Majoring in Mega Serials
Each year there comes a time when the Man from Madras Musings in confined to bed with back problems. This year was the worst in MMM’s living memory and MMM, always prone (a painful word under the circumstances) to melodrama hobbled around claiming that all was lost. MMM’s good lady thought otherwise and felt that positive thinking ought to do the trick. All that MMM had to do according to her was to keep repeating that he had no backache and presto he would be right as rain. But that did not happen and so off MMM went to a doctor who recommended bed rest and that meant MMM had sufficient time to brood on life in general and on mega serials to be specific.
MMM having made a study of these during his enforced rest has come to the conclusion that all you need for making a serial that can be termed mega are three sets- a police station, a house and a hospital. You keep rotating the story between these three locations. You also take precautions that not all three locations are featured in the same episode but ensure that considerable time is wasted in showing the characters rushing from one to the other. For instance, Character A has just been unfairly hauled up before the awful majesty of the law in the person of police officer B who is in the pay of villain C when D, the wife of A faints at home on hearing of what has happened to A. This brings on the commercial break with a voice over announcing breathlessly a slew of sponsors after which D is shown being rushed off to hospital by neighbours/ relatives E,F, G & H, all of them in poor shape and not capable of running along with a prostrate D. At the hospital the Doctor, say I, takes a look at D and draws a deep breath and then the titles come on and that is the end of the day’s episode. The next day you show A coming home and being informed by E/F/G/H that D is in hospital and so he rushes off there. En-route villain C sees him and calls B and gives him hell for letting A off. Commercial break comes on next followed by B taking a deep breath prior to setting off on A’s chase and that brings the day’s play to a close. The next three days are spent in showing D struggling for life in hospital with E/F/G&H lamenting and predicting dire endings (which MMM as audience was earnestly hoping for) while A, in a bid to dodge C, is taking several circuitous routes to reach the hospital. In the middle of all this, the cast resigns en-masse and you are told that A1 will now act as A, B1as B and so on. Sometimes one or two cast members, perhaps sick and tired of lamenting, being on the run and putting on worried expressions, quit the serial whereupon they are promptly bumped off in the story. A couple of photographs with rose petals strewn around will suffice. And in case the script-writer is really stuck for ideas, then an entire evening is spent in showing the story till now in flashback. This is also perhaps to refresh the script-writer’s mind (if there is such an organ) as to what are the convoluted threads that have been woven till then.
Almost all serials feature men with two establishments (the small house being an integral feature), wife-beating, drunkenness, gambling, fraudulent financial deals and corruption. In short they serve to showcase all that is negative in society. If it is a Hindi serial, it invariably depicts battles between the rich, with each family being so feudal in its set up that it makes you wonder if we are really in the 21st century. Each serial has a villainous character who is forever plotting to corner the family’s business share, or poison the in-law or plot the downfall of a brother or a sister. The juvenile story line, the poor acting, the clichéd dialogues and portrayal of characters as black or white with nary a shade of grey make for the worst possible entertainment. And yet thousands must be tuning in to watch these and that includes children as well. Surely there ought to be a law that regulates these. But given the number of sponsors that are announced before every episode, MMM is quite certain that the producers are laughing all the way to the bank and so nobody is really bothered about impact on society.
Tigers in winter
The weather is already hotting up but early mornings are still pleasant and as the Man from Madras Musings looks out of his balcony, he being not walk-worthy as yet, he finds a number of men prowling about, all of them with tiger like ears. No, MMM is not hallucinating but is referring to a new variety of ear muff which is being worn. These are simple bands that stretch over the rear of the head and form two pads over the ears. Almost all of them sport tiger skin like designs and it makes MMM wonder if we are suddenly transforming into a city of tiger-men if not werewolves. Wonder what happened to the ubiquitous monkey cap which was worn by an earlier generation. Also, MMM who is rather challenged when it comes to matters concerning hair, wonders as to how these tiger pads protect the top of the head, which if bare causes greater problems in winter as compared to exposed ears.
And so, we are hearing noises about the water levels dipping and therefore not being adequate for the forthcoming year. But the powers that be have made reassuring noises that we can last till the coming monsoons and if they fail, things can get sticky, both literally and figuratively. And the very thought of water tankers fills the Man from Madras Musings with horror and he trembles like one afflicted with ague. For the past few years, thanks to rainwater harvesting and relatively copious monsoons we have seen a little less of the water tanker. There have been occasions when MMM has seen water being supplied in certain areas by tankers that are painted with petroleum signs on the outside. Such being the levels of desperation to which we sank. The bigger irony is when water tankers bear all kinds of messages asking us to conserve water while the vehicles themselves have such poor plumbing that water is forever leaking from them. Very often, the top lid of the tanker is left open and the water splashes liberally on those who are passing by. Sometimes the shock of suddenly being doused by water can throw a two-wheeler user off balance and even result in a fatality. But that is not something that we appear to be bothered about.
New Year Greetings
And as always, the Man from Madras Musings received his share of outlandish greetings, the most weird ones of course coming in through the cell phone. The longest one wished that MMM has “12 mths of happiness, 52 wks of fun, 365 days success, 8760 hrs good health, 52600 mins of favour (what does that mean?), 3153600 sex (yes) of joy”. It also added HpYnEwYr which MMM assumes means Happy New Year. At the end of the message and rather understandably so, given the length of the missive, the sender’s name was omitted.
More things to do
Just as the Man from Madras Musings was heaving a sigh of relief that this column is done and at the same time worrying over what to write in the next, he finds a political party’s local cadre election is just beginning in the marriage hall opposite his house. And so, joy reigns supreme. MMM is quite confident that there will be enough and more to relate. Till then, have a good time and a happy pongal (HpYpNgL).