Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Family Bonding... Baa Bahu aur Baby

It has been years if not decades that we and by that I mean the self professed elite Indian audiences who have left no stone unturned to criticize the soaps that plague the Indian channels daily. The products of the factory of the K factor and the numerous sub branches of numerous such factors that decide to start with a novel idea but in the end are victims of following the crowd, bombard the Indian television industry as many would agree.
Pompously believing that I am one of those few who manage to appreciate whatever is good on TV without a bias or without being victim to the ever popular syndrome of following the west and their norms, I think it is imperative for me to appreciate the one Hindi serial that is followed religiously at my household (not as religiously as Ramayana of yore but still very close to it). Baa, Bahu aur Baby is directed by Deven Bhojani and produced by JD and Aatish Kapadia.

Initially when Star Plus had started promoting the show my brain that is a patient of pre-conceived notions made an assumption that another serial was on the offing to capture the time band on TV without anything to offer except for a few cheesy badly timed jokes or profusely crying women protagonists.
Thank the heavens I was wrong. Here is a serial that grows on you after a while if you are a succor for melodrama and heartening stories of how you can fall back on family, how money, fame, beauty etc are important but not the necessities of survival, how resilience is the only real victory without actually delivering long never-ending dialogues that can continue for episodes together. The most outstanding part about the serial is that the characterization of all the characters is very well defined. This includes minor nuances, clothes, beliefs, psyche etc. Living in nuclear families where the only time to spend with family is on the dinner table bickering and fighting over the remote control, there are times when this serial brings things into perspective. The large family encompasses all possible characters that you might chance upon in a middle class family today.
One brother is an acclaimed doctor, the other an insurance agent; one has a small saree business and one is a theatre artist; one sister is physically challenged and the other is married into a rich household and never leaves an opportunity to boast about her wealth and her husband; there is a son who is mentally challenged and even an adopted son; there are three daughters-in-law — one dreams of upstaging the popularity of Hema Malini, the other is a certified gambler and wants to bet on every mundane thing she can seize as an opportunity of betting and the third one is a small town god fearing girl who though is a mother of a 8-9 year old still runs shy from her good looking theatre-hero husband; there are kids of numerous ages dotting the landscape of this magnificent household with their own problems and tricks and pranks. Here is a complete house. If they want to play they can organize a fair at home.
They can have a gala time amongst themselves without inviting any outsider. This is my dream home where every room has a story to tell, every waking hour has an anecdote to share and the nights are peaceful in the knowledge that there is family for support and care. Baa Bahu aur Baby revolves around three generations (following the show for almost 6 months now I don’t think a generation leap is their idea of TRP hiking). There are many a typecasts that the serial follows but the endearing thing is that the direction and the characterization plus casting has been done so meticulously that everything falls into place to make for a perfect TV series. They are loud but so is my aunt’s mother’s sister’s daughter-in-law. They are emotional but so am I. They cry. They laugh. They tease.
Basically they do everything any normal member of any normal household will do. For those who still surf 100 Hindi channels harboring the hope of catching a decent serial that has the caliber to transport you to times when Humlog, Buniyaad and Udaan captured the sense of a middleclass family, Baa Bahu aur Baby is the right concoction. Things are ofcourse a little different with the passing time. The milieu has changed to the favorite family type (read Gujarati) but the problems are almost same ranging from the marriage of a daughter, economic disparity between the sons, respect for elders, minor conflicts that go beyond control.
Plastic surgeries and miracle resurrections, fully decked up Bahus who can cry without generating any emotion in the audiences are not something you will find in this serial. Minor tussles that get solved within the span of two three episodes; emotionally charged characters who might be wrong at times but never have any malice towards each other; who are prey to the negatives of emotions that plague everyone like jealously, greed etc but are never devious; This is Baa Bahu aur Baby.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sitcoms… no more Hahahaha!!!

The sitcom genre that the west and by that I mean the US seems to have or rather believes to have mastered, is proving to be a stale dish in new packaging. I am talking about the number of shows that the Star World feeds us as comedies, like Still Standing, Hope and Faith and According to Jim. If you have sat through the telecast of the three series without being confused about the names or expecting some other actor/actress, not part of the cast of the show, to make an appearance, then hats off to you. I on the other hand suffer from expecting Jim Belushi n Still Standing where he has no business of being. But this happens not because of fatigue rather the fault lays in the plots of all these three series and most importantly the similarity in the sitcoms.

All the three families have three kids each. The NGOs or the elements of Indian polity who are on a lookout for a cause to fight the Western influence can have a great scoop right here. The West portrays this image of happy families that have three kids encouraging Indian educated middle class to follow in their footsteps in an attempt to sabotage India’s journey towards progress and population control. That’s the most logical inference I feel that most of the critics of western media will come up with. I on the other hand have no grouse against the western media. They are the ones to have gifted the fabulous, mother of all sitcoms FRIENDS to the world. But yes the feeding of sitcoms where the two ingredients of situation and comedy are absent is something that forces me to grumble. Apart from the three kids, the coupling of the parents is contentious as well. The man is a super loser, who knows practically nothing, is confused, has irritating habits, and is lazy. The woman on the other hand is a hot babe who apparently was a fast chick in her times but wants to take all measures to control the teenage daughter. Another character common to all the series is the wife’s sister, who is desperately searching for a man, hates her brother in-law and her intelligence is challenged by the kids of the house as often as possible.

Even if I pardon the show makers of having a similar (being politically correct, though I would have liked to use the word SAME) cast how can the similar story lines be pardoned? It’s the same old story with different actors essaying the roles. The grandparents come visiting, attempt is made to find a suitable match for the weird sister-in law, the man fights with his best friend, the kids try a fast one to fool their parents get caught and are punished unfairly etc. There is no variety. And as someone wise once said variety is spice of life. This trend of sitcoms is just a way of making most of it before the last flicker of the fire of popularity of sitcoms puffs away to ashes.

The best way to illustrate the similarities in the casting of characters, the storyline and the inanity of these sitcoms is to show you some of the summaries of the plots of the shows I read while surfing the. Now I leave you to infer your own conclusions.

Still Standing
Bill and Judy Miller a toilet salesman and a dental assistant are two high school lovers who gave up their wild lifestyle to get married years ago. Now, as they creep toward middle age, they have to deal with more "everyday" things, such as their three kids: their intelligent and (to Bill's horror) still sexually-unsure son Brian; their typical drama queen daughter Lauren; and their smug, sarcastic six year old, Tina. With Judy's desperate man-hunting sister Linda, Bill's interfering mother Louise, a lesbian couple living next door and other crazy characters around, it's no wonder that Bill and Judy constantly get into strange (and oft-hilarious) misadventures as they try to prove that they're not too old to have fun. Along the way, they always end up showing that they "still" love each other, no matter what.

Hope and Faith
Hope, a down-to-earth, happily married mom of three in Cleveland, Ohio, had her tidy world up-ended by the arrival of her celebrity sister, Faith. Faith was living the high life in Hollywood as a daytime soap opera star until her soap's character, Ashley Storm, was suddenly and unceremoniously killed off on "The Sacred and the Sinful" by her evil twin. After a year under her roof wreaking occasional havoc, Hope can attest that you can kill the diva off on the daytime drama, but you can't take the drama out of the diva. The understanding husband who backs his wife in her sisterly dharma is on the verge of losing his cool and calm ever since his sister in-law who cannot stop throwing jives at him has come to stay with the family.

According to Jim
Jim is a regular suburban father. He's married to a gorgeous woman, Cheryl, and raises his three kids – Gracie, Ruby and the newborn Kyle – in a big house. Everything is perfect for Jim, if it wasn't for the messy situations he gets himself into and his laziness, which often makes him search for alternative ways of doing things with less effort. Of course, having his wife's siblings hanging out at his house all the time is no help. While Andy might be one of his best friends, Dana often teams up with Cheryl against Jim.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bond of Secrecy

Watching Palash outside my colony gate, I often wonder what if one day Palash decided to talk. Since I am a proclaimed narcissist, I often wonder what Palash would say about me. Palash has been a witness to many a scenes from my life. Palash has seen me:

Prance on days when I was excited to go to school;
Tensed when I was not too sure about the exam or how I was going to fare;
Wishfully daydreaming when reality did not promise a fairytale ending;
Crying when the road was rough and so was life;
Solemnly bidding goodbye to friends after a get-together;
Waiting impatiently for guests who were having a hard time finding the way to my house;
Hesitate when there was something on my mind but my guts betrayed me to come clean with my mom;
Sad when I missed my dad too much;
Excited and even a little proud of my achievements when I could not just wait to come home and share the news;
Safe in knowledge that home was near;
Stunned to see the beauty of the colors of its flowers in spring;
Numb when the pain could penetrate no more;
Looking stunning when going all dressed for various occasions;
Teary when I came back from my school farewell and the college farewell;
Thrilled when going for the first day of work;
Tired when I returned from the first day of my job;
Smiling from cheek to cheek on the day I got my first paycheck;
Burdened with shopping bags after blowing up my first salary;
Crossing my fingers and blushing after I was dropped home after my first date;
Reliving that happy moment once the relationship ended;
Stressed over work related problems;
Analyzing personal follies and relationships;
In a hurry when I am sure to miss the bus, but make sure to put in the effort in the hope of catching it anyway;
Strolling in the cool breeze, taking in the spring air;
Enjoying the nip in the wind;
Invigorating the fragrance of the earth after the mild shower that wets her;

These are just a few things that are a shared secret between me and my beautiful Palash. Palash gives me the first sign that spring has arrived. I lovingly call him Palash. The scientific world decided to name him Butea Frondosa. I hope the Palash tree outside my house never lets my secrets out and honours the unsigned bond of secrecy between us.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ek Chidiya --- Refreshing the memory

The Films Division masterpiece --- “Ek Chidia” has been doing the rounds across the emails recently. The video uploaded on the You Tube conjures up memories of childhood when the kids played langdi tang and gallery while humming the lines of this beautiful song that encourages harmony and unity in diversity--- the mottos that best describe India. In a time when the TV News channels are fighting tooth and nail to create an atmosphere that generates news (read chaos, riots, disharmony and sensationalism), the song is something of a reminder of simpler times.

Since the day I received this particular link in the mail I have been trying to find the elder community Didi, who shares wisdom with the aid of simple tools like beads or seeds, mangoes and short stories; the kid who actually truly believes that the elder Didi is the wiser one and listens to her solution; the other kids whose appetite is satiated with fresh mangoes plucked from the trees unlike those dissatisfied bundles of trouble I spot around with designer shoes and garb outside Mc Donald’s always greedily asking for one more Happy Meal. The simple solution that the animation (though not of the state of the art category) provides to a problem that infects and threats not only India but the entire globe in today’s times is incomparable to anything I have seen so far.

The melody is something that beats the best of the pop songs and the filmi latka jhatkas of today. Its simple and I am ready to wager a fortune that once the tune registers in your mind it is a difficult one to let go. The innocence in the voice of Sadhna Sargam, who rendered her voice to the character of Didi, is of the quality that you can almost touch it if you try hard enough. The music by Vasant Desai complements the simplicity of the narrative without actually ever underestimating the power or the importance of the message.

The illustrations are single line figures without too much detailing, yet aptly defining and demarking each n every character. The regional and religious characters of all the varied segments of Indians are fittingly depicted in the 5 minute animation. Bhim Sain, better known today as the creator of the animated series on Hanuman, did the animations for Ek Chidya which I believe laid the foundation for other Indian animations as well.

The credit of the final product as usual goes to the captain of the ship i.e., the director Vijaya Mule. The conceptualization and execution is something that touches a chord with the audience even today. There is no better way to end the piece than to quote the chorus of the song. But writing just the chorus feels like doing injustice to the rest of the lyrics. So to refresh your memories I present the transcript of the song of our childhood and something that I hope passes down to our children one day as folklore or verbal tradition.

Didi ye anek kya hota hai ?
Anek.... anek yani bahut saare....
suraj ek...
chanda ek.....
taare anek....
achcha to taron ko anek bhi kehte hain ?????
nahi nahi !!
dekho phir se batati hoon
suraj ek...
chanda ek.....
taare anek....
ek gilhari, ....
ek aur gilhari......
ek ek ek karke ho gayee ab anek gilhariyaan...
ek titali, anek titaliyaan....
ek chidiya.. ek ek anek chidiyaan......
anek chidiyon ki kahani sunoge ....
haan sunao...
ek chidiya anek chidiya....
dana chugne baith gayee thi .....
chorus : didi humen bhi sunao.......
phir se suno...
ek chidiya, anek chidiyan
dana chugne baith gayee thi .....
WahiN ek byaadh ne jaal bichhaya tha...
byaadh, byaadh kya hota hai didi ?
byaadh ... chidiya pakadne wala
to phir kya hua, usne chidiyoN ko pakad liya,...
unhe maar diya ......
Himmat se jo jute rahe to bada kaam bhi hove
Bhaiya.. bada kaam bhi
hove bhaiya ...
1..2..3.. furrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Chaturrr cidiyaaN sayaani chidiyaaN,
miljul kar, jaal le kar...
Bhaagi chidiyaaN....
door ek gaaon mein chidiyon ke dost chuhe rahte the....
unhone unka jaal kaat diya.........
dekha ekta mein kitni shakti hai......
didi agar hum ek ho jaayen to kya koi bhi kaam kar
sakte hain ?
haan haan kyon nahi ...
to kya is ped ke aam bhi tod sakte hain ???
haan magar jugat lagani hogi ...

* *
* * *
* * * *

achchha ye jugat .... wah bada mazaa aayega....
hind desh ke niwasi sabhi jana ek hain, -2
rang-roop vesh-bhaasha chahe anek hain -2> > ---- repeat...
bela gulab juhi champa chameli..... -2
phool hain anek kintu mala phir ek hai ...-2>
ek-anek-ek anek
suraj ek, chanda ek, taare anek,
ek gilhari , anek gilhariyaaN,
ek titli, anek titaliyaaN,
ek chidiyaa , anek chidiyaaN......
are bela gulab juhi champa chameli.. -2
phool hain anek kintu mala phir ek hain.....2

Screenplay and direction: Vijaya Mule
Compilation: Vaman Guru
Hind desh ke nivasi: Pandit Vinay Chandra
Music: Vasant desai
Animation: Bhim Sain