Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stupid Indian Soaps

Each evening after the day’s labors, I used to get back home and indulge in my daily dose of crap reality shows where absolutely idiotic men and women get drunk and go about competing for money, the love of dubious B-grade celebrities and so on. I was thoroughly embarrassed by my guilty hour of mindless entertainment, but since coming to India and watching Indian TV for five days, I have developed a strange sense of pride in my enjoyment of American reality TV. Indian television, which I used to love for the quality of its televised serials, has lost all its erstwhile glory. Most shows on Indian TV these days appear to be soap operas or melodrama-filled game shows.

The soap operas are so insufferably stupid, that I feel sick. In addition to having absolutely no plot whatsoever, they are infuriatingly sexist and unashamedly promote ridiculously conventional ideals. Ironically most of the characters are women, but each one of them is either diabolically evil and malicious, or unbearably conventional and good. All of them wear several kilograms of bangles that sheath their hands from wrist to elbow in a sickeningly gaudy display. Every other part of their bodies that can possibly be, is adorned with other similarly outlandish jewelry. And the ‘good’ women are defined entirely in terms of the men in their lives – as daughters, wives, sisters and mothers – not a single independent personality amongst the lot of them. None of them have an occupation – none of the wives anyway. The sisters might be something completely gender-biased such as a fashion-designer or a school teacher. The men on the other hand are mostly businesspersons and keep out of the way of the women’s machinations – is it any wonder that many Indian men think that women are not to be trusted and are underhand and devious? Furthermore, all these ‘good’ women are painstakingly devout – every second sentence that they speak is either a prayer or an affirmation of faith. At least one segment of each half-hour episode is devoted to a melodramatic prayer with the woman beseeching her deity that her mentally challenged husband (a fact she did not know when she was tricked into marrying him, but now she believes that taking care of him and lovingly feeding him his food and so on is her supreme duty) be spared the pain of losing a cricket match to his brother who is married to the wicked and scheming sister-in-law. I bet Indian television would never dare to portray an atheist spinster scientist as a good woman, or a man subscribing to feminist principles as an ideal man. I am so angry I want to punch a hole through the television screen. At least in the idiotic reality television, women are afforded the choice to be able to make utter fools of themselves. I am told that these soap operas are highly celebrated television serials. To each his own, and those that watch them are welcome to them. As for me, I would much rather watch drunken degradation than have conventionality stuffed down my throat.

P.S. Disillusioned with television, I have turned to my ever faithful entertainers – books. When mummy and daddy are off at work, knowing nothing of this strange new city, I find that I have nothing else to do but read. I’m polishing them off at the wonderful rate of one book every couple of days. I’m done with two Agatha Christie-s (one of which – “Passenger to Frankfurt” – surprisingly reads less like Christie and more like John le Carre), have finally finished “The Thin Man” (which despite Sinclair Lewis’ assertion that it is a book you cannot possibly put down once begun, I have been inching through for almost a whole year now), and am almost done with the “Vicar of Wakefield” which I am finding enormously entertaining. I hope to be done with at least five more before I return to the US.


Flux said...

Hey Asha... Are you in Hyderabad? So sad I am in Frankfurt otherwise I would defenitely meet you in Hyderabad.

Azalea said...

Ravi, I'm actually not in Hyderabad. My parents moved to Cochin, so I am stuck here. :-( I would have loved to visit you. What are you doing in Frankfurt? Work, kya?

Rhett said...

I see... Well, welcome back to India!

Flux said...

Asha, I'm working for our client Netle in Frankfurt. I've been working here for 2+ months and 'll be here for more than a year.

Mystery said...

not true...we have nice ghost serials too..plus we have good political comedy happening everyday in Kerala.hehehe...and rain everyday...what could be better than that...hey..don't forget to visit my family in TVM

Aarti said...

Its so nice to see a post from u! I have been thinking abt u alot these days and wondering when ull be back :) Your post is excellent..I totally cracked up (at work!) while reading this section...u have summarized the soaps really well ;):

"Furthermore, all these ‘good’ women are painstakingly devout – every second sentence that they speak is either a prayer or an affirmation of faith......wicked and scheming sister-in-law.

Beautiful Mind said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beautiful Mind said...

Happy to know you are in Hyd.
Are you going to Kerala?

Flux said...

Indian (and American) TV itself is an ideot box. Most of the educated indians are also adicted to this. What you said is just a truth or an openion about Indian ideot box but in fact people are forced to watch only those serials or its a forced telecaste by the TV channels management. TV channels believe that its a big profitable business in India and its turnover is thousands of crores.

I challenge there is no creative Director or Producer in India to make a good programs like you expect. These days you can't watch one like 'The world this week' or like 'Mahabharath'. In Europe I think people really enjoy TV shows... but I'm not sure. I watched many good programs here but I can't understand their language... bad luck.

In India news channels are also related to the same what you said or crime or illegal affairs etc... but there is much more to show about indian society itself. They can telecaste feelings, problems, affections, culture of our society and different views of the people etc... People will definitely watch. In news items itself they can show all these stuff because India is happening country... so many people... so many feelings... so many views... but all our news channels are interested either in political hype BREAKING NEWS or crime. Everything is a breaking news for them. Normal speach of a political leader is also a breaking news.

Azalea said...

Dear All,

I had hardly imagined that my rant about Indian soap-operas would create this much interest, much less this much passion on the subject from so many of you. Ravi, thank you for the detailed outline of your own thoughts. And thank you Aarti, Kush, Jacob and Anoop for your comments too. I have steered clear of the soap operas since I wrote this post and confined myself to movies. :-)

I am returning to the US tomorrow, so will have lots more time in about 4-5 days time once I have unpacked and settled in to be online and write more about my trip home.

peter ivan said...

I guess by the time you read this comment , you would be in United States or i guess you are already there.
If you are in Kerala and that too a town like kochi ,instead of watching the idiot box you could have spend time with Nature.A quick drive to East of teh city you have the famed western ghats and hill town Munnar and ain west the Fort Kochi with its beeches and Jew street.If you further down go North ,you could reach the Muziris heritage area where there is an array of synagogues, temples and churches and natural beauty.
If you go south you have the venice of East, allapuzha.

Its a sin for a person visiting Kochi to stay put at home akin to sitting at hotel and watching a boring opera after reaching Venice.

Beautiful Mind said...

No messages after u left Qatar.
Busy ,i assume.
Happy Birthday!

Azalea said...

Peter Ivan, I do not agree that operas are boring - anything but boring in my opinion. But, as I always say, to each his own. I do agree that there is quite a lot to do in Kochi (although most of the places that you mentioned are not really in Kochi). And, between duty visits and my parents' work schedule (not knowing anyone else in Kochi), I did end up doing some sightseeing. :-) Thank you.

Anoop... yes, have been very very busy - and will continue to be for a bit longer, but it is a good sort of busy. :-)

peter ivan said...

I meant watching operas in a television when you are at venice, i missed the television part.
There are many sites near and around Kochi if you had just cared to check in the net.Well next time around i could suggest you many such getaways near and around Kochi.