The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Playing the desi Queen of the Mean

THESE are competitive times for TV channels. Especially for leaders. Take the case of Star Plus. Despite the fact it has announced a slew of new programming, including serials like Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand, Kundali, Kasauti Zindagi Kay and Kabhi Soutien Kabhi Saheli, it is still on its toes.

Neena’s natter: Right recipe for success?
Neena’s natter: Right recipe for success?

With an anxious eye on rival channels Star Plus is planning to start an Indian version of the BBC hit show Weakest Link. The format of the show, which goes on air in January 2002, is the same as that of Kaun Banega Crorepati, but the difference here is that the programme is hosted by a lady who thinks nothing of insulting contestants with her snide remarks.

The big credit for the original UK and US shows goes to hostess, Anne Robinson, who has been voted ‘Queen of the Mean’. Her incisive and cutting remarks laced with offensive humour has made her a rage in Europe and America.

Star Plus which was considering a number of names to host the show have finalised on Neena Gupta though many feel that Archana Puran Singh would have been a natural for such an assignment. Whether Neena measures up to the venomous standards set by Anne Robinson remains to be seen. But it sure will be a big task for this soft-spoken star.


Three’s company

Mohan and Meera are husband and wife. A common enough combination. They work together. A common enough situation.

Yes Boss: Situational comedy
Yes Boss: Situational comedy

But what’s uncommon is that Meera is the smart creative director of an advertising agency and Mohan is the clueless junior creative visualiser in the same agency. And what complicates the situation even further is the fact that their boss doesn’t know the two are married.

Yes Boss every Thursday at 9 p.m. on Sabe TV is a hilarious situational comedy that revolves around this bizarre tale of a twosome who juggle their office and home responsibilities while desperately trying to keep their boss in the dark about their marital relationship!

What lends a twist to the tail is the fact that the boss considers Meera an eyeful and vows to pursue her and express his feelings for her. Little does he know that the ever-smiling lady has a secret to hide and has no choice but to keep her marital status hidden if she wants the job. And aiding and abetting her in the game is her bumbling husband Mohan — a man the boss cannot stand. Which all goes to make one chaotic comedy.

Who’ll draw the line?

In their desperate attempt to win the popularity sweepstakes do channels ensure producers maintain basic standards of decency and morality? Or is tellyland just a happy hunting ground for all avant garde filmmakers who let even obscenity pass off as experimentation?

Temptation Island: Tame stuff in comparison to Zee’s daring festival
Temptation Island: Tame stuff in comparison to Zee’s daring festival

Those who watched Zee Cinema’s Digital Film Festival from December 4 to 8 must have been taken aback by the channel’s maverick approach to street language on a medium meant primarily for the family. The themes of the films speak for themselves — homosexuality, prostitution and lust for money.

Some of the films like Divya Drishti and Urf Professor aired at 11.30 p.m. were shot with hand-held cameras with shabby angle-projections that gave the impression of sleaze. No censor board at least in India would have allowed the films to pass muster. The use of the choicest expletives left viewers cold with embarrassment.

The only thing that the ‘festival’ managed to do was to raise the moot question: If there is censorship for films why cannot there be a regulating authority for television? Till the time such a panel is set up channels will get bolder and continue beaming such objectionable material that would make Star Plus’s Temptation Island appear like a nun’s story!

Sony’s dream run

A scene from Milan: Awards for Sony
A scene from Milan: Awards for Sony

These may not exactly be the Emmys but for Indian television they are as big as they get. Some producers and channels treat the Indian Television Awards like the Oscars. Weeks before the big evening the nominees rehearse their speeches of acceptance. On the actual occasion, they look surprised, amazed, shocked and delighted as they grope for words. But the speeches have been ready for days.

As it happened this year when the awards were announced. The loudest applause came from Sony Entertainment Television as its programmes bagged the big prizes. These were instituted two-years ago by The Indian Television Academy and are split into 44 categories with 12 popular and 24 jury awards.

Sony won awards for the Best Anchor [Shekhar Suman] in the now defunct Movers and Shakers, the best Title Music/Song award went to the serial Milan and expectedly, Biographies-Ek Kalakar Ki Kahani hosted by Om Puri won the award for Best Music and Film based show.

In fact it would have been a great idea if Om Puri had shared the award with Suman. After all, film or serial, the man is a class apart.

Saas whom bahus love

Most viewers know her as the prodigious sasoo maa of many soap operas on TV, but Apara Mehta has another lesser-known facet about her personality — she is an accomplished stage actress and prior to her entry in serials and films she was already a name to reckon with on the Gujarati theatre.

 Apara Mehta (left) in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi...Roles galore
Apara Mehta (left) in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi...Roles galore

Apara started her TV career with highly popular, Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka on Sony TV, followed it up with Chandan Ka Palna Resham Ki Dori for Zee but shot to fame with Ekta Kapoor’s Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on Star Plus.

For the 40-plus actress this serial has been a milestone in her career. She scaled the popularity charts for her portrayal of a mother-in-law, which has shades of a negative character. In fact she had a negative role in Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka as well.

"It is not that I like to play negative characters, but they are very challenging", says Apara who’s now started getting a number of film offers. She has already worked in Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, mouthed few dialogues in Priyadarshan’s Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar and is also working in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Devdas.

Interestingly, she doesn’t mind doing bit roles in films saying, "Only when I do small roles will I get the big ones." Wonder how she’ll find time for more roles considering she’s got two big serials running on different channels and is doing six more to be aired soon. "When you are one of the most watched faces on television, you better find time for acting!" Modesty is obviously not her strong point.

Against all odds

From the crowded city streets of India to the majestic mountain peaks of the French Alps, rescue crews play a vital role in carrying out life-saving missions. Whether it means battling fires or fighting traffic jams, rescue workers across the globe have very different methods of getting the job done. And despite the hurdles and difficulties the job is always done.

Discovery Channel presents a premiere series Rescue International: Survivors Tuesdays at 9 p.m. A fly-on-the-wall documentary, the series follows the lives of the world’s top rescue teams. Filmed using hi-tech digital hand-held cameras, it goes on location around the globe, capturing the rescuers’ point of view as the events occur.

Profiling the men and women whose daily lives are devoted to saving the lives of others, the series follows real emergencies as they unfold. Viewers get to know the rescue teams, understand their fears and hopes and learn what motivates them. Courage in the face of adversity.

— Mukesh Khosla

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