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At the outset, let this be clear. This review is not a firing squad for the Bahu Brigade. Nor is it a eulogy. For as much as we may deny it, there are countless examples of men sitting on a table with friends, a beer in hand, who blow Kyunki Saas to smithereens. The next afternoon, with the orange sun streaming through their living room windows, theyre curled up with their wives watching the very same Bakwaas. Face it. Saas-Bahu works. It has worked for five years. Its a phenomenon. And for a change, lets open this regular-as-clockwork show and see what makes it tick.
Kyunki Saas Bhi kabhi Bahu Thi premeried along with KBC (first season) way back in July, 1999. Balaji had been around for some time, and so had joint families (Ek Mahal ho Sapnon Ka is another marathon runner). But this had to be the first full-on publicized show, that too at an unusual slot of 1030 PM. Its 30 minutes revolved around the lives of the Virani household, stuffed into a Shanitniketan Mansion. In the lead was Ex-Miss India finalist Smriti Malhotra, along with several stalwarts. Ekta had her fingers crossed.

But bloom it did. At its zenith, this show commanded a whopping 2 million viewers.

Today, it may not hold as much sway over the Indian psyche, but things do change with 5 years. With its success, a number of simulations mushroomed on the idiot-box. And if youve observed, each obeyed a set formula that Kyunki Saas was the trailblazing pioneer of. And there we have the secrets to eternal TRP youth and longevity-
The Bahu Brigades Best Kept Secrets.
Wanna play?
1) There is always a large family living together, with a matriarch, patriarch or both
2) The more the number of children the better. This allows for more love affairs and conflicts. In Kyunki, the matriarch Baa had three sons and one daughter, each replete with their own numerous offspring. The more the merrier, eh?
3) There has to be a Sati-Savitri girl who can even walk out of a swamp in spotless white saris. Her job is to protect her household from evil eyes, specially the kohl-lined ones. In this case, Tulsi was the epitome of virtue.
4) There is an Anti-Heroine, normally female who has vowed to bring down the stuffed mansion. Mein Tumhein Barbaad Kar Doongi had got to be the most clich� line. They are also often very stylish and tend to set trends. Special music is played for them. In Kyunki, Tulsi is married to Mihir. His spurned ex-fiance Payal vows revenge. Later, another besotted lass, Mandira draws her kitchen knives. Lastly a wannabe-heiress Mohini going around dropping spanners.
5) Have a character whos only job is to play silly. This does interrupt story flow, though. Daksha, played by Ketki Dave, was a pain.
6) When two people are talking, always leave the door open
7) Kitchen Politics! The raison- detre of the male populace is to look shocked when two women slap each other, discuss obscure contracts, and to smile during Karvachauth. Luckily, Kyunki has given large tracks for its male characters. Mihirs illegitimate son with Mandira, Karan is crucial to the story, as are his step-brothers Ansh Gujral and Gautam Virani.
Even so, the women dominate most of the trouble-making and trouble-solving.
8) Import popular film numbers and play them for the whining lovers, especially when your writers are out to Goa for the weekend. If theyre out for a week, throw in an item number. When theyre back, introduce a new character.
9) If any actor decides to quit, vroom his car into a tree and erase his memory along with his face (optional). Otherwise, bring in a replacement. Kyunki has had both Mihir and Tulsi undergoing traumatic amnesia. Mihir has also undergone actor-change therapy thrice.
10) If you run out of story, fast forward 20 yrs, so that daughters are nubile and sons are on the lookout. Hair colour and face may remain youthful. After all, LOreal is your sponsor.

There you areall the tricks in the book. Honestly, where Kyunki Saas has gone miserably wrong is in logic of storyline and poor depiction of age. Agreed that actors need to look good, but they also need to get into the wrinkled skin of their characters. There are just so many characters that most remain 2d.

There is no point delving into this complicated saga. Just remembering who is whos son/wife/ex-girlfriend/ex-fiance will take ages. Its a game of musical chairs at best. Besides, we are not here to discuss that.

You must be thinking that most of these ploys sound cheap and manipulative. No one would be lured in because of these. Youre right. And yet, Kyunki Saas works. Have you ever wondered how? A large part of India still lives in such joint family systems and hence relate with the characters lifestyles. An added attraction for rural viewers is the make-up, haute couture and garish architecture of the city homes and their occupants that are depicted in Kyunki. What foxes! Despite the urban look, regular pujas, customs and festivals are depicted. At several places, mythological sauce is drizzled over the pasty story. For example, Mihir and Tulsi are compared to Ram and Sita, Karan to Karna, and bahus are regularly circumambulating a tulsi plant. Ba is always shown reading the Gita. No wonder that on a survey, several old women reiterated that Yeh hamaari Sanskruti dikhaata hai. Yeah right. But we know how the impression came about.

And of course, one of the more defining tricks for urban viewers- the timings. The serial is evidently largely targeted at women, and hence accounts for their bored afternoon phase in its repeat. Episodes burst out on screens at primetime, so that along with the housewife, hubby dear and kids get hitched. Of course, theres also word of mouth and the desire to not be left in the dark when the rest of your friends are discussing it. What happened next? is the driving force of interest, as it is for books. Thick books intimidate, long serials dont.

This is probably what has ensnared such a large segment of the TRPs initially. All the above mentioned rules are what keeps the story going, albeit dragging. When does this viewership rise? In four phases:
1) When a vamp is out to destroy the family and the protagonist must struggle to foil her attempts. Its Good Vs Bad, the ideal conflict.
2) When theres a whodunit.
3) When a character undergoes face/memory loss and is being searched for.
4) Taming the long-lost but boorish son.
Whatever the case, you have to hand it to these guys. 1000 episodes is no joke, especially when shoots stretch on for 10 hours or more in a day. It has also made demigods out of its line-mugging cast. Its long roster can charge anywhere up to several lakhs for a mere appearance in public. Yes, the rules are as shallow as the characters. Yes, outdated values are shown in a city ambience, almost like a double-agent. Yes, there are only blacks and whites and nothing in between. And yes, its guano. But it works (D��vu).

If for nothing else, Kyunki Saas deserves plaudits for how it has learnt to hurl out a lasso at audiences through the screen, and keeping the rope taut. Ekta has learnt that even dragging is an art, with its own maneouvres and kudos for that. It was her idea to introduce a time leap, a trend-setter of sorts. And today, as the serial is poised for another Time-Climb, one cant help but question its mortality.
Rest assured Ladies and Gentlemen, the Viranis and their derivatives have cast a spell that still has a couple of years before wearing off. The seeds for a fresh slew of television shows can only germinate when the stalks of Kyunki and its kin fall to the earth. But as neo-connoisseurs of the Bahu Brigades Best Kept Secrets, lets just sit back and watch the fireworks with tongue in cheek. After all, Kyunki Ghaas Bhi Kabhi Gehu Thi. What say?


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