Jassi jaisi aur koi nahin – thank God!
Most people who watch Sony or Zee TV must have seen the progressive elevation of small screen stars to big screen star status. Both channels host a regular blitz of shows and events and awards featuring television serials and actors.
What is noticeable is that while our films continue to revolve around the hero, most serials focus on the women, probably to cater to the predominantly female audience for television serials – the stay at home mom. Women like to watch other women, especially if they are glamorous and every serial provides glamour in spades. Personally, I never knew till recently that Hindi serials have such a huge market in India, their actors being recognized nationally, at least in the non-southern part.
I have watched some of them on Sony and Zee and almost all of them have the same kind of plot, glamorous women fighting other glamorous women or glamorous family members fighting each other. Actually, ‘plot’ is a wrong word to use. They seem to have some liquidy, fluidy mix of stories and sub-stories tied together just to acknowledge the need for some continuity and flexible enough to blur the lines between logic and illogic. And as if to prove their ultimate flexibility, Sony now has its characters walking in and out of each others serials in absolutely contrived situations. Inspector Pradhyuman of CID walks into Kkusum for a couple of episodes and arrests in one-day Kusum’s would-be-murderer whom everybody else (including Kkusum’s own in-house Inspector) has failed to even identify for the last six months. Then the inspector and the attacker and that entire storyline disappear without as much as an explanation for all the attacks.
Did you ever notice how commercial films and serials all seem to involve extraordinarily rich people? Just being well to do is out. Multimega rich is in. There’s usually no explanation for that kind of wealth or if there is, there’s just some reference to a vague rags to riches sob story. I think filmmakers base their stories around such wealth so that they can show everybody zipping around in private jets and helicopters, owning palaces in Europe and generally living lives that would put emperors to shame, without having to explain any of it - the lavish houses with halls the size of football fields completely built in granite, the clothes and jewelry that could cost the earth and the ‘phoren’ cars with their chauffeurs in shiny uniforms. There is no talk of lakhs anymore, just hundreds of crores and if it involves Europe or America, then its just hundreds of millions of pounds or dollars.
There are certain standard scenes in Indian movies and television serials that I find despicable – but the worst among them is the one where the wife touches the feet of her husband. It is a deplorable Hindu custom and when encouraged by a mass medium like films, it becomes especially nauseating. This ‘Pati the Parmeshwar’ cult belief appears so often in movies. In poor countries like India where illiteracy and poverty is very high, mediums like films and television have a great moral responsibility of not promoting false values and wrong tradition. I think the look of indulgent magnanimity that the hero wears on his face when the heroine bends down to touch his feet is very typical of the Indian male - the sickest look any man can have. There was so much tsk-tskng in movies like Baghban about the wrong values that today’s children have, but everybody feels very pious and cultured about the heroine touching the hero’s feet. In that very Baghban, when Amitabh calls up Hema on Karva Chauth, the first thing that Hema says is “Pairi Pauna ji”. Sick!
Somehow, as it usually happens with me, the serials that I despise the most happen to be the most popular with the masses. Ditto with their stars. Take Kkusum and Jassi, for instance. I think they are the most illogical, idiotic and nonsensical serials in the world. Kkusum just seems to go on and on, without rhyme or reason, just meandering from one unfinished plot to another. Kusum and Kumud just hug and cry, then cry and hug and then do it all over again throughout the serial. I foresee a bright future for the Indian glycerine industry solely on the consumption of these two actresses.
Why do Indian women always like to be depicted on screen as tragedy queens, stricken by fate, totally helpless in any situation, unable to function intelligently in society? Watch for it in every film – the woman will always idiotically cry out when the hero wants her to keep silent because they’re hiding from the villain. It is a sad paradox – Indian women today have made extraordinary progress in every walk of life and yet they allow themselves to be mocked and humiliated like this on screen.
But let’s talk about Astitva. It portrays Dr. Simran as a woman who is confronted by the normal ups and downs of any modern woman but who is willing to fight back and establish her own identity. And even then, there is a kind of submissiveness and meekness that plunges her into bouts of self-pity and weeping. I wish sometimes Dr. Simran would take a more aggressive stand on things. She would be far more admirable and the serial wouldn’t seem to drag at times. One of the more sensible serials, Astitva, however never figures in the awards. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, this is not surprising.
From the looks of it, Jassi too will go on for as long as Kkusum did if not longer. Of the two, Jassi is the more offensively insulting because it does not presuppose any intelligence on our part. There is no logic, no rationale and no connection to reality. Yet, the serial seems to win every award, including the one for best story. I read somewhere that Jassi has come to epitomize the Indian woman and there is even an ad in which the mother says that she wants her daughters to grow up and become like Jassi.
The character of Jassi is one of the worst I have seen relating to an Indian woman – confused, spineless and helpless. Other than rolling her eyes in their sockets, shivering at every raised voice, staring speechlessly at every other character in the serial and breaking into tears at the drop of a hat, Jassi does nothing. And that she is being portrayed by the media as the ideal Indian woman is something that goes beyond the reach of my mind. It amazes me – would not these educated, seemingly intelligent actresses stand up and tell their director “Come on, women are not so idiotic!” Portraying women as dumb and spineless is something, but portraying Jassi as the ideal woman is totally something else. Both are demeaning and insulting but I suspect the latter wins on points.
If that is what Indian womanhood aspires to be, God help Indian women, and God help our country.