October 15, 2008

In a comment on the no-yuppies-in-TV post, Rajat wrote:

Even if somebody tries to make a yuppie soap, I suspect that market pressures would force it to morph into a saas-bahu saga. I remember this soap called “Sanjeevani” on Star about a hospital. Seemed to be sensible in the beginning. Slowly elements like scheming colleagues, love polygons etc. were added. I think the limit of any desi soap opera as time tends to infinity is a saas-bahu soap opera.

Axshully, the serial about singing dancing doctors I wrote about in that post is called Dill Mill Gaye (yes, yes, I know) and according to its Wikipedia page, it’s a sequel to Sanjivani. Though since there are hardly any common characters it would be more appropriate to say that the two serials take place in the same continuity/ universe.

But anyway. Coming to Rajat’s point about market pressures slowly forcing everything into saas-bahu-soap-opera-dom. There seems to be enough market demand for singing and dancing that Dill Mill Gaye has settled into an equilibrium of background Hindi film music and inter-doctor romance without any scheming and plotting (though it does have the reaction shots). There’s a clip below if you really want to see for yourself. I am not responsible for the four minutes of your life you will never get back.

But just because it’s settled into a singing-dancing-romance equilibrium, doesn’t mean the producers aren’t occasionally tempted to take the exploitation route to higher ratings.

So a week or two after the Delhi blasts, the serial moved from having doctors in louw, to having doctors in louw… and bombs! After an idyllic existence where the doctors sing and dance, and occcasionally prescribe medicines for headache; the doctors suddenly land up in the middle of a bomb blast scene. There are copious entrails and severed limbs all over the screen in a primetime slot usually associated with light fluffy romance and item numbers. The episode ends with the discovery that the female lead has actually been wired to a bomb, and it detonates if she makes any move, not matter how slight. It was bizarre. And it reverted to the normal singing-dancing-romance in two weeks, as if the characters had never been through a near-death experience at all. Even more bizarre.

So the bad news is that even decently performing serials can suddenly veer away from their premise into something completely unexpected. The good news is that it needn’t necessarily be a veer into K-ness.

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