Television: Mushy soaps make way for urban plots. Finally!

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By Hindustan Times

Often, when you like a serial, you're told it doesn't get ratings because it's not what the "masses" want. The masses, according to TV executives, have a deep and inexplicable affection for serials about suffering women, usually set in Machiavellian joint families.

I'm sure the TV execs know their audiences best, which is why they also periodically stray away from family aangans to police chowkis. Sony has just started a new show, Khotey Sikkey, in which a bunch of rich and dysfunctional youngsters team up (initially unwillingly) with a grim, taciturn cop called Damodar Deshmukh to solve city crimes. It's a weekend show and going by the first two episodes, most promising.

For a start, it was a relief to see a contemporary urban setting after the usual claustrophobic four walls of a house, whether it's an ornate haveli or a rural hovel. It's a bit like having a strong cup of cutting chai after a prolonged diet of oily pakoras and gajar ka halwa. (There's even a geek-type character in Khotey Sikkey. The existence of technology — laptops, hacking — has finally been acknowledged in TV serials, wow! Usually most of the settings are so traditional, you almost expect characters to send missives to the next village via pigeon post).

I'll pass over the fact that in Khotey Sikkey the criminal wears a joker mask and seems clearly inspired by a certain joker we all know rather well (for the benefit of those who don't, kindly google a gentleman called Heath Ledger). But the serial was nicely shot, nicely scripted, had interesting characters — my cup runneth over! Damodar Deshmukh, played by actor Vikas Kumar, was particularly good (the inspiration in this case seems to have come from a certain Mr Nana Patekar). My only crib: the background music is often too loud and you can't hear the dialogues clearly.

Khotey Sikkey is from the Yash Raj stable which had earlier done shows like Mahi Way and Powder for Sony. I believe these serials got only modest ratings and didn't exactly, as the cliché goes, set the TV box office on fire, but they were different and fresh. In any case, Sony has always had a more urban, youthful, modern sensibility than the other Hindi entertainment channels.

I'm looking forward to the next Yash Raj offering on Sony, Kismat, though it sounds suspiciously like a desi Kane and Abel. I's about two male protagonists, now that's practically revolutionary in today's TV serial scenario.

The other refreshing new show is Love U Zindagi on Star Plus — basically Jab We Met on TV. Director Imtiaz Ali's hit film has been adapted as a serial. So we meet the effervescent Geet (not played by Kareena Kapoor, let me hasten to add) and her extended balle balle family. It's all very robust and hearty (not words I would use for most other serials) and a welcome recall of a lovely film.

There are some new reality shows too, such as Life Bina Wife (Star Plus), based on an international show, The Week The Women Went. Ten wives go off on a holiday, leaving their husbands to cope with children and housework. In theory, it sounds like a fun idea, but in fact, it's not. That's because the makers of the show have converted it into a teary, emotional show, with the children wailing at being separated from their mothers, the mothers wailing at being separated from their children, and the husbands alternating between being stern father / doting father / harried father. It's all a bit too weepy, though anchors Cyrus Sahukar and Mini Mathur do their best to liven up the proceedings.

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