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Saturday, September 4, 2010

(Published as 'The Perfect Title for that Cerebral Desi Sitcom' in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on 4 September, 2010)

Somewhere between hobnobbing with the stars who appear as guests on desi reality shows, and trying to think of suitable translations of the Western show titles, my friend from Mumbai tries to convince me The Moment of Truth is more cathartic than voyeuristic.

Despite not having a seen a single episode of its Indian counterpart, I smirk, “Really? And it’s not about the money?”

“No, people want to confess they had affairs,” she says, earnestly, looking up from a Mexican soap on her iPod.

“Now, you’ve run out of reality television ideas from the US? Or you’re learning Spanish?” I grin.

“Not run out. But their dramas won’t work here,” she sighs, “so we’re trying to adapt Mexican ones.”

“I was being sarcastic,” I mumble, caught off guard.

“Everyone tried to make Friends work, and it didn’t,” she says.

“Well, maybe the problem is the titles,” I think aloud, “see, Sachch ka Saamna and Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao are all gung-ho. Here, we need to feel we’re fighting some kind of impending disaster to feel good.”

“Not really. How about Big Boss?”

“Think anyone who worked on that show knew Big Brother had a 1984 reference?”

“What happened in 1984? Big Brother is not that old!”

“Well, the British government commissioned it in 1984 to George Orwell. He conceptualised the show, but died before it got on TV.”

“Really? I didn’t know that!” she frowns.

“Don’t you think you’re being dismissive of American soaps? Bechain Bahuraniyaan has a ring to it, no?” I suggest.

She thinks for a moment and then gasps, “oh, my God! Perfect! Desperate Housewives! Can I put that down?”

“Isn’t there a K-rule for your soaps?” I ask.

“No, that’s only for…hey, you’re not writing this down, are you?” she looks anxiously at my palm, which is receiving the imprints from my pen at the moment.

“Though I think Shareer Aur Shahar is your best bet,” I say, “tracing the complicated love lives of Karina, Charulata, Mridula and Samyukta.”

“Why does that sound so familiar?” my friend wonders, “ohhh! But ‘shareer’ is body, not sex.”

“You really think the censors would okay a Sambhog Aur Shahar?” I’m beginning to feel rather protective of my title now.

“Eww! That sounds gross!” she says, wrinkling her nose, “so, Sex and the City set in Bombay? Wow!”

“Delhi works better for me. At least you’ve got a Central Park at CP. And I’ve never lived in Bombay. Though, really, the everyone-knows-everyone syndrome is more Madras-specific than anything else.”

“Nah, you know how people see the South,” she says, shaking her head, “but what would the story line be? We don’t have sex columnists who’re not sexologists.”

“We have love columnists all over the place. Unofficial relationship counsellors who tell you how to ruin anything good you’ve got going,” I point out, “and Charulata can be an art critic. Mridula can be an ad agency something-or-the-other whining about how men won’t let her make it big. And Samyukta can be a wedding planner, whose signature is doing the groom.”

“Do you mind if I pitch these ideas to my boss?” she asks.

“Yeah, I do. I’m already halfway through the first season of each in my head. By the way, don’t those guys keep a watch on our saas-bahu fest?”

“Umm, keep this to yourself, but the TV grapevine says the makers of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki might sue the makers of House for plagiarising their title.”

The author of this piece is showcasing her works-in-progress at  and .


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