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     Volume 7 Issue 27 | July 4, 2008 |

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TV Watch

Serial Obsession

Shara Azad

A breeze flutters through Ridhima's hair, regardless of the fact that the scene is set indoors. Random music spontaneously beings to play, and between the “Hmm hmm”-ing and the “Oh hoy hoy”-ing, Armaan finally catches Ridhima's eyes, which he then proceeds to gaze into dumbly for the next 10 minutes of a 30 minute show, so begins another episode of Dill Mill Gayye.

The pull Hindi serials seem to have over us is rather pathetic. Millions of us from across Southeast Asia regularly tune in to catch the latest development in the Armaan-Ridhima love saga, desperate to know what is going to happen next, as though these characters were people with whom we've actually interacted. And if it isn't Dill Mill Gayye that you're obsessed with, you've undoubtedly seen at least five minutes of Sujata, Pari Hoon Main, Kasamse or another such show.

Hindi serials are hardly watched for their intellectual content. Granted, we are told that most television is not worth our time, but sometimes the witty dialogue makes up for our dead brain cells. However, Hindi serials don't even have that; they're all about what isn't said, the tacit instead of the blatant. This often causes a great deal of frustration, especially when a viewer thinks such uncommunicative behaviour is inhibiting the plot progression. For example, during a recently aired Hindi serial, the male lead became almost unbearably speechless during the female lead's going away party. All he had to say was, “I love you,” and she would have stayed, but instead he chose to stand there, tongue-tied and stupid as the female lead's eyes filled with tears and more importantly, thousands of viewers worldwide threw whatever they had been eating at the screen, frustrated by the stasis and the fact that they would have to endure an additional few weeks of unresolved romantic tension between the two characters.

Of course, that isn't to say that the female leads are less annoying than the men. I sometimes watch Sujata on “sony” at 10:30 pm because the daughter character in the serial happens to share my name, but I am frequently dismayed to find my name twin portrayed as flighty and rash. I suppose more episodes can be created with such an unpredictable, volatile character, but honestly, people just aren't as crazy as she is. Additionally, in Hindi serials, if the female lead is not mentally touched, she is shown as the weak character, causing one to ask: whatever happened to feminine empowerment and equality between the genders? Every time we watch one of these shows, it's as if we're transported to a completely different era, one that mirrors the past all too well.

So after realising the inadequacies of Hindi serials, why do we continue to watch them? Is it because we crave their rollercoaster lifestyles? Are we actually drawn in by the bad dialogue and poor acting?

An interview with avid Hindi serial viewer, Kamrun Naher of Lalmatia, reveals that the answer is actually none of the above. Naher claims that she only watches serials “to pass the time,” forgoing regular viewing if she is too busy. She said, “I watch Hindi serials over other programming because the Hindi culture is much like our own. I know they're bad and that they have no plot, but I also know not to take the serials seriously and copy their lifestyles.” It seems as though Naher just watches the serials because she enjoys them. And though the serials could never be considered “quality television,” they are sort of enjoyable in their own overdramatic way.

In the US, Hindi serials could be compared to soap operas such as The Young and the Restless or The Bold and the Beautiful. Soap operas are equally as dramatic as serials, with the same pauses in a nonexistent plot to show flashes of the actors' falsified expressions. However, US soap operas do not have the same large viewership that Hindi serials enjoy because they are not shown during primetime -- most soap operas are on television around midday, so really, only housewives have the opportunity to watch them. Therefore, the fascination with Hindi serial-type shows is something totally unique to the Indian subcontinent.

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