A recent conversation with Mom was around the storylines of our Queen of Soap Operas - Ekta Kapoor’s daily shows. I was disgusted at the pairing of Prachi Desai with Ram Kapoor in Kasamh Se. (I don’t watch the shows; get my updates from Mumbai Mirror, Anil Thakraney’s Ouch Potato!). I was wondering about the logic behind creating pairs that have almost a generation gap between themselves! Add to it the plots that can land you an appointment with the psychiatrist. Mom replied, “Throughout her teenage years, she must have been a couch potato, having nothing other to do then watch English soap operas. Later she must have got the idea about adapting those stories in to the Indian context and making daily shows. Thanks to her Dad, she had all the requisite resources available. Now, that explains all the nonsense being broad casted.” On hearing this, I realized for the first time that the stories were actually closer to American and European lives than Indian. Where do you see a person being married twice or thrice? We are deteriorating though! Now this set me of thinking and here is what followed. For quite some time I’ve been wondering what was the finale of a soap opera, Celeste, that used to be aired on Zee TV a long time ago, maybe a decade. It’s quite weird but I used to watch it with Mom and the Zee guys pulled it off abruptly. I never knew the show ended till me Googled it (Yes I did. Morbid curiosity) and found the synopsis on IMDB.com! I even found out that it had a 2nd season named, "Celeste, siempre Celeste". This is a Spanish soap opera from Argentina. While reading the synopses, I found out, that together, the 2 shows had an uncanny similarity with almost all of Ekta Kapoor’s soaps. They had all the ingredients of run-of-the-mill ‘family’ shows, littered with a generous dose of an extra-marital affairs, infidelity, unknown parentage, secret offspring, wayward son, childless daughter, amnesia, inheritance and property disputes, extra marital pregnancies and parental objection to lovers… You name it, you got it!
I was earlier an avid viewer of Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi and Kasautii Zindagii Kay. I stopped watching after the first generation ages ago. To a certain limit, the shows were alright for pass time viewing but later the depression factor started mounting up and I gave up on them for good. For quite some time, I used to agree with a huge bunch of journalists and feminists that Ekta’s shows were retrograde and portrayed women in a bad light. After I read the stories of Celeste, Dynasty, another English soap opera, and the likes, I realized that Ekta’s shows were not retrograde but European and American. It was at that point that I was convinced that Madam Ekta is brilliant. An astute business woman, who managed to mould European lifestyles into an Indian setup and has captivated audiences of all ages by making them relate to the anguish of the protagonists, whom they readily connect with ( coz a lot of people love to make up problems in their heads which have nothing to do with reality). Add to it the sheer extravagance of the sets which show royally furnished homes, which undoubtedly, a huge number of us might fantasize to live in, packed with grand celebrations of everything from marriages to festivals. We have a cocktail that most Indians would die for! Year after year, Ekta’s Balaji Telefilms, the Grand Indian Soap Opera Factory, continues to dish out show after show from its established assembly line. But to her credit, she has managed to revolutionize the Indian television industry. The Empire she has created is something most of us can only dream of. I truly admire her for the excellent business model she developed and continues to improve on it. She was even listed amongst the TIME magazine’s WORLD BEATERS. She truly is one. To quote the lady herself, “A company that makes millionaires is a better company than a company that makes millions”- Koffee with Karan, Star One. No wonder all her actors and actresses are her staunch loyalists. Guess what, according to the article, Making the most of India's soft power, By Shashi Tharoor the shows are even popular in places like Turkey, Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan! Look at what the Pakistanis are saying themselves, "All our top-ranking serials are inspired by Ekta Kapoor.!" The Lady is even planning to make shows for the American audiences! Way to go Ekta!
But no matter, how popular her shows are I don’t watch them. Even Madam Kapoor herself says,"(If you) Don't like them (her shows), don't watch them." They are just too depressing and repetitive. I do not agree with her overtly aggressive business ways too, consider the alleged rigging of the final result of Prachi Desai winning on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa and further more the harsh shooting schedules for her shows. Furthermore, actor Pankaj Kapur has once said in an interview that the television industry no longer wants good actors, just good-looking people! Methinks he was referring to the 'K' serials as all of them have the hottest young people in town. Just look at Aamna Shariff – Femina’s 50 Most Beautiful Women! But for now, I’ll keep all that aside. Ekta will remain an eternal favourite of mine. One of the most fantastic Women Entrepreneurs of all time! What do you think? Let me know. Tata!See original photo here.