Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Watching Period Soap Opera

With the kids sitting right beside you, of course. It's an experience not to be missed. We are huge costume drama fans here (i.e. M, S and me. My husband isn't so enthusiastic.), and we never miss the Masterpiece Classics on PBS, having run the gamut from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens to  the current craze : the brand-new Downton Abbey. Set in the years preceding World War I, it showcases the Edwardian era and follows the vagaries of the Earl of Grantham and his family.
Episode I had a shocker, which I mercifully wasn't called upon to explain to either of the kids. They simply seemed to have taken it for granted that one of the characters, a gay footman, gave another male character a lingering kiss.
Neither did I have to explain a lovemaking scene in the the second episode. The kids were running around in circles playing laser tag with a friend, and didn't even see the scenes in question. I merely had to wave it off with an airy "Mary was in love with that guy, but he died suddenly." when M stopped by for an explanation later.
At the conclusion of Episode 4, the last in the series, all I had to explain away was an induced miscarriage by a villainous maid, and voila, difficult explanations ended. At least, till the next season appears, probably a year from now, given that it is still in production and scheduled to be filmed only this March.
"What did you think of it?", I asked M, with some trepidation.
"I liked it very much."
"Would you want to see it continued?"
"Then you'll have to wait till next year."
"So long!"
"Well, it does have much better production values than your average Mega-serial. It takes time to set those up, unlike the easy setups in Arasi" (Another favorite that they acquired a taste for when they last visited India.)
Come to think of it, it does have the typical mother-in-law vs. daughter-in-law antipathy, scheming villains (in the form of plotting servants), good-as-gold characters, not-so-good heros and heroines, surprise twists and hooks that characterize any soap opera world-wide. Just because it is filmed on location in an actual castle and features period costumed characters doesn't make it any different from the overall mind-tugging storylines that regularly enthrall TV viewers all over the world, whether it be Mexican telenovelas or Kollywood Mega-serials or Saas-Bahu dramas with bejewelled be-saried overly made-up matrons and their daughters-in-law.


kochuthresiamma p .j said...

period soaps that we have here are not worth talking about - yet they r popular. cos like u say, the conflicts, intrigues, sentiments are the same, but the quality that comes with research, researched costumes etc - not there in malayalam serials.
this post reminded me about a story told to me about watching movies with kids. think i'll post a blog about it.

Sujatha said...

The surprise with Downton Abbey was in fact the soap operatic twist-in-every-episode. I had been more inclined to see it as some period series based on a hefty literary tome, until the pattern started repeating, and I read more about it.

I don't know enough about Malayalam soaps, but imagine that it shouldn't be that difficult, with clever producers, and good camera angles. Unless, of course, the budget is entirely spent on script and actors, in which case it will show. Some of the period Malayalam movies from years ago weren't too bad (think Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha or Perunthachan). And I am now looking forward to see what Maniratnam makes of the famous Ponniyin Selvan ( a mega-novel that is set in the times of Rajaraja Chola before he became king, and is one of the most immensely popular historical novels in Tamil.) Rumor had it that Kamal Hasan had purchased the rights and intended to film it, with himself in the lead role, but he is likely too old to play that part now.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

the periods movies in malayalam are good. but serials - atrocious. but then that applies to all serials.

it has never ceased to puzzle me how the same malayali audience enjoy the movies and serials.

the recent detailed surveys say that the serial watchers are a diffrent category, and over seventy is a substantial constituent!