Sunday, April 09, 2006

Musings on Tamil serials

I had long wanted to make a post on some of the Tamil T.V serials but haven’t done so since I knew the post would be quite rambling. However in order to increase the dismal frequency at which I am updating my blog I have decided to include impulsive or rambling entries and this would be the first of such.

Tamil serials have often been the object of ridicule for mainly being recycled sob stories and most of them deserve that treatment. However a few of them are good, so let me highlight them first. I would reserve the brick bats for later. The serial which first prompted me to write this is “Devathai” being aired in Raj TV. The story is about a woman who dies in what seems to be a domestic accident coming as a ghost and seeing her family (husband and in-laws) and learning about the true faces of the family members. Though it is still not told whether the death itself was a murder, everyone in the family except perhaps her husband is shown to be suspicious in some way. At least in the first few months, the serial was interesting because of the mystery and the different way in which the story was handled. As a relief there is no crying, except when actually needed. Now it seems to have slowed down, thanks to a comedy segment which is not so funny and a somewhat contrived story which becomes as confusing as it is mysterious. Still it is worth a watch when compared to the other serials.

The other one which I was quite impressed with was “Chitamabara ragasiyam” aired on Sun T.V. This comes in, what I think is the, traditional mystery serial slot in Sun T.V – Wednesdays night. This slot once had the classic mystery serials like “Marma desam – Vidhathu Karuppu”, which looking back now was way better than current serials, not only because it was really thrilling but also in the way its ending tied all the loose threads in a logical way, which is really rare in Tamil serials. That serial was the first time in which I encountered the term, “Multiple personality disorder” and it did seem to explain it in very simple terms. Now coming back to “Chitambara…” though not as logical as “Marma desam”, it is quite thrilling. However thanks to a complex storyline and my infrequent viewing of the serial, it appears quite confusing to me. The story is about a series of murders and how they might be linked to an effort to find cure to AIDS. The base concept which is interesting like a conspiracy theory is based on “Nadi joditham” – where a person’s future can be predicted by inscriptions on certain palm leaves – which is popularly done in Vaitheeswaran temple near Chidamabaram, TN. According to the story there is a manuscript which lists in the form of a song, twelve people in whose Nadi joditham descriptions lies the cure for AIDS. These twelve people (or rather people with the same names) are killed and their thumb print is taken. This theme and also some of the characters like the half-mad scientist woman or some “chittars” provide ample scope to tell some confusing philosophical mumbo-jumbo and this is used to the full extent by the serial. Some of the things are based only on wordplay and are obviously wrong, but at least some thing like this is a refreshing change from the all the serials I’ll list after this. For example the last one was, “A doctor, an astrologer and a psychiatrist(?) should always see how a person dies,…,becomes mad(?)” I am at least sure of the first set, which would have been just puzzling to me had I not seen and read some parts in a book called “How we die” written by a practicing doctor.

Now for the ones which I don’t like or like them just enough not to walk out of a room where they are being played. Radhika’s serials have been steadily decreasing in quality and her current serial “Selvi” is ample proof for that. I started watching “Chithi” only mid-way, but it seemed quite good except of course for the ending which was an anti-climax. Her next serial, “Annamalai” started with a bang by talking about such things like re-birth, but it soon lost its way and of course the climax was as bad as it could be. “Selvi” was not impressive even in its start and soon I figured out that it was really going no where and worse getting quite intolerable. It must be really bad since I was able to convince my parents to stop watching it, which we rarely do for a serial. Still we watch it occasionally like once in a week (which by the way, is enough to keep track of a mega-serial without anybody’s help) and it doesn’t show any signs of improving. Then there are serials like “Kolangal” which would be tolerable if not for the amount of crying in it. And of course I am really irritated with all these serials showing their protagonist as perfect too-good people who sacrifice any thing for any one. I am not an Ayn Rand follower fundamentally against sacrifice, but seeing people sacrifice so many things reduces the value of a sacrifice. The other serials which I happen to watch, at least occasionally, “Anandham” and “Mughartham” are quite average and are at least watchable. Of course I guess there are some even worser serials running in the day time, like “Sorgam” which has been running since god knows when (at least since last 4 years?).

The one common, disgusting thing I find all Tamil serials (or rather serials on Sun TV?) is that they all have vendetta as a common theme. And worse they show it mostly among family members – like a daughter-in-law avenging her father’s death by taking revenge on her in-laws (“Anandham”). I feel that watching a lot of such serials daily really creates some negative feelings in our mind, which is why I have really been discouraging my mother from watching these serials. Here’s where I think we should appreciate serials like “Metti Oli”. Though otherwise quite average, it didn’t have vendetta or any other negative feeling as a main theme and instead focused on normal failings of people. I was a bit disappointed that its director, Thirumurugan, wasn’t directing any new serial but it is good to know he is coming to cinema. Talking of directors, I feel a good director and bound script is the second thing which all these serials lack. Stories develop in all directions for sometime and as the number of characters become too much, some are just forgotten for months together, only for them to be reintroduced later whenever the director has to wriggle out of some sudden twist which he has been forced to introduce. To add to all this Sun TV seems to have this irritating policy of allowing serials to continue for any length of time as long as their TRP ratings are high, but wrapping them up as soon as their ratings dip. I believe this has led to the sudden forced endings of many Tamil serials. I don’t have much idea about serials in other channels, though I feel they should be better then Sun TV’s. However, I guess a lot of people like us are stuck with Sun TV serials, simply because you have would mostly missed the starting part of the other serials. This reason may be one of the main reason why Sun TV still seems to have a strangle hold of serials viewership.


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