How many of us Indians are not familiar with the sight of our wives raptly watching one of the numerous TV soap operas on offer in any of the Indian languages? Come dinner or supper time, the timing of our repast is carefully selected by the wife in order that her favourite TV soap opera will not be missed. Some housewives have even perfected the art of watching two or three favorite soap operas simultaneously by deft use of the remote, carefully skimming to some other channel when the ads are on.
Is this a picture of general contentment, when the lady of the house, after completing her mandatory chores, likes to relax and watch some TV just for distraction from the general ennui of life? Or is it true and pure entertainment? Just out of curiosity, I decided to also watch what my wife was watching with so much attention. Whatever be the language of broadcast, most of the soap operas fell into a general pattern.
The serials drag on and on, well past their expiry dates, till the intelligent viewer is forced to switch over and out. The story goes round and about, since the producer and writer have no intention to cut it short and come quickly to the climax.
Every soap opera has a wicked lady and an innocent childlike heroine, who is constantly harassed by the wicked lady. There is invariably a mother in law who overlooks all the virtues of the heroine (chaste bahu) and is blind to the machinations of the wicked lady. In the case of Rajasthani styled serials, very particularly, the matron lady calls the shots and hogs most of the dialogue. Various men are stationed across the tableau, like pieces of expensive furniture, who are just silent, gaping spectators and have no role except to occasionally utter “yes of course, my dear”. Those of the men who have worked out diligently at the gym, wear tight shirts and very short sleeves so that the viewer is left in no doubt about the masculinity of the prize heroes. Most of them, though, well educated and endowed with many talents as per the script, are likewise caught flat footed when the bad guys call the shots. The serials drag on and on, well past their expiry dates, till the intelligent viewer is forced to switch over and out. The story goes round and about, since the producer and writer have no intention to cut it short and come quickly to the climax. Consequently, most of the highly popular soap operas have scores of climaxes, and scores of anticlimaxes, putting Robert Ludlum to shame, in the department of long haul stories, without proper beginnings, true middles, and authentic endings.
This brings us to another, perhaps more fundamental, question. What is it that makes the ladies watch and get hooked to the soap operas that much? Does it mean that ladies have the uncanny knack of seeing deep into the heart of the story, whereas men only see superficiality and get bored quickly? Does it mean that men lack the sensibilities and finesse to read into the artistic and altruistic content of what the storyteller has to say? Sadly, and unfortunately, no. The answer lies closer to home and will be hurtful to some (husbands). Here goes…
Clever TV serial producers and de rigueur script writers know this very well. They know that it does not take much to ‘better’ the standards of the dull and boring husband. So why not give the bored womenfolk some celluloid tripe to take their minds off their highly depressing, dull and boring husbands?
Most men think that we are intelligent, charming, good conversationalists, well read, good story tellers, with excellent mannerisms and good breeding. Is it all true? Since women are more subtle than men, instead of actually calling us bores, dullards, boneheads, vain, deceitful, foolish, drunken bums and what have you, women, in their characteristic subtle way endowed by nature, just switch off from us, without actually being rude and calling us names. Instead, they turn on their make belief world of TV characters, however improbable or ridiculous those characters might be. Somebody’s loss is someone else’s gain.
Clever TV serial producers and de rigueur script writers know this very well. They know that it does not take much to ‘better’ the standards of the dull and boring husband. So why not give the bored womenfolk some celluloid tripe to take their minds off their highly depressing, dull and boring husbands? So that’s it. The real reason lies closer to home.
Someone said, “no man is a hero to his wife”. When a man tries to be a hero to his wife, he is aiming too high. He should probably contrive for the rest of his life not to appear dull witted or uninteresting to his wife, a truly daunting prospect of Herculean proportions. For, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. As for TV serial producers, they are merrily making profit from the discomfiture of dull or awkward husbands, and laughing all the way to the bank. It is the husbands’ customary dullness or lack of imaginative companionship that has spawned the great Indian soap opera industry.