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Ever since I left my parent's home, first for study and then for Job my encounter with traditional Indian daily soaps had been limited to my visits to my parents. It's been a decade now, and though I can name hardly a few TV soaps, I can recount the basic story line of all of them. In fact when this year I visited my parents after a whole long year, the plots of many serials were still the same, although some of them had taken that trendy age leap, the stories were still the same. I think all the writers must have had a meeting, and they decided on some certain story milestones so that even if the viewer mixes two soaps out of confusion they can still feel connected to the soap instantly. Some of those plots would be:
* Never let two people who love each other get married before marrying 3 different persons. (This plot guarantees the serial to run for 4-5 years as each marriage can run at least for a year before broken off)
* Always ensure that there is one or more evil person in the family who doesn't like the lead pair for no odd reason at all. ( So that they can take out there unnecessary negative energy on the "poor girl or boy" and viewers can be hooked to see what happens next.
* Choose a favourite God, and devour all the festivals, rituals and and daily activities focusing on it.( First it attracts older generation, as they are the one in need of "Superpower approval" all the time, plus added bonus it guarantees some extra scenes without having to write a plot. Just do a pooja for Mata Rani Or Kanha Ji Or Thakur Ji Or Bholenaath Or whatever suits the theme of serial)
* Make sure every girl in the serial falls in love with the lead guy, and every boy with the lead girl. There are no other person worth loving in the whole Bloody Serial.
* Bring up Indian traditions and Cultures every second episode. Make sure all of the family's respect(read Izzat) lies with the daughter and her body.
* Stereotype the mother in laws as possessive, non understanding, non comprehending, condescending, larger than life image holder Cruellas.
*The soap must have at least one multi million rich family to show off all the beautiful homes, make up and heavy jewellery clad women, just to keep things interesting you know.
* The lead guy or girl, depending upon the "demand of the script" can become rich successful business person overnight. No special skills required there.
* Stereotype the religion and culture you're using in the serials. Like Punjabis are always loud, Hindus are always God fearing, South Indians would definitely use the word "Aiyyo" in every sentence, Haryana People would always disrespect their women, Rajasthani would always get their kids married at an early age. Because our viewers are stupid and brain less zombies.
* When TRP is low, always add a supernatural turn to the plot showing the fight of Good vs Evil, in which the evil will win 15 times before good will eventually win.
* And my most favourite, make sure that the lead girl and boy are the ideal character directly incarnated from Satyuga, where the boy is Ram who'd give up everything on a eye blink of his father, and the lady is Sita, who'd be abused, disrespected, harassed and still would not budge.
I once asked my mother out of frustration " Maa, why do you even watch these serials, aren't you tired of the same story?" to which she replied, " what else I can do? you both(me and my brother) are away from home, your father is busy in work, and I have plenty of time to kill" I didn't argue with her, but thinking of her watching those serial again and again makes me wonder that TV soaps might turn their viewers insane. After all the insanity by definition is "doing the same thing again and again, and expecting different result" and my mom too watches those serials all the time expecting something new would happen. I remember being told by a friend that there is a new Pakistani channel called Zindagi being aired right now, and it's a refreshing change for Indian TV viewers, and I couldn't agree more. I watched a few soaps (which ended in a respectable period of time, 3-4 months), the stories were uptight, plots acceptable and real, no far fetched problems but the daily life struggle portrayed beautifully, and more importantly soothing to eye and simple character without any flashy make up or attires. It was also then when I developed a crush on Fawad Khan, added bonus ;)
Even though as a viewer I accept everything about Indian serials, I can never come to terms with their portrayal of an Ideal Bahu. Having been in the same boat for 2 and a half year for now, I know it's no where near the reality of daily life. The serials portray that the good bahu will try to win a husband who doesn't love her, would not mind constant jibe of her sister-in-law, would not budge when she would be mentally and physically tortured, would do all sort of pooja and vrats, and basically she would become a meek and geek character everyone will take their frustration on, and she would just slip into her room and weep silently and still try everything in her night to win the love of the family. Please tell me where are that kind of women and why it is so important to win a family that doesn't want you at the first place. A husband who won't even look at you, a mother-in-law who'd constantly remind you what a piece of shit you are and constant taunts and torture, is it actually the kind of picture we want to paint for our girls about their future? and then expect them to tolerate everything in the name of sanctity of marriage and name and repute of the family. Why are we so obsessed with those "goddess of sacrifices" Why is it so wrong to be able to think about yourself, why do we condemn it?
I know it's all fantasy and they are just running a business, but that business is selling all sort of wrong emotions thus the launch of Netflix is a welcoming change for Indian viewers. I know it would take ages for Netflix to be successful in India, but it's a lot better option than watching all those family drama, stereotyping almost everything about this country and society.