I’ll be the first to say that I am not a fan of daily soaps, characters are not well defined, and the story lines and dialogues are quite predictable. But despite all that, these soaps are very popular.
My mom, mom-in-law and all of their friends watch it, and these are produced not just in Hindi but regional languages as well. So at least a 100 shows if not more. My mom has actually gotten my dad hooked onto a couple of these shows as well, and sometimes he’ll tell me things like, ‘Gopi did this, and should try being the same’. And I am sitting and wondering who do we know with this name, and it’ll strike me that it’s a character from his favorite show, Saath Nibhana Saathiya.
Here are some of the trends that I have noticed, and trust me if you are thinking of making a daily soap in India, and you incorporate even one of these, you have TV gold in your hands.
- Movie promotions: this is a fairly new trend, wherein the lead pairs of a soon to be released movie make an appearance in one of the daily soaps. It actually does make sense to use this as a promotional tool since these soaps are quite popular with the middle class.
- Forced or arranged marriage, and then falling in love with cheesy background music: the marriage occurs due to any reason ranging from it being arranged at the time of their birth to the love of the girls life dies and she has to marry his brother. But no matter the circumstances, without fail they always fall in love.
- Amnesia: wherein one of the main characters suffers a fall or is involved in a horrible car accident after which a few years of their life are erased. Usually happens after a conflict has just been resolved.
- Reincarnation: sometimes a character dies, and is reincarnated with memory of their past life, and at some point they obviously meet their past life family. If this character was married, there is also the story line, where the couple reunites.
- Huge mansions but no explainable source of income: the rich have huge mansions, with gardens, pools, luxury cars, but most characters hardly seem to spend time at work. The only time work gets mentioned is a crisis needs to be created where in the villain is trying to take over the company or if the family is about to go bankrupt. It happens more times than you can imagine. But even in those cases you do not exactly know if their line of work is textiles or hospitality.
- Festivals with song and dance: just like with American TV shows, all major festivals and events are celebrated on Indian TV as well. But instead of the story moving forward with the festival as a theme, an episode is usually dedicated to the festival itself, wherein the story more or less pauses. Mansions are decorated, and there are elaborate dance routines.
- Time lapse, usually a decade: I do not watch Indian soaps, other than Bade Ache Lagte Hain, and that too because I find Ram Kapoor cute. There was recently a time jump of a few years on the show, where is baby daughter is now grown up, and his wife returns are settles in India, after previously fleeing to Dubai because her family believed she had died ina car crash. Most shows usually move at a slow pace, and you can usually catch up on them by just watching the trailers. The only major movement happens, when a time lapse occurs. Kids become adults, adults are now older, but with no change in their makeup or clothes. Since there is never any references to years, it all tends to move along smoothly.
- Elders who do not age: mothers are always trendy and the grandmothers are always hale and hearty even when shows have jumped 10 or in some cases 20 years. A popular show, which ran for almost 10 years was Kyunki Saas Bhi Kbhi Bahu Thi, and the great-great grandmother or Baa as she was fondly called must have been at least 120 years old if all the time lapses and re-incarnations were taken into account. Yet she was hardly bed-ridden, and would always be dancing at the numerous weddings and festivals.
- Everyone immaculately dressed in heavy clothes and jewelry, even if they are poor: the soaps as with the movies provide an escape to the audience, and so I think an important part of it is for all the characters to look good even if they play poor. The younger men are dressed in jeans/pants and shirts, while the older ones are always dressed in traditional men’s wear. The women however, both young and old are always dressed in traditional attire. One main reason for this is obviously the target audience, who would not easily identify with women in western wear.
- The need for all main characters to always be in the same room at all times.
Shows today are moving away from primarily the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law dramas of the last decade and inching towards addressing social issues that plague the society.
I remember watching Friends, and each of the characters was clearly defined, from the way they dressed to their mannerisms and it more or less stayed the same throughout the shows run. In india you wouldn’t really be able to tell one from the other, and the characters could easily be moved across shows and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Are any of you fans of soaps?