show that their new show is something that has never ever been done on Indian TV before. Contrary to these tall claims often the show once again happens to be yet another clichd family drama or the show offers a few new elements but isn't radically different. A serial like 26-12 has however really never been seen on Indian TV before.
The channel and production house could have played safe and launched yet another family drama. However they chose to do a thriller based on terrorism instead. There have been many films on terrorism after the series of terrorist attacks- however after a while they got hackneyed in their execution. 26-12 however has a totally different approach towards the terrorism theme- it doesn't moralize or have a didactic delineation. In fact it steers clear of religious issues that are often linked with terrorism.
Indian viewers have been for a long time yearning for a show like the critically acclaimed thriller 24. Television in the country is now starting to boldly experiment with that genre. Next year you will see the Indian version of 24. 26-12 is a very successful attempt in the thriller genre. In foreign countries they usually have seasons and a bank of episodes. Hats off to the creatives that they have aced at producing a thriller even in the daily format.
Let's face it that the majority of Indian serials are targeted at female viewers even if the male protagonists are etched out well. 26-12 also has two female leads- Rashmi Bhargava (enacted by Tejasvi Welingker)- a kindergarten teacher who loses her dear ones in a terrorist attack and Shahana (essayed by Shikha Singh)- a strong lady who heads the terrorist gang as she wishes to avenge her husband's death. Nevertheless despite having very strong female leads, 2612, I feel will also attract many male viewers because of the terrorism plot, thriller format,stunning action sequences and beautifully etched out male characters. In fact a show like this proves that TV can't be typecast as the idiot box as it's a show for intelligent viewers.
Especially the way Shahana has been portrayed is absolutely different from the way women are usually depicted in Indian serials. Instead of handing her husband his dabba which he may have forgotten to pack; she hands him a gun (which according to her is the most essential item). It was engrossing to watch how Shahana on embracing her new motherhood gets to know that her husband has been shot dead. She is no widow copiously shedding tears for her departed husband- she is determined to take revenge and becomes the female leader of the terrorist gang. It's a touching moment when she shoots dead her dear friend John; a very sweet, mild tempered and caring youngster to prove to her mentor that she can kill the innocent. Her mentor believes that she can only be a part of the terrorist movement if she can kill innocent people which he regards as inevitable while executing terrorist missions.
Nevertheless without being moralistic the show also conveys the fact that terrorism is a deadly wrong path. The path that Shahana is embarking on is criminal, wrong and unpardonable. The greatest tragedy of terrorism is the loss of thousands of innocent lives. Taking revenge especially in such a grotesque manner is a vicious crime.
Rashmi seems to be a foil to Shahana. She is soft, sweet and chirpy unlike Shahana who has a stern exterior. Whereas Shahana is heading terrorist activities; Rashmi is a kindergarten teacher. She just hopes to be happily married to her boyfriend with whom she has gone steady for five years. (Despite being soft spoken she however had the courage to break off with her boyfriend after his mother demanded dowry- it was very progressive to show a homely young woman opposing dowry.) Her life however will take an unexpected turn after she loses her loved ones at a blast. I am eagerly awaiting to watch as to how Rashmi's life changes and her romance with Randeep Rathore (essayed by Mahinder Singh)- a policeman by profession and the member of the Special Task Force develops.
Another very well etched out character is Shantanu (essayed by Samir Sharma) who is a senior atomic research scientist who has created the Nova 6- the most ominous bomb in the world which is however miniscule in size. His passion in his profession and dilemma whether to save the life of his dear daughter or to hand over the bomb to evil hands is artistically depicted. His daughter has been kidnapped and will be returned only if he parts with the bomb.
It's interesting to watch how the duplicate of Shantanu's kidnapped wife Rithika; after having heard her taped conversations via a microphone stuck in her mobile, has carefully prepared how to enact the original Rithika. She interacts with Shantanu and Rithika's sister Rashmi like the real Rithika. It's engrossing to see how she is manipulating Shantanu to place the lethal Nova bomb in the wrong hands.
26-12 has well crafted dialogues. For instance Shantanu's daughter innocently pleads to her dad that she doesn't want her parents to separate. She after all doesn't want to be like a baby penguin who is deserted by the mother after birth and looked after by the father. She wants both parents. This scene and dialogues show that the writers have keen insight into child psychology.
Rashmi's boyfriend being accosted by cop Randeep at the airport brought a smile to my lips. He says that he is in an urgent rush to board the plane sans any luggage- so he should be let go fast by the airport securities. He retorts to the police that a cop will never understand why a personal matter is an emergency situation to an ordinary Indian (who isn't in the police force). This was a sweet exchange of dialogue.
Yet another of the myriad instances of sleek scripting in the show was when a bar dancer on being proposed marriage by a bar customer is highly elated. She after all wants a home and family. She promises that she will cook multi-cuisine meals for her husband daily. This gives us a view contrary to the misconception that bar girls are immodest women who can never make homely and caring monogamous brides.
The performances of all the actors are excellent. Their delivery of dialogue and mannerisms are perfect. They have also slipped in completely into the skin of their characters.
The show is set in three different cities- Mumbai, London and New York. This adds variety to the show. I also like the way the screen is at times bifurcated into various segments simultaneously showing the happenings at various places.
26-12 on Life OK at the 9pm slot faces stiff competition especially from Diya Aur Baati Hum on Star Plus and also from Pavitra Rishta on Zee TV. However 26-12 is also unique in itself. We will find out in three weeks' time how this new show is rating when the TRP sheets
Reporter and Author: Pallavi Bhattacharya