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Telly bellies and old flames
"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armour, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life. . . and then your life isn't your own anymore. "
From 'The Sandman' by Neil Gaiman
It is possible that Dr Ashutosh, the 40-plus male protagonist of the television serial Kuch Toh Log Kahenge, thinks of love the same way as articulated with utter irony above. Which is why, although he is consumed by that vertiginous feeling, he also tries to resist it. Dr Ashutosh (Mohnish Behl) looks at love like a surgeon would look at a festering sore - with curiosity and with a certain degree of suspicion. Who knows what fatal disease it could turn into? And it doesn't help that the object of his silent and secret affection is Dr Nidhi (Kritika Kamra), a 20-plus intern with flowing hair and forest-fire eyes. Nidhi brims with life. Her smile carries the smell of the finest winter flowers and she can light up a room by just stepping into it. But then he is twice her age. When he finally managed to express his muffled feelings earlier this week, everyone exhaled in relief.
In Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, the male protagonist Ram (Ram Kapoor) is a successful but lonely industrialist who has grown too lazy to get into a relationship. The female lead Priya (Sakshi Tanwar) is sensible, sensitive and has a mind of her own - in other words, she is loaded with unmarketable attributes in the marriage bazaar. He is rich, fat and on the other side of 40. She is very middle-class and moving towards middle age. Both have pasts and are too set and settled in their respective ways to get pro-active about changing it. Marriage, as they see it, only means altering habits and complicating one's life. By a twist of circumstance, they get married. And slowly, like shit, love too happens. And that 'crazy little thing' begins to root in its own way. For the two, love becomes a form of finding companionship, a process of discovering comfort zones to rest your shoulder and complexes on. The relationship between Ram and Priya is all about untying the knots in their lives and negotiating a form of amiable co-existence. In
Bade Achhe..., love is still a work in progress.
Over the past few months, the two serials have redefined the art of romance on small screen. And by Indian entertainment television standards, they are pretty radical. For starters, they have rather unusual leading men. Kapoor of Bade Achhe. . . would need two seats on a plane. And Dr Ashutosh's overwhelming conscientiousness and dedication is more designed to win admiration, not young hearts. Certainly not of a girl half his age. In times when most heroes are 20-nothings and almost as pretty as the heroine, these serials put forward an alternative idea of the hero. It's never too late to date is what the stories say.
The serials have a leisurely pace - not stretched like rubber bands as many popular serials are - and the slowness suits the rhythm and tempo of its players. The serials take their time letting love happen, which is perhaps a TRP risk at a time when relationship statuses are often updated by the hour on social networking sites. The love speak here is slow, indirect and altogether irresistible.
Kuch Toh. . is inspired by the classic Pakistani television play Dhoop Kinare and doesn't figure among the Top 10 entertainment serials. But comments such as - I don't watch TV serials but Kuch Toh... is an exception - posted on audience websites indicate that the love story has captured enormous mindspace. And in the Dec 17 TAM rating, Bade Achche. . . was at 9th place.
The love stories have become a late evening habit among millions, especially the not-soyoung. The soaps - both on Sony - mark a return to the old-fashioned idea of romance. Within their world of fantasy, there is an element of believability. They evoke memories of something barely remembered and they leave you with a sense of warmth and a desire to be wanted.
In the book quoted above, Gaiman also wrote: "Love takes hostages. . . It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-andrips-you-apart pain. I hate love".
That's true. Who doesn't hate love? Why else do we keep returning to it.
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