about writing and other such passionate matters

Zen and the Art of watching TeeVee

Indian television serials can test your patience. The other day I was watching one that has been on air since more than a year. The beginning episodes were interesting because it had an unusual storyline. Underlying it were the standard MIL-DIL face-offs that characterize most of the serials today. It had been a long time since I’d seen any of the episodes but I noticed that the character of the Mother-in-law (MIL) was as antagonistic towards that of the Daughter-in-law (DIL) as she was when the serial took off on air.

This was surprising because quite a few episodes had been devoted to the tele-family comprising of the FIL, MIL, the son and the DIL travelling together to a foreign country for participating in a cooking competition. Could one be faulted for expecting that such proximity would have led to thawing of the MIL’s antagonism towards the DIL especially since the DIL, being educated, had helped to make the trip successful? Apparently, such things do not happen in Indian serials.

So, here I am, watching this episode in which the archetypal cunning Elder DIL is provoking the MIL against the other DIL (the educated one – these serials can get complicated that way).

This is how the scene plays out:

The camera zooms in on the cunning E-DIL who mouths her dialogues with the appropriate twitching of eyebrows and curling of lips and once the dialogues are done, the camera focuses one by one on all the other characters present in that scene. First on the MIL, then the FIL, followed by the DIL, then the E-DIL’s husband and a couple of others that seemed to have joined the cast since I last watched this serial.

The camera then focuses again on the MIL and then goes back to the E-DIL’s face. This happens twice before the E-DIL speaks a few more lines of dialogue and then it is the MIL’s turn to talk. And during the camera-focusses, one should not be surprised to note that the expressions on the faces are completely unrelated to the happenings in that scene. This interplay of dialogues and the intense focus on the characters’ faces continues unabated and at the end of the episode not much action has taken place. Ah, but that’s not completely true. The viewers might have pulled their hair out in frustration.

Contrast this with some other serials such as Homeland. Or Mad Men. One just cannot get enough of them (though Mad Men is somewhat beginning to grate). Snappy dialogues, snappier expressions, not a second of airtime is unaccounted for. The viewer gets drawn, willingly, into the action and lets it go, oh so very unwillingly, when the time is up, on tenterhooks, in anticipation of the next episode.

Does this remind you of writing? Of ‘clunky’ prose and unnecessary backstory when what the reader actually wants is some action. Action, which might not be actually physical, but anything that takes the story forward. Swiftly. Interestingly.


Zee TV’s ‘Connected Hum Tum’ promises to be a reality show with a difference, in which six women have dared to bare all (emotionally) in front of the nation. It begins tonight.

And continuing with all things TeeVee, here’s wishing a very Happy Birthday to Alan Taylor who wrote for the HBO series ‘Deadwood’.

What has been your TeeVee experience?


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2 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of watching TeeVee

  1. I think I need to watch more Indian TV.

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