Flashback 2013: On 24, Mallika Sherawat and other stars of Indian tv

Rajyasree Sen

Dec 27, 2013 15:45:15 IST

This year in entertainment television led to me being called a Congress agent, paedophile, paid media and a fool. Often at the same time. That would lead you to think there were some great sparkling moments on the telly, right? Otherwise why would people be moved to such passion by some innocent reviews?

Here’s what made the idiot box a winner in the idiot stakes.

1.Anil Kapoor showed us that it is he, not Devyani Khobragade, who the Americans will remember India for. If anyone has bridged the great divide it is our very own ‘One-Two-Ka-Four’ man. Kapoor brought 24 to Indian shores and so resurrected the careers of many an Indian actor with the promise that even appearing for 10 minutes on the Indian 24 was better than whatever it is that they were doing at the time. An English show, after all, means good publicity.

Flashback 2013: On 24, Mallika Sherawat and other stars of Indian tv

A screengrab from 24 and The Bachelorette.

The first two episodes were a “spot the star” contest. It was a catwalk of recognisable faces: Anupam Kher (killed within 10 minutes, much to my horror), Anita Raaj, Mandira Bedi (sans spaghetti strap blouses), Rahul Khanna (dead in a heartbeat again), Tisca Chopra, Shabana Azmi and Suchitra Pillai. More impressively, 24 showed dynastic politics in play, with a young PM who is carrying on the legacy of an assassinated father, a scheming brother, a sister who is married to a sleazy loser and a dominating mother. Familiar much? Of course, there was some departure from fact in that the PM in waiting was quite the bright spark. A little bit of fiction is warranted after all.

2. Mallika Sherawat, India’s next brand ambassador to the US, brought The Bachelorette here. Yes, there are men willing to line up to marry her and make fools of them on international TV. They came in all shapes, sizes, castes and creeds. If anything broke down the barriers of India, it was this show. You had a cook, farmer, gym owner and restaurateur. They cried, fought over and romanced Sherawat. Meanwhile, she flaunted her strange accent and sweat patches, but we forgave all that when she ticked off a journalist months later for taking her to task over a statement she’d made about Indian women. For me, Mallika was a winner for saying what none of our Indian actresses do: that women are repressed in India; that too many girls are killed for simply being female, and that a very large percentage of those allowed to live are then married off young or raped at some point in their lives. More power to Sherawat, I say. But please don’t show us another season of The Bachelorette.

3. Crime Patrol hit a new low for Indian TV when, within days of the court verdict on the Delhi gangrape, Sony TV telecast its double episode on the horrific crime. There was a cringeworthy re-enactment of the romance between the two victims and many replays of them being thrown out of the bus. This was worse than anything you saw on India TV or ABP News. Have we really run out of topics for shows? Is nothing sacrosanct? Apparently not.

4. India’s first matrimonial channel was launched: “Shagun – Shaadi India Ki. India’s First Matrimonial TV Channel”. There couldn’t be a better idea than this for a country obsessed with marriage and astrology and caste and shagun and mangliks. So the channel’s creators – if you can call them that – had put all these aspects together and come up with shows called Toh Baat Pakki, Gold n Beautiful, Janam Janam Ka Saath and Kundali Bol. I still haven’t managed to watch the two shows whose titles caught my eye: Zindagi Shaadi Se Pehle, Shaadi Se Baad and Gold n Beautiful. And how can we forget the love horoscope programme, Janam Janam Ke Saath? Who says there are no trailblazers in Indian TV.

5. And then there were the foreign imports. Trinny and Susannah came our way, wore strange clothes and told us how badly dressed we were. But I love Trinny and Susannah, and feel that anyone who goes on a makeover show should be up for abuse. So no sympathies for guests on that show. What followed after them was worse than anything I had imagined: Ravinder’s Kitchen. Ravinder Bhogal is not a big sardarji teaching us how to cook butter chicken. No siree. Ravinder is a big-lipped, tightly-corseted, heavily made up Punjabi kudi meets UK aunty who coos over what she’s cooking, trying to recall her inner Nigella (who probably overdosed herself in shame). This is really not the Homage to Nigella which Lawson wanted. If you get past Ravinder’s face and pushed up cleavage and bouffant, I suppose there’s some cooking to be learnt. But good luck with the getting past part. But don’t lose hope, because there are still good cooking shows and attractive hosts, like Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen on TLC. I’d recommend Ravinder tune in as well.

There were lots of other misses from the year gone by. But these are the top of my TV pile. If I had to suffer through them, you must at least read about them. After all, nothing like sharing and caring before the new year ends.

Updated Date: Dec 27, 2013 15:45:15 IST