Thursday, 27 January, 2022
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How Hindi serials plan to beat news channels in amateur dramatics in Covid days

Serials such as RadhaKrishn, Mere Sai and Vighnaharta Ganesh are more than a match for news channels, which do on a daily basis what Kangana Ranaut did on Republic TV — rant.

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Breaking back news: after a three-month break, entertainment channels fight back — with all new episodes of their serials. Now, Kasautii Zindagii Kay will give chunauti to news channels at prime time. So Navika & Rubika, Rajdeep & Rajat, Ravish & Arnab, you better watch out – your amateur melodramatics have competition.

Alas, the news anchors have such good plots they have little to worry about. Consider the last week: what can match news channels airing the clip of an assault on journalist Vikram Joshi after news of his tragic death came in Wednesday morning? Or the brick by brick layers of the new temple in Ayodhya laid out on India TV and Zee News? How about the Rafale jet soaring towards Chinese positions in Ladakh – bang-bang (CNN News18, Aaj Tak)?

Not to mention floods in Assam and Bihar (NDTV India, India Today, etc.), water-logging in Delhi (Times Now, Republic TV, etc.), hospital distress in Bengaluru (Times Now), the Oxford coronavirus vaccine trials (all channels), Rajasthan’s political potboiler (all channels) — and a Kangana Ranaut interview that began by being about actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and ended up as a rant against those she loves to hate most in Bollywood (Republic TV).

Now match that, entertainment channels.

Well, actually, they have some pretty formidable weapons in their arsenal too. Who can be mightier than the Gods? News channels may show 3D images of the new Ram mandir in Ayodhya but the entertainment channels have Ram, Sita, Lakshman in Ramayan (Dangal TV) and Uttar Ramayan (Star Plus). Other mythological shows include Mahabharat (DD National), RadhaKrishn, Jag Janani Maa Vaishno Devi (Star Bharat), Vishnu Puran (DD), Mere Sai, Vighnaharta Ganesh (Sony), Mahima Shani Devi Ki (Dangal TV)…

Also read: If India starts acting on the yearly floods in Bihar and Assam, that would be true nationalism

Relax, it’s the Gods

Some of these — such as RadhaKrishn, Mere Sai, Vighnaharta Ganesh — offer brand new episodes. And after watching a few of them, the verdict is out: they are more than a match for many news channels, which do on a daily basis what Kangana did on Republic TVrant.

In these uncertain coronavirus times, when the news channels add to our paranoia with “biggest single day spike in cases” headlines, it’s a relief to relax in the lap of the Gods and let them sort out heaven and earth’s problems.

Speaking of the pandemic, the mythological shows enjoy a distinct advantage over all other programming in such times. First, celestial beings can’t catch colds – or viruses – so they’re safe. Jokes apart, much of the episodes require computer-generated graphics to reflect the superhuman qualities and actions of characters – therefore, they’re safer to shoot.

And, if you saw Lord Krishna Tuesday, he was standing in a palace so large that it was impossible to fail at social distancing (RadhaKrishn). Besides, the characters are superimposed on a mythic backdrop, so you can shoot the action and abide by the coronavirus prevention norms quite easily.

Also read: Prashant Bhushan’s ‘absolute slander’ on Republic TV, & what of the farmers, asks NDTV India

Shouting distancing  

Moving on to the serials – they use different ploys to circumvent the problem of coronavirus. The first is to ignore its existence. Or be in repeat mode, like many shows on Sony. Kumkum Bhagya (Zee TV) and Shakti Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki (Colors TV) have simply continued from where they left off as though nothing had happened. 

For others like Barrister Babu (Colors TV), the virus literally doesn’t exist: they live in another century altogether — what with the lead character Anirudh (the barrister) marrying eight-year-old Bondita in order to save her from marrying an old man. By the way, Bondita is quite the little tyrant and sly thing.

Then there are shows such as Tujhse Hai Raabta (Zee), which openly embrace the new normal. In the latest episodes, Anupriya and Sarthak, who are pretending to be having marital problems in order to reconcile her step-daughter Kalyani with husband Malhar, get into a huge ‘row’ and whenever one of them advances menacingly, the other one shouts “social distancing, social distancing!” Anupriya also complains about having to wash hands after touching another character.

Also read: Covid forced them out of cities, now the Bramhaputra is forcing them to move homes in Assam

Reel lives have it easy

Soaps — TV soaps, that is — don’t find it difficult to practice social distancing, whether they acknowledge the virus or not. First of all, if you have seen the mansion Anurag, Komolika & Co live in, you’ll know that the Prime Minister’s ‘do gaz doori’ stretches well into a kilometre between bedrooms (Kasautii, Star Plus). No chance of coronavirus here. Or in any of the other serials that exist in equally spacious spaces.

Also, the good old trick of showing the reactions of one character at a time serves serials well now — everyone can be shot separately with the occasional longer shot that captures them together. This was apparent in Shakti.. When Heer and her family gather in the sitting room big enough to be the reception hall at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the camera pans from one face to the other as Heer demands to know the whereabouts of the baraat – she is supposed to be getting married (Colors TV).

And when in doubt, turn to a song or dance, especially if love is in the air – Heer did a dance number in Shakti, while Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke (Star Plus) witnessed a romantic interlude, Monday. The husband lay lovingly on the chair, the wife remained at a safe distance and a song lilted in the background to express their feelings. Songs have another trump card — and it has nothing to do with Donald. They occupy time and eliminate the need for action or dialogue.

And, here’s another ploy: characters thinking aloud. In Kasautii  (Star Plus), both female lead characters, Prerna and Komolika, spend considerable time talking to themselves – no need for other characters to be hanging around and catching their germs.

So, you see, it’s not all that difficult to keep the coronavirus at a safe distance. Now, if only real life was like that…

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