It was about six years ago when I first saw my first Hindi serial. It started off as an uneventful weekend with me sitting on the couch, bored and a bit tired, looking for something interesting to watch on TV. And that's when we got our first preview of Zee TV. Hey, I've watched Tamil serials before, so how different could it be?! Afterall, it's still an Indian serial!, I thought. Little did I know!
Now, for the most part, Tamil serials show gritty realism -- if the actor had to play a poor person, they would be put in an actual hut and made to act in that hut with dirty clothes and deliver lines perfectly in the harsh conditions until they get it right. But oh, how different Zee TV was! It had subtitles for the Hindi-illiterate like myself and grand sets fit for royalty. The families in these serials were so ridiculously large that they could occupy and entire town by themselves! Yet, somehow, everyone seems to have endless amount of space in what seems to be apartment-sized bedrooms. Almost all the families in these serials were as rich as Mukesh Ambani, and are dressed as well as him (if not better) even when they were at home. After all, only the most expensive, latest designer clothing will suffice for this average "middle class" family. Why, the women actors are so well dressed that they even go to bed and wake up with their full makeup on. In fact, they are even better dressed for household chores than most people are for going to parties. Amazingly, while they do these menial household chores, none of their designer clothes get dirty and no sweat can be found on their perfectly flawless creamy-white faces. Heck, even their makeup never fades or gets smudged when they wash clothes, cook or do the dishes!
And speaking of makeup.... have you ever noticed the exaggerated makeup used for the female villains?!?! In addition to the infamous "villain" look consisting of cheesy glares or squints, there are the exaggerated eyebrows, thick mascara and eyeliner, and sometimes extra large bindhis (my personal favorite) as wide as a Frisbee...... and all of it as "subtle" clues to let you know that the person you're looking at might be just a little bit shady. Check it out:
Aaah, but wait... it gets even better! Now, let's say you're willing to have enough suspension of disbelief to overlook the above-mentioned details for the sake of television. There's still the fact that no one ever dies in a Hindi serial... ever! If they do "die", they are magically reincarnated with a new face, height, and build in a later episode.
Finally, there are the dazzling camera effects.... the illuminating of faces when they enter the room or realize a startling truth. Then, there's the camera effect of swooping down from above to highlight an important character... and another that zooms in... and another that moves sideways... and repeat the whole thing atleast three times. I think the video below sums it up best:
Now, I could go on and on, but then this would be a 100-page post! :-) The important thing to remember when watching Hindi serials is that they aren't meant to be realistic -- they are there offer the viewer entertainment in the form of Escapism, a chance to take a break from the rigors of everyday life. Stop worrying about the lack of believability -- just sit back, relax and enjoy the unintentional comedy of it all! :-P