Turnabout is Fair Play

15 Dec

Suhel Seth was Outlook‘s cat of the week in its “Beta Male” issue – you know, the one they like to let loose among the right wing pigeons who like to roost on their publication? It’s an entertaining tradition of which I heartily approve. And Seth seems to have delivered in spades with his Ten Ladies to Tremble By column that introduces us to the “[p]urveyors of hypocrisy, self-preservation and godawful stupidity—[the] women who set my teeth on edge”.

Said femmes terribles are Sushma Swaraj, Renuka Chowdhary, Meira Kumar, Jayalalitha, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Mayawati, Rakhee Swant, Ekta Kapoor and Suneeta Narain – a little sugar for everybody. Of course Outlook‘s commentarati took it up a notch shortly thereafter by taking him to task for A) impugning the honor of the flower of Indian womanhood and B) not impugning the honor of the flowers they wanted (Sonia Gandhi x 10. Because the flower of Italian womanhood is always fair game).

[You know, I’ve thought it over and I’ve decided my all-time favorite internet complaint is: “But why didn’t you write what I wanted you to write? I hate you! Your mother is a leprechaun and your father is a spore!” Or words to that effect.]

Now I’ve just spent a month following different top-rated Hindi soaps for an article (I’ll link when it’s up) so this one about IQ favorite Ekta Mata really leaped off the page:

Ektaa Kapoor: No matter how well she does, I will always detest what she has done to the psyche of the Indian woman and more importantly to Indian family evenings. Each one of her serials is riddled with social taboos but then how would Ektaa ever know? If you are the daughter of India’s legendary white-shoes, grace and style are but an aberration!

Well, that’s his opinion. But can I just say I’d take a month of watching Jeetendra “dancing” on the beach, twinkling his white toesies in the middle of an epileptic fit, over the trash his daughter and her contemporaries put out on television any day? At the most I’d end up mildly annoyed or bored if forced to watch him in Southern remakes for a solid month. After watching multiple Indian soaps for the same period of time, on the other hand, I was violently angry.


For example, have you ever worn something sleeve-less? Do you like to put on make-up? Line your eyes, maybe? Wear high heels? Do you wear something other than a saree?


A proper Indian woman dresses like Pratibha Patil, with her pallu modestly covering not just her head but her entire body like a bed sheet. If she wants to be especially daring or modern, she can keep the pallu off her head, but a saree is the only appropriate dress for an Indian woman. Fine, if she’s a virginal unmarried child, she can wear a salwar kameez.

Even if you’re an evil trollop, you will wear a saree. However, you can signal your trollop-hood by wearing off- the-shoulder blouses, halter necks, backless cholis, etc. This means you have passions. Terrible ones. You probably have – gasp! – sex. With your clothes – shriek! – off.

A good woman on the other hand is one who gets up at four in the morning to shower and dress so she can sing chapters from the Ramayana on an empty stomach to the patriarch of the household before she does pooja and serves breakfast (which she will prepare and maybe serve, not eat. That comes much, much later). This, according to the top-rated show that I was watching, was in the manner of a treat for the new bride who got unjustly yelled at for the god-awful crime of sleeping in on the morning after her wedding. An event that went on for a solid month, with many a twist in the tale, from what I gather.

All the top rated shows, in fact, seem to be ones in which nothing happens. Or maybe one thing happens in a month and then we discover that there are five hundred rituals associated with it that require the entire cast to get together and sing, dance, and pray. Every. Single. Time. To the same bloody songs, with the same bloody expressions and you simply can’t understand why they go to all the bother because it always ends badly. Haven’t they ever seen a soap on Indian TV?

Even worse are the ones in which something does happen. There is the historical Jhansi ki Rani, for example. Its production values make Ekta Mata’s Mahabharat look good in comparison. After a great many questionable Robin Hood-like adventures, its child protagonist is currently getting married to the much older Raja of Jhansi – presented as an arrogant womanizer with a taste for alcohol, dancing girls and satin capes. I kid you not. He also walks around with a giant cardboard plaque sheathed in red plastic around his neck. I didn’t even know there were levels of set design where it was futile to ask “what the fuck” because your mind has already been blown to smithereens and can no longer process thought.

But that’s not even the scummy part of it. The truly creepy part of it is that the little kid is now being counseled on the virtues of a good bride, which apparently involves her not being a child and losing that independence that first got her noticed.

Who is the audience for this show? From what I first saw of it, I presumed it was a children’s show because it was about this little kid giving it back to the (most hilariously bad) British by dressing up as a revolutionary leader and talking back to those who seek to put her down. And then all of a sudden, towards the end of the month, the focus shifted to how best a tweener could partner a man in his thirties (or twenties, my tummy was too queasy to let me find out).

Yes, the real Rani of Jhansi was a child bride. She married her husband at the age of 14. It was definitely the norm back then. But for a country where child marriage is still a serious problem, what is the message being sent out when a primetime show on a major Indian network is asking its family audience to not just witness but celebrate the upcoming nuptials of a child and a grown man as not just a political event of the distant past but a possible love story?

And even if you do want to show it as a love story (and the uncomfortable truth about child marriages is that at some point the children do consummate the marriage), must you really paint it with the same mix of hocus-pocus and intrigue that color all the other dramas on TV?

Anyway, I just wanted to let all you ladies know that if you’re reading this blog instead of cooking yummy, traditional food for the five hundred people in your joint family or praying and fasting for the well-being of those same people, then you’re a whore. A strapless-bra-wearing immoral make-up assassin. And if you’re reading this blog at work or after coming home from work (argh! “work”! quick! gargle and spit!), then there aren’t words enough to describe you. Just tell me one thing: why do you want to destroy your family? WHY?!


Posted by on December 15, 2009 in Celebrity, Life, Newsmakers, Politics


29 responses to “Turnabout is Fair Play

  1. pitu

    December 15, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    HAHHAHAA this is prolly the ONLY time someone can call me a slut to my face and actually make me laugh out loud 😀 BTW the other important way to identify a ho : they wear serpentine, glittery bindis that cover their entire forehead vertically. Acc to this rule, one can identify Vyjanthimala, Ila Arun and Neena Gupta as vamps in RL 😀

    I am totally with Seth as regards Sushma Swaraj, Jayalalitha, Arundhati Roy, Mayawati, Rakhee Swant and Ekta Kapoor. ESPECIALLY KEKTA MATA! ^&!&%$#@##!* Also, I cannot STAND Arundhati-I am such an intellectual, fall at my feet-Roy. How come he doesn’t detest Sadhvi Rithambara?? I cannot stand that daayan.

  2. Sakshi

    December 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    What amazes me is that the target audience for such bullshit shows is women. And that women seem to lap these brain suckers up!
    I managed to catch a couple of these shows on my trip home last time and I was thrown out of the room because I was howling at the bad production/ bad acting/bad story line. The best part is the bad camera work – through out the 1/2 hour episode, the camera focuses on each individual’s face accompanied with dramatic music to let us know what the character is feeling (sadly all of them have 2 expressions – sad (with one lonely tear drop rolling on a cheek) or anger (with dramatic twitching of eyes))

  3. rads

    December 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    nd if you’re reading this blog at work or after coming home from work (argh! “work”! quick! gargle and spit!)

    Kalyug meri maa, Kalyug! *runs off to hang herself with the pallu she isn’t wearing*

  4. sachita

    December 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I used to have star plus for a month or so and you know what irritated me the most? It was to come back from work and see people who didnt have to work yet get to live in mansions only 20 times bigger than my whole aptment then there is always a gulabi to get gharam gharam parathas… and the entire problem of their life can be solved with one word, “shut up”.

    i want to go and live in “all lunches free” universe because i know to use the word shut up so i can manage quite well.

  5. sachita

    December 15, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    And there is one solution to Arundhati roy, we all need to protest against her. just her, nothing other than that.

  6. bollyviewer

    December 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Oh no! See that is the problem with not living in India. One tends to forget one’s sanskriti and there is no Ekta Mata to tell you where you have left the straight and narrow. Now I will have to go to India for a saree to hang my kulta self with!

  7. Broom

    December 15, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    What if you’re a gaysi lesbian reading this blog?

  8. Ramsu

    December 16, 2009 at 12:04 am

    The thing that worries me is, I suspect kids watch these shows as well. Not by choice, probably — they’re more likely to switch to Cartoon Network if they had control of the remote. But when the adults switch on the TV in the living room so they can watch Balika Vadhu, how many of them make sure that the kid is sent to his or her room?

    It’s a self-sustaining loop. People who watch it claim that there’s nothing else to watch. And because they do, there’s an incentive for the producers to churn out more such shows. This way, both parties can blame the other if they’re called to task. And as the current set of shows becomes stale, something comes up to push the envelope just a little bit further.

    If I have kids, I’m gonna sell my TV and computer and move to Ladakh.

  9. Sharon

    December 16, 2009 at 12:25 am

    I tried watching some of these shows for the lulz, but the irrational rational rage got in the way.

  10. Gradwolf

    December 16, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I think Lalit Modi and Ekta Kapoor will make a great couple. They know the art of adulterating perfectly awesome entities with filth and oomph and making millions out of it.

  11. nsfw

    December 16, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Sometimes I worry Jeetendra’s Himmatwallah loving me am too elitist in my tastes. But that IS a delightfully subversive attack on so-called middle-class good taste. At one time, I thought that attack was a good thing. Now, with the coarsening of taste everywhere (including my own), I am not sure. Still, you have to admire the clarity of vision of a director whot (to jump movies) flat out states, I am going to show you Shakti Kapoor wearing a Nadda-wallah underwear, with the Nadda dangling doing vulgar pelvic thrusts, you will KNOW it is in horrible taste and you will still laugh. 🙂
    Do women honestly identify with Ekta’s leading women?
    With 24 hour movie channels, watch THAT thrash rather than THIS thrash. 🙂

  12. ramesh

    December 16, 2009 at 5:29 am

    aye our soaps are terrible, our comedies too are terrible, in fact nothing is on tv of interest .. it’s surprising how much the western tv stuff is popular here .. in fact in my college hardcore biharis used to watch friends, smalleville and stuff … i wonder if we will ever match these people, probably our creativity genes are too less

  13. nsfw

    December 16, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Lalit is a businessman with some seriously awesome organizing skills. He is making sure that for the first time Rajni level players can now make enough-for-retirement money. The money level in cricket has exploded with 20-20. He has taken someone else’s awesome insight(that is, we are now a money rich but time poor society) and leveraged it. The whitemem girls worry me, but otherwise, it is all to the good!

  14. M

    December 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Gee thanks, for raising my BP in the morning! Keeps me on edge, while I go to work!

    And Ramsu, your point is so true – I know enough American-born kids who watch these soaps and have developed a completely warped sense of “Indian culture”….blech.

    M (too angry to appreciate the humor in this piece)

  15. abhishek

    December 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    arey kuch to hoga in serials mein…otherwise my mom wouldn’t be gobbling it up and ekta wouldn’t have been raking in the moolah for making such gob-shits.

    She can’t make ‘will and grace’ baba.

  16. Amey

    December 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Well, the kids did get married in those days, but I was under the impression that they (meaning the girls) would live with their parents till they were mature enough. Of course, that age would have been anything from 14-15.

    Am I the only person that such storylines should come with a “Statutory warning” or something like that? You know, on the lines of “this was added for historical veracity and so on”

    • pitu

      December 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm

      I have 3 friends whose grandmas had their 1st baby when they were 16 years old. One friend’s gramma had her first baby at 15!!!!!EEEEEEEEEEEEEKS!!!!!!!!

      • DewdropDream

        December 17, 2009 at 5:44 am

        My nani was married at 15. I haven’t asked her when she had my mum … would be disturbing I think.

      • M

        December 17, 2009 at 12:17 pm


        both my grandmothers were married at 6, and having reached puberty at 10 (it runs early on both sides of the family), were sent to their sasurals around 11. First kid at 15 for one, 16 for the other – and it was considered very par for the course for the time – we’re talking 1925-ish here…both my parents are the last kids in their families, born when their moms were relatively old for the time: mid to late 30s!


        • pitu

          December 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm

          My nani got married at 21 and first kid at 23. And I used to think that was YOUNG so that’s when my friends ‘educated me’ 😀

  17. fromherewegosublime

    December 17, 2009 at 1:07 am

    you are all sluts because you know how to use the internets.

  18. Amrita

    December 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I dont know when my paternal grandparents got married (around 16 for my Grandma I think) but my maternal Grandma got typhoid a month before the wedding and all her hair fell out so she had to wait till it grew back and they married when she was 18 :mrgreen: On the other hand, the most romantic couple I know is one in which the girl forced the boy to run away with her when she was 14. And the boy was in his late teens and a soldier to boot! She is one of my favorite people in the whole world.

    Pitu – who the devil is Sadhvi whatsername? 😀 She sounds dire.

    Sakshi – hahahaha!! YES!! And everytime someone says something, everyone gets to their feet and the camera pans around to get each and every person’s reaction. Which is always the same.

    Rads – you bad woman! where is your pallu? Kalankani!

    Sachita – don’t forget the chaanta! With one slap can the world’s problems be solved.

    BV – do not worry, Youtube is here to get you in touch with your sanskriti. Watch one of these serials for a month and you’ll know more religious ritual than you know what to do with.

    Broom – what is a lesbian? *blink blink*

    Ramsu – it’s no use! Ladakh is probably full of monks who use the shows to flagellate themselves.

    Sharon – it IS pretty overwhelming. I don’t know that I’d call it irrational, myself. 🙂

    Adithya – this needs to happen! OMG, why has nobody thought of this before?

    NSFW – apparently so given the TRPs. Although I have to wonder if its what Ramsu says in that there is seriously nothing else to watch so they watch this. It would explain why CID is still in business 😀

    M – now that seriously worries me @ the American born kids who think this is an accurate representation of INdian culture. I can only imagine the shock in store for them when they come home to visit their cousins or grandparents and wait for the filmi songs to rock out during a pooja 😀

    Abhishek – no, but she can at least make Friends. Didn’t they used to do stuff like that back in the day? Remember Buniyaad and Hum Log and stuff?

    Amey – that would be a sensible thing to do, adding a disclaimer or telling parents to get their kids the hell out of the room. So obviously this is not going to happen.

    FHWGS – this is a TRUE!

    • pitu

      December 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm

      You do not know teh Sadhvi Rithambara? KulTa! Kalankini! What ghor Kalyug this is when stupid Bhartiya naris like you sit and blog about half-nekkid supermodels and don’t want to be immersed in their true Hindutva! Ram Ram Ram.

      Dude, you gotta google her. She makes Kekta Mata’s vamps seem angelic.

  19. Drapes of Wrath?

    December 17, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    “I’ve just spent a month following different top-rated Hindi soaps..” ha, now you say! 😛 Explains away all your overselling on Arundhati. (You were “violently angry” — from an overdose of womanly-sensibility-injuring serials — and watching gorgeous Anushka beat the crap out of bad guy and his evil mom felt like vindication.)

    Now thanks to your review, I picked up the Tamil-dubbed version last week and oh my god, what horrors! But for Anushka (and her younger version and Manorama) I couldn’t stand anyone or anything. The movie felt like some bit film (of haphazardly tacked-together pieces from previously watched films). I kept going ‘oh they ripped off that amazing blind-dancer sequence from The House of Flying Daggers’…’ah there’s that whole “must not let the vengeful ghost out” bit from “Chandramukhi’…’hey, they even took the Aghora angle from “Naan Kadavul” and exaggerated the heck out of it’ (what with Sonu Sood, the sex-offender-turned-Sadhu-turned-psycho, simply pointing at hapless victims to send their innards instantly flying every which way, in a (laughably executed) ‘Frank Miller meets Tarantino’-style bloodbath. I thpought the guy was way more effective as Oomayan, the eeriness-exuding fixture in Chandramukhi).

    As someone whose childhood included heavy doses of Tamil deity movies and recycled themes (with the likes of Nalini and KR Vijaya as Amman-incarnates wreaking vengeance on rapists and other wrongdoing goons), you’d think I’d be inured to this stuff, but guess not. And part of my distaste did stem from the TV-serial style acting by the supporting cast, I think (the “two expressions” thing that Sakshi talks about and the “every time someone says something everyone gets to their feet” thing you just mentioned).

    And oh, child marriages! Tell me about it. 😀 Maternal grandma was married off at 13, had first kid at 16. Paternal grandma was this independent, ambitious 18-year-old Madras gal whose super-poor parents couldn’t afford to put her thru college, so instead, married her off to a wealthy librarian from Delhi, more than twice her age, whose first wife had died leaving four daughters, the eldest of whom was only a couple years younger than grandma (long story short, grandma was Cinderella to her step-daughters who behaved more like the step-sisters in the fairy tale, finally causing her to flee to Madras clutching a toddler daughter and infant son (dad!), to pursue higher ed, and live the much-ostracized single-mom life until grandpa retired, moved back in with her and she tended to him dutifully until his death at age 75).

    p.s: “Do you wear something other than a saree?” er, what is a saree? *blink blink* 😛

  20. Sakshi

    December 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Have you had the pleasure to watch an Indian reality show called Lux the Perfect Bride ( I thought it would be just your thing to skewer it 🙂

  21. Amrita

    December 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Pitu – that was an entertaining / horrifying hour of my life :mrgreen:

    Sakshi – whatever did I do to you? 😀

    Drapes – oh no! HAHAHAH! Yes, well you have to have a very specific taste, I suppose or suffer from frustrated rage. What really made me like Arundhati was exactly what pissed you off about it 😀 I liked that he saw a bunch of movies that he liked, decided to “borrow” and just went ahead and somehow found a way to knit it all together in a way that actually fit. Very odd, very enjoyable. The supporting cast… well, um, not to piss off my fellow South Indians, but I thought that was simply how everyone acts in a Tamil / Telugu blockbuster. At least all the Rajni, Chiru, Nagarjuna, etc movies I’ve seen have them all acting like that. No?
    And jeez, your family might just give mine a run for its money in the drama stakes! congratulations! 😀

    • Drapes of Wrath

      December 20, 2009 at 3:31 am

      You know what? I just got back from ‘Avatar’ and gee, am having the warm fuzzies for ‘Arundhati’! That’s how much the former sucked, storywise.

      I’m totally with you now, on what you say of Kodi Ramakrishna, “I liked that he saw a bunch of movies that he liked, decided to “borrow” and just went ahead and somehow found a way to knit it all together in a way that actually fit” — sometimes, this aspect only sinks in after you’ve watched something else where the “knitting together” of all those bits of inspiration goes completely awry (I tend to side with those who think Cameron’s undivided attention to the mind-bogglingly beautiful (esply in 3-D IMAX) CGI wizardry is to blame for the storyline taking a beating).

      This is my second IMAX movie (the first was a documentary I watched on the way back from the Grand Canyon, five years back, and my family was devastated when I declared that those visuals took me there in a way even my physical presence at the actual canyons never allowed me to experience. Now *that* is the power of the IMAX, I guess) and it most certainly is “the one way to ensure you get the you-are-there-ness of the visuals” as BR puts it (speaking of, I owe it entirely to my timely reading of his write-up today to recalibrate my stratospheric expectations, thanks to the capital “wow” reviews from most of the mainstream newspapers here. I’d have died from disappointment, otherwise).

      And all the “I see you,” “I see you” lines kept reminding me of one of the most understated yet heart-breakingly effective “I *see* you” moments in the movies — that stretcher scene towards the end in Gitanjali where Mani Ratnam has the duo hauled off to the… ICU.

      • Amrita

        December 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

        AHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!!! I’m having the best time reading people’s reactions to Avatar. I might have to put up a post about the reactions of the auntie I saw it with. It is to LOL for.

  22. Pardesi Gori

    December 22, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Oh my god, I just clicked on that link to LUX: THE PERFECT BRIDE, desi reality tv show. Speechless.

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