There are millions of souls riveted to their diet of daily soaps on their TV screens at prime time each evening (or the afternoon rerun, depending upon individual schedules, or online these days). They watch their daily dose of melodrama, implausibility and mush and they have this down pat. But those of us who are a little less clued in may find the cues of these daily soaps more difficult to comprehend. These are audio and visual signals that regular watchers will get instantly, but which less educated souls may find quite indecipherable – here’s our online reckoner :
The makeup and the forehead art (the bindi is too insipid and inadequate a term) is apparently the most obvious and immediate indicator of a woman’s character, her scheming nature and the fact that she usually has designs on the hapless husband of some other woman. Generally referred to as The Vamp in Hindi serials; this female baddie far outclasses any male baddie. She is generally identified by humungous and violent looking forehead art. Also there is thick, dark kohl, exaggerated makeup and probably coloured contact lenses to indicate a deeply malevolent, feline nature. Keep up people! We’re talking major evil here.
Special Music For Each Character
There is special music to indicate the nature of each character, just in case the viewer is too dim to understand this. There is likely some benign bhajan music for the virginal heroine (the plethora of Parvatis and Tulsis that seem to populate soaps) sinister music for the vamp (with slightly more with-it names like Ramola or Sheetal) and probably some more dramatic dhols for the dashing hero.
Special Music For Each Situation
Also in case the viewer is too stupid to understand, the serial makers helpfully tack on the right background music for each scene: there’s the ‘funny’ music – you’re supposed to smile indulgently here, silly! Then there is the rondu music indicating heartrending sadness – consists mainly of some wounded soul wailing out repetitive, tuneless notes. Usually, the hero and heroine have a special song for when they’re about to get hot and heavy.
Then there is the clashing of cymbals, loud drumming or the slightly alarming sound of that singer gone completely hysterical – are you paying attention? The vamp is probably trying to poison the laddos or is adding acid to the heroine’s eye drops or something.
Now you probably decided to go get yourself a bowl of ice-cream or decided to check your phone messages while that serial is on. Just in case you tuned out mentally, the show recalls attention to itself by suddenly regressing into slow motion. Now slow mo is a legit and time-honoured method of indicating moments of import and significance. If the hero is pivoting to leave the heroine, he will do this in slow mo, the heroine’s joyful run towards husband/father/brother/son/long lost significant other also transmutes into slow mo. Also in slow mo: the curtains start to billow; hair starts to fly in the slight breeze that appeared from nowhere…. He looks deep and soulfully into her eyes. Keep up peeps! Its slow mo; it must be important!
Repeat Three Times
You’d think he slapped her three times. No, No! He’s not a wife beater! He slapped her only once. They’re just showing it to us three times in case we didn’t get it the first or the second time. And this slap (or the thappad ki goonj, depending upon the creative inclinations of the director or writer) will be recalled again and again, as and by way of ‘flashback’ in days to come. So in fact it isn’t repeat three times; it’s actually repeat ad nauseam.
Facial Expressions and Clothes Indicate Character
The vamp has a range of evil, scheming, conniving expressions; the chaste heroine looks pious or wounded or puzzled and appears to be silently suffering pretty much most of the time. So the completely unsubtle facial expressions tell you directly about character – good, bad or indifferent. The clothes are also indicative. The vamp is generally dressed more classily – her sarees are contemporary, her blouses more daring; her jewellery more modern. The heroine’s styling is typically poorer in our serials – she is good and virtuous; she cannot be seen to fall prey to worthless personal vanity.
The suhaag ki nishanis
The good girl dutifully wears her mangalsutra and festoons herself with maang ka sindoor, countless tinkling choodis and other signs of being hooked and booked. Is the guy married? Well we don’t know that; we’ll have to wait for them to tell us.
He’s Not A Misogynist; He Just Has A Past
He yanks her cruelly by the wrist, he drags her by the hair, and he imposes his superior male strength over her shrinking female self. It’s not because he’s a misogynist. Oh no! You see his mother left him when he was a child; so obviously he now treats all women like crap. He has to! He was all traumatised as a child, see?
Time Spent in Bhajan/Pooja-Path is also Indicative of Character
If she knows the words of a popular aarti, full marks! If she performs pooja each morning, she is worthy of approval from saasuji. If she offers prashad daily, she has the benign affection and support of her ineffectual father in law. If she spends an inordinate amount of time each day in prayer and regularly peppers her verbiage with references to Raamji, Bholenath or Krishna Bhagwan, we know that she is good and trustworthy, and virtuous and honest.
Subtlety? Er… who’s that? Our serials don’t quite have a nodding acquaintance with that it would seem
By – Reena Daruwalla
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