Thursday, December 22, 2011

Of Soaps and Supervamps

My mom is visiting for a couple of months – and there are two main side effects of this. The first is that I find myself on the wrong side of the ‘nagging’ process – I get so relentlessly nagged by her that I forget to nag my own kids. The other, more worrisome side effect is that along with her, I start watching all kinds of Bong soaps on TV.

This time too, it is the same story and I have been watching back-to-back soaps on Z-Bangla. And I made one discovery. Whether it be Hindi or regional language soaps, they have one thing in common – behind every successful soap there is a woman (or women). And no, it is not the goody-two-shoes super heroines of these soaps who guarantee their run week after week. It is the outlandishly dressed vamps with their constant plotting and machinations.

This is not a recent phenomenon, though, since the time of fairy tales, this has been true. Except for a rare Big Bad Wolf or Ogre, the chief villain of all renowned fairy tales is one (or more) of the female characters. Think Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Snow-white or Cinderella – every story is set in motion  through the intrigues spun by some evil female – witches and step-mothers being the perennial favourites.

And the trend continues till today, at least on Indian TV, if not on our films. Albeit, the witches and step-mothers have been replaced by sundry mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, aunts, and sisters-in-law, but the stories still revolve around the machinations of these conniving women!

Another interesting pattern I noticed, is that the physical appearance of these women scream ‘VAMP’ the moment they appear on screen. They have the 'Vamp-stamp' on them, so to speak! The more garish the make-up, the skimpier the blouse, the shorter the hair, the more outlandish and intricate the bindi and jewellery - the nastier is the vamp! I observe that my 11-year old daughter has made quite a pastime out of identifying vamps in Bong and Hindi serials. She will walk into the room in the middle of a serial, and announce “Yeh wali aunty gandi hai!”, seemingly taking a lot of pride in being able to identify the nasty lady at one glance…

Sigh! if only we could tell the intent of a person this easily from their appearance in real life... how easy life would be!

Identifying nasty women in Indian soaps - child's play!

If daily soaps are to be believed, about 50% of all women spend most of their time scheming and plotting the downfall of the other 50% - the ‘good' women! And what is worse, most of the time they don’t even do their dirty work themselves, they work through unsuspecting men whose minds they poison incessantly!

But I have a confession to make. Despite knowing all this, I find myself putting all rational thought on the backburner and getting (almost) addicted to these soaps. My mom is off TV for some days now due to an eye surgery, and I find myself being sorely tempted to watch the soaps she follows, to find out the latest shenanigans of these supervamps!

I hope Ekta Kapoor will next turn to making serials full of male villains who take over the mantle of plotting and scheming from their female counterparts. So here’s looking forward to the making of ‘Kyunki Sasur bhi kabhi Kunwara tha’…


  1. Very nice Suchis! And I love the title of Ekta Kapoor's next production! Oh, and apart from the sartorial excesses that give the villi away, there is the background music that makes dialogue (inane as it is) seem unnecessary. My little nieces from Ozland could identifying the 'nice ones' from the 'naughty ones' in all the Tamil soaps thanks to the music! Thanks for one more episode: keep it coming!

  2. The vampish Bindis are a rage. No one wants to buy the goody two shoes ones. Romola/Komola or whatever are more well known. I follow a few, thanks to my mom! Mothers of the world keep the Ekta Kapoors of the world from dire straits. (I don't mean the BAND although that too is true!)

  3. Thanks Padmaja - and you are so right about the music! Gautami, you are right too - I think it was Romola who started the trend of vamps sporting outlandish bindis... any which way, these women are bringing some spice into the lives of Moms, so long live supervamps!

  4. , I realized that to be the “perfect” woman on Indian television, one needed to be a docile housewife and sacrifice everything for the family’s happiness.......even putting up with philandering husbands...........

  5. Ha Ha! Bet none would have wondered about any resemblences in the sketches! Or perhaps I am wondering too much? the two look like you and Ananya. Anyway guess this is our own desi contribution to womens lib? And as you indirectly admit - what ever else they are catchy - addiction to bitchy vamps are much better for health than eating groundnuts!?

  6. You write very humorously and I like the cartoon you draw for every blog entry, which sort of adds to the narrative.

    On the subject matter, yes you are very right. Soap after soap, they have stereotyped characters, and Indian ladies are hooked on to them for want of something different. I wonder what it would take show different shades of women. I guess there were better serials earlier when people had freedom to experiment. Now a days everyone wants to make risk free money and invest in "proven" products.