Naagin to Laal Ishq: Daayan Diaries from the small screen

Shock, awe, sex and gore blossom on the small screen as mystical characters aim to seduce us, writes MAITHILI CHAKRAVARTHY

It’s often a wonder why sanskaari people with a lifetime supply of gaudy wedding wear and pearlescent eye shadow are such a draw on TV today. Is it the bizarre storylines or the exaggerated reactions which sell? TV today has sought to inject the supernatural and the shocking into viewers’ lives through stories that may seem seedy, but those with nonetheless ‘snaky’ TRPs (pun intended). Naagin, which is in its third year, is about an ‘icchadhari naagin’ taking human form to avenge the murders of her mum and dad. She glares, widens her cornea and reminds us of Sridevi’s Nagina as she attempts to make a puppy dog out of her target. Tantriks have serpents as their pets while comic characters smile cornily. The characters in the serials are constantly flitting between killing each other, marrying each other and hooking up with each other. In Nazar, a witch kills people to stay young. Sounds legit. Says Rahul Hegde, “There have been films on snakes, but never a soap on snakes. Naagin made me curious. I’m nuts about Mouni Roy. I liked her eyes and the way she portrayed her role. I became addicted to the show.”

A still from Qayamat Ki Raat
A still from Qayamat Ki Raat

Shows like Naagin, Nazar and Kaun Hai? have also succeeded in generating hate amongst audiences. “These are the worst kinds of shows. I feel like breaking my TV every time they are on TV! I can’t understand how snakes can turn into women, can turn into men, can turn into God. The women are half-naked and the costumes, the gold (jewellery), and the heavy make-up are extreme! They have nothing to do with reality!” exclaims Akram A Shaikh.

Ten-feet plaits threatening to choke you, crazy cuckoo eyes (and you can almost hear the manic laughter), black magic, patali devis, 200-year-old witches and nevlas are everywhere, and the anxiety-creating plans and schemes of producers like Gul Khan and Ekta Kapoor have us caught up in 30 stressful minutes, episode after episode. Bored housewives like Nafisa A Shaikh, Shaikh’s mother, are often seen digesting spell-binding plots with chai and nashta (she has to quickly switch channels when her son walks in through the door since he hates the stuff).

Anita Hassanandani & Surbhi Jyoti plays naagins in the new season of Naagin
Anita Hassanandani & Surbhi Jyoti plays naagins in the new season of Naagin

Laal Ishq is about the red blood of love splattering about, as new couples take centrestage across different episodes. Viewers watch with their tongues hanging out as ghosts of dead children peer spookily out of corners. The shows thrive on creating occult thrills as viewers form dangerous habit-patterns that hook them on to the idiot box. Producers are seen using every trick in the book to hold their audiences firmly down. Hypnosis is another go-to tool used in dramas like Ishqbaaz where on-screen lovers are hypnotised to forget each other, giving creators the opportunity and space to stretch their plots like gum. Sasural Simar Ka, on the other hand, attempted to copy promo ideas from hit American fantasy drama Game of Thrones as the storyline veered into the supernatural with a fly becoming the star of the show. “Sasural Simar Ka is the reason why aliens never contact us,” says Micro-ambitious @pal36 on Twitter. “Now I know I can never be a writer until I find out what the writers of Sasural Simar Ka smoke,” says another user, I’m a Zooey @cowbai!

Horror, terror, ghosts and fire darts with women sticking fiery tongues into glasses to poison another character are what the telly is tripping on these days. A horny tantrik wants to do another man’s wife in Qayamat Ki Raat. In Kaun Hai? directors continue to titillate us through horror as a genre as ghosts who look like professional insomniacs remind us of the pre-pubescent days of the Ramsay Brothers.

Says actor Jayati Bhatia in the shows’ defence, “I feel very unhappy when people call these shows ludicrous. The execution may be funny and not up to the mark, but that doesn’t make them ludicrous. Fantasy-fiction is a worldwide trend. These supernatural shows grab eye balls and are good for business. They remind one of childhood things. How much can one watch kitchen politics on TV? In Sasural Simar Ka we realised after two-and-a-half years of it being a family drama that we were not pushing it enough, and so we introduced supernatural twists with these lovely vamps in the form of dayans and naagins. In fact, the channel launched Naagin because the naagin track did so well on our show, and Naagin went on to break all records.”

Sit back and try and enjoy the madness. Fantasy-fiction is apparently here to stay!

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