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Archive for the ‘Actors’ Category

Before launching into my post, I would like to clarify that nothing I write is intended to insult any particular Indian TV show or its audience. It is also certainly not aimed at passing judgment on anyone’s beliefs or love for Indian rituals or societal norms. I tend to like some Indian shows from time to time, although in the majority of cases, I lose interest sooner or later (explained below) and have no aversion in itself to traditions, provided there is no blind acceptance of them and they are not those customs which are inherently subjugating or discriminatory.

Exclusion clause drafted, I can now proceed to deal with the real purpose behind this post, although many may be forgiven for thinking that the main reason is simply to vent. Be that as it may, one must have certain privileges in one’s own blog, so I choose to exercise any such rights I have at this point.

I have often wondered why Indian TV audiences are obsessed with watching and even worse, actively admiring and enjoying, the very practices and actions or customs that they are likely to have themselves been oppressed by. If anyone thinks oppression is too strong a word, they have not been exposed to life in a traditional Indian household and have not undergone a full spectrum of festivals and major life events such as wedding(s) or death(s). Please do not misunderstand me – there is a lot of good about our customs and festivals. They are underpinned by deep and spiritual thinking, they are meant to empower and enrich, celebrate all aspects of love and life and they are meant to bring families and people closer, not just to each other but to God too (in whatever form He/She is worshipped in).

Where does it all start to go wrong then? I am not sure I have a comprehensive answer to that but a common theme to me seems to stem from the tendency to get so caught up in the mindless ritualism of it all, without actually understanding the rationale behind it. Let us take the institution of marriage for example. I am sure every culture can extol what they like and vice versa about their particular wedding customs but an Indian wedding has to stand in a class apart. Oh, a lot of Indian weddings are great fun, they are colourful and festive, there is great food and lots of laughter. What is not to like? Well, how about the multitude of people who “must” be invited even if the bride and groom neither know, nor like them. Then there are the customs, espoused as the linchpins of an ancient and civilised culture. How is it civilised to glorify in effectively re-enforcing at various stages of the process, the domination the groom and his family have, “as of right”, against the bride’s? It is not so unsophisticated as the demand for dowry in most cases, no, the discrimination is a lot more subtle. The girl is to leave her maternal home, symbolically meant to break all relations with them, culminating in a crying fest having to be enacted when the couple finally leave after the wedding, replete with sad and depressing songs in the background. God save any bride who does not exhibit heart wrenching grief; the “Aunty brigade” will not spare you from their gossip as to your uncouth behaviour for weeks, if not months.

The above is one example in a non-exhaustive list. I know I have departed from the sequence of it all here, but do not even get me started, as if I were to list all that I find essentially offensive to my feminist sensitivities, it would be a novella and not a blog post that would need to be written. The overall point is that whilst the original concept behind the custom may have been laudable as it was coined in a day and age where women were respected and even glorified in their own right, in today’s world, where sexism runs deep, these very acts take on a much more sinister and insulting connotation.

Yet, it seems that these very anachronistic customs and rituals make for prime-time TV for Indian audiences. Melodrama sells, and weddings in particular, are seen as hubs of on-screen romance and wonderful portrayals of our rich culture. So much so that even my one-time favourite mythological drama, Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, feels compelled to abandon its so-far totally unique and ground breaking portrayal of the story of Shiva, one of the most powerful of Indian Gods, to cave in to the endless quest for TRP success. For those who do not know, TRP is essentially a rating criteria that seeks to measure the popularity of a channel or show on any channel, based on its target audience. I am very confident that the majority of audience who watch at least Indian soaps, will be entirely familiar with the terminology.

Sad to see and say, but it seems that when it comes to the TRP race, the masses rule and as the majority of Indian audiences obviously want to see mindless drama, centred either around typical and incredibly tedious “kitchen politics” or run of the mill love stories, loosely based on a Mills & Boons format but significantly modified for Indian audiences. What does “kitchen politics” refer to and modified how, you may ask? Well, the former phrase commonly refers to soaps predominantly portraying family sagas, most of which centre around either an awful mother in law or daughter in law, warring family members and very defined all-out “good” or “evil” characters. There is no room for grey, or any shades of it (do not even think 50 Shades, you would be in a metaphoric different planet!). There is usually a wonderful and angelic and long-suffering woman involved, a macho hero, supporting cast who are either good or bad and seldom in-between and then there is heaps of injustice unleashed on the stoic female lead, who even if she fights back, must do so in the most conforming manner possible. There are cliches too numerous to list here but hopefully, you get the picture? Again, anyone who has ever watched the popular phenomenon of the “K drama”(coined to describe popular TV producer Ekta Kapoor’s various soaps which mostly thrived but were generally along the lines described above), will immediately relate.

Again, I see nothing wrong with light entertainment, I myself have from time to time “dabbled” with watching shows that are simply aimed at entertaining but for me, just cannot engage interest for long. The story always tends to drag on as once a particular “track” garners good ratings, it seems its makers want to eke every second of its success and then promptly proceed to drag the story on to seeming infinity, making me for one lost interest fairly quickly. Also, if you wish to explore deep meaning and wider themes, do so at your peril. Audiences who get attached to the show and their actors will brook no criticism, even any tendered entirely objectively or constructively. Anyone who write against bad scripting or certainly mediocre acting, will be lynched in a manner of speaking by fanatical admirers. Healthy debate is an impossibility and be prepared for a vitriolic barrage of responses should you dare to state any views that are not totally complimentary about a popular show or its cast.

I know I have probably presented a very negative picture. I do not mean to. I genuinely acknowledge that Indian TV is ever evolving and there are various shows, especially recently, that aim to portray different concepts, show injustice in our society and undertake a much more reasoned and informed analysis of practices or norms that are disgraceful. However, it seems that a lot of them start of brilliantly and even manage to keep that up for long periods, but seldom throughout the lifetime of a show. I see it as an eternal tug of war between the desire of makers and their creative teams to deliver thought-provoking subjects and well executed programmes and the need to sustain audience viewership in large numbers, which unfortunately seems to translate into losing quality for quantity in the literal sense.

A lot of people are likely to disagree with this piece, a lot may actually take offence. I will not bother repeating the caveat I started off with but I cannot claim to be sorry for my fairly impassioned but honest views. A lot of what I write originates from a desire to see change and I sincerely hope someday to write that since I wrote this, we are in a different era for Indian television and bad scripting, stereotyped characters and concepts are more the exception than the norm. Unfortunately, that day is not today. I hope at least some enjoy this post and can reassure me that I am not alone in thinking what I have tried to sum up above.

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This is another article that recently got published, this time in Telly Tadka, a “well known online media news house which not only provides news but also is an interface between the fans and the show makers, actors etc. It is the first US registered online news channel which covers behind the scene people such as writers, directors, producers, cameramen and other important people in addition to the actors.”

Audience Ka Tadka – Desi Boys

Early warning: the views below are entirely subjective. Nothing in the article is intended to suggest that any other actors not mentioned are not to be reckoned with, I have only commented on the ones I am familiar with. I am sure most will understand that, no matter how much I love TV, I can only keep up to date with a finite number of shows, so please read and enjoy but do not be upset or offended if your favourite “man” is not mentioned.

Is it finally the era of the boys of Indian TV to at least have an equal share of the spotlight, if not outshine, the girls? We are used to Indian television being the dominion of central women characters; we have had a very long run of female-centric shows in the past, and they have certainly paid their due in terms of impact and TRP ratings both. Just when we think that to run a successful Indian soap, the fail-safe recipe is to structure it around a dominating female character, be it positive or negative, or even both, we see a step-change. Yes, the men have arrived to Indian telly town and they are a sight for sore eyes. Little wonder then that females (maybe males too, could not say!) are now spoilt for choice and loving it. They have a welcome break from conventional dramas portraying mainly kitchen politics, and are now treated instead with romance and sizzling on-screen chemistry. From the numerous appealing shows and their stars we have, some certainly make a lasting impression, both in terms of their talents and personas, and the choice roles they get to play.

So what have we got? Let us see – let us start by taking God’s name and I am talking about both a show on a God, and the wonderful actor who brings this deity to life in truly magical style. Yes, I am talking about Life OK’s mythological offering, Devon ke Dev Mahadev and versatile model/ actor and perfectionist, Mohit Raina, who has now become indistinguishable from the character he plays – that of Mahadev aka Lord Shiva. Chiselled features, a physique to die for and expressions that can make you laugh and cry at the drop of a hat, all seem to be Mohit’s domain. He has made Shiva come alive for us and his portrayal of a very human, and humane, Mahadev has won over the hearts of young and old alike.

From a “God” to someone who acts as though he is one (on-screen!) – yes – I am talking about none other than the heart-throb of most – the one and only, Arnav Singh Raizada of Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon fame. Talk about an unconventional hero and Arnav has got to come to mind. The man re-defined arrogance for us, his portrayal of a seemingly heartless, brutal business tycoon who cares for no one other than his sister, until his happiness (Khushi!) literally falls in his arms, transports us into the pages of a Mills & Boons romance as soon as we tune in for the show. Little wonder then that his very name creates a frenzy with his fans and hysterics abound when Barun Sobti is referred to.

Depicting a more mortal persona, but still crammed with attitude and an inspiring love for our country, Rajveer of Star Plus’s relatively new entrant – Sajda – Tere Pyaar Mein, brought to life by the dashing Shaleen Bhanot, has already made a “dabbaang” impression. Portraying an intelligence agent, in a story depicting conflict with love and duty, both the show and Ranveer’s character, already show great promise. It is clear why we would love Shaleen, with his easy charm, intense performances and the mystique surrounding Ranveer, all we now need to wait for is a display of his fantastic dancing skills, which I am sure the show’s makers will not overlook.

We then have the dashing duo, who literally could have been lifted from a Bollywood script. I refer to none other than on-screen brothers Viren and Viraat from the much-liked Star Plus show, Ek Hazaron Mein Meri Behna Hai, portarayed by Karan Tacker and Kushal Tandon, who are setting so many hearts aflutter. The boys are shown very different on-screen, but both appealing and attractive in their own ways – one is the husband half the nation’s girls would give their eye teeth for and the other, the charming rogue, the remaining half would be anxious to claim as theirs. All in all, between them, there is a delectable mix of qualities and characteristics to appease a wide and varied audience.

Finally, I make mention of the “boy next door”, a simple man but one who possesses qualities no one would deem a simple task to locate in a life partner. Yes, I am referring to Diya Aur Bati’s Suraj, superbly depicted by Anas Rashid, certainly no stranger to female attention thanks to his clean-cut good looks, million watt smile and just general appeal. Suraj seems to buck the current general trend which favours glamorous business tycoons, collegians or just generally a more Westernised male lead, but makes up from any apparent lack of glitz by bringing home the importance of real values – true family devotion balanced with trying to be an ideal husband as well. Suraj makes us realise that it is more important to have a soul mate who can be truly in tune with your innermost desires, rather than focussing solely on educational or social qualifications, which do not in themselves test a person’s character or eligibility.

The above is just a non-exhaustive list of some of the leading men who are making waves at the moment, as indicated at the start. I am by no means suggesting that the shows they star in are not women centred, a lot of them are. However, when we talk of them, the men have made as much of an impact on us as their lovely and multi-talented female counterparts. For example, we now synonymously think of Arnav-Khushi and Suraj-Sandhya, not just one or the other. Similarly, Devon Ke Dev has certainly broken barriers by making mythology a commercial success, that too, with a real patriarchal theme. All in all, it is great to see the wealth of talent and charisma we get treated to nowadays. So – kudos to our “boys”, you already know you are much-loved but we feel we have to say it as credit where credit is due is only fair?

Author – Shruti
(www.shruts11.wordpress.com)

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Below is another article published on on-line entertainment site, Rangmunch TV, on 9 April 2012.

 
What can be highest aspiration for a human being? Wealth, fame, glory, happiness or love? Think beyond that, take your mind and imagination to a higher plane. It may not be the first thing one thinks of when asked the question I raised, but surely there can be no more lofty achievement on any level, than ultimate union – that with the divine or Almighty, whatever form or manifestation you worship Him/ Her in?
 
An aspiration to achieve God is the central tenet of possibly all spiritual learning and longing alike. If we take Hinduism for example, the four pillars underpinning life’s goals are those of “dharma” (duty or righteousness), “artha” (wealth), “kama” (desire) and finally, “moksha” (liberation). It is clear that the final objective automatically implies an eventual absorption within,or submission to, a higher power, as to be liberated not just from your physical body, but to fully free your entire spirit, you must be “released” from all mortal boundaries. The other three may also necessitate submission to God in one form or another to achieve, as many will seek to do their duty, obtain material riches or fulfil worldly desires by relying on prayer, religion or even simply by following some form of “karmic” (deeds oriented) ideology, all of which rely on some form or other of a belief system in a superior power.
 
 
What does this have to do with Devon ke Dev Mahadev, you may ask? To answer this, ask yourself what the show is really about. Yes, we can see that it is an epic love story, it is about mythology and some will say, even fiction; it teaches us moral lessons, it warns us not to be arrogant and to have faith. Indeed, it does all that and more, but its most subliminal symbolism lies in seeing beyond Sati’s love and desire to attain Mahadev, and to equate it to the potential for EVERY human to attain God.
 
 
After all, is that not what Sati is trying to do? She is human, she is limited by her mortality and spiritual constraints. That is why there is a lot of focus on the recent track about her “yogyata” or suitability to be a bride to the most powerful of all Gods. This can, and possibly has been, misunderstood by some.
 
That was not a male diety being patronising to his (now) human but destined consort. It is simply a stark realisation that a human being, even one who was once “divine”, such as Sati was, can be hemmed in by her mortal limitations. Sati is often described as being possessed of all qualities one can aspire to – she is righteous, dutiful, kind, beautiful, multi-talented, and loving. How can she be unsuitable? We are told she can, as her love is still egocentric, in the sense that she struggles due to her humanity to extend that to the level of universal love that Mahadev as God can dispense.
 
Mahadev himself understands that and knows that an attempt to unite with Sati whilst she is still trapped within those inevitable human desires and limitations, will lead to catastrophe for Sati herself.
 
 
 
We have here our epic love story as a more seemingly insurmountable obstacle is harder to imagine. If it was only opposition from Sati’s father, no matter how vehement, that would be an external hardship to overcome, but again we are reminded that it is the internal battles one must fight and win, that stand between us and God more stoutly than extrinsic factors. We also have here, the hope that there is potential for a human (Sati here but it could be anyone?) to shed their impediments through challenging but yet achievable, tests or exertions.
 
I draw the parallel here for the potential for each of us to therefore be able to aspire to what appears almost unachievable – union with the divinity, whence we all come from and back to which we must aspire to return to, if we are to be free for once and all from all pain, suffering and to be able to merge back to the cosmos and its creator. Think also on the suggestion that it is not only through the desire for God that you can be finally released of all “desire” or attachment in itself, thereby paving the way for your own“moksha” or true liberation. Such liberation does not necessarily have to be through death- you can attain this state whilst being part of the living macrocosm.
 
 
Thank you once again to Life OK, Nikhil Sinha and the entire team of Devon ke Dev Mahadev for bringing us this important message of spirituality and ultimate hope through their wonderful show, which masquerades as a mythological drama, but is far more than just that. Also, thank you to our wonderful on-screen Shiv and Sati, Mohit Rainaand Mouni Roy, for making us fall in love with them, and thus inspiring each of us in some way to try to seek our own God or divinity.
 

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This is a slightly edited version of an article recently penned and published on www.Rangmunch.tv, an entertainment site with a varied and wide audience:

Falling for Shiva- Devon Ke Dev Mahadev

In the proclaimed new age of Indian television, where the general trend currently favours mainly suit wearing business tycoons, trendy collegiates or the quintessential Indian gent, how can a mythological God make a universal impact? By universal, I refer to challenge that must face the makers of any mythological show for Indian audiences, of ensuring that their offering is not simply delegated to the slot viewed only by those the south side of middle age. In short, it strikes me as incredibly difficult to make a mythological series that can capture the imaginations of not just our parents and grandparents but also of a more youthful audience.  A concern even more compounded surely, when the subject of your show is one of the most famous Indian deities of all times- the towering mythical figure of Lord Shiva, a third of the triumvirate that is believed responsible for the formation, sustenance and destruction of all creation through the ages, in a never ending cycle throughout eternity.

Nikhil Sinha, through his ground breaking series, Devon ke Dev- Mahadev, was clearly up to the challenge and seems to have gone about it all the right way. You have incredibly visually appealing sets, a beautiful heroine who could be argued to be an original feminist, an actual God for a hero, a villainous father and a love story so overwrought with obstacles that it defines epic- all in all, the perfect recipe for a fare fit for the Gods themselves. You may argue that there have been various shows dealing with not only religious or mythological figures, but even the re-telling of the story of Shiva himself in the past. Ah yes- but to me, most of those still left one conscious that the God(s) in question were distant from the mortal realm and somewhat remote from the constant ills that inevitably plague its inhabitants.

This is where Mahadev starts to come into its own as its Shiva, despite being a God, is someone that forces you to relate to him. You feel his loneliness as he tries to distance himself from the cosmos he shares total responsibility for (with Brahma and Vishnu) by living a hermit’s life, having given up his literal other half- his “Shakti” and his consort for the sake of the  macrocosm. You feel his pain as he repeatedly rejects Sati, the human incarnation of his very Shakti he has sacrificed in the past, as he is fearful of the consequences of such union on her. You cheer for him and cannot help sigh with pleasure when he arrives every time to save his lady, planting himself as strong as any mountain in the path of whatever danger faces her. Not only is he astoundingly handsome and charismatic but also kind and innocent, he truly respects women, he wants to allow Sati freedom of choice, is selfless in his love and yet masculine enough to set most female hearts aflutter.

Who can play such a personality and do him justice? This is where the show clinches the deal, as Mohit Raina, our on-screen Shiva, does more than breathe life into the challenging role, he owns it and works his way into your imagination in a way that most are in danger of imagining only him whenever they try to visualise Shiva.  It is not just the incredible physique Mohit has built up for the role, neither is it the chiselled features and the sheer force of the very character of the Lord of the Gods, although all these do undoubtedly play a big part. It is his mastery of every expression, from sublime peace to Rudra’s famous all-consuming anger, the pleasure when faced with genuine worship and the turmoil caused by feeling that he cannot risk Sati herself by accepting her as his wife, that the actor manages to command and wield against his audience with as much accuracy as his deadly on-screen “trishul”. Not only that, in his on-going quest to give it his all, this model turned actor has recently taken up classical dancing lessons (in “Kathak”) as dance is such an integral part of Shiva and the show. This is preceded by the stupendous work he has already undergone with respects to having to build up his body in accordance with the challenging dictates of the role.

No wonder then that a lot of us forget we are watching a famous God being presented, we see the sublime man, and young or old, I challenge anyone who finds themselves able to resist this versatile actor’s magnetism.  Testament to his heart-touching characterisation is the messages that pour in for him on social networking or internet sites, particularly on his twitter account. We see girls drooling over him, telling him they are in love with him, others sending heart-felt appreciation for his work, even viewers messaging on behalf of their mothers and others not of the Facebook generation, with messages, all sending him love and best wishes. That in itself is not unique as of course there are many that can lay claim to being Indian television heartthrobs, but what sets this man apart is that he frequently takes the time to personally respond and each response is just like him, modest, unassuming and personable. One of my favourite examples is that of Mohit’s recent tweets to a young fan, a student, who has been tweeting him in between studies, requesting he respond and also that she would love it if he followed her on twitter. Most actors would never respond to what they must find a common place occurrence, but Mohit responded personally twice, each time urging his young fan to study and even dangling the carrot stick that if she did very well, he would follow her twitter account.  His tweets to each person resonate with personal concern- young school going fans are gently reminded to study, respect is shown to mothers of fans who like the show and jokes are returned with witty humour.

I have umpteen examples of how much his fans love Mohit. We have recently seen twin brothers spend eight hours creating a beautiful painting of Mohit as Shiva, which our hero not only praised to the high heavens and thanked the creators for (though the fan club that posted the painting), but also displayed as his twitter photo for a day. It seems that many have succumbed to the Mahadev mania. It is however, no trouble as when the object of your admiration is so deserving and yet so humble, you cannot help but try to give them credit, confident in the knowledge that they are too modest to self promote. If you do not believe me, just watch any interview with Mohit- he is so reticent about himself and his considerable skills, he always downplays his excellent performances but is always so complimentary about co-stars and the team (and rightly complimentary at that too).

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you did and enjoy Mahadev and particularly the sterling work done by Mohit, please do follow him on twitter on @mohituraina and on his fan club on @Mohit_FC.

Har Har Mahadev in the meantime!

 

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