Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thirai Kadhai (Screenplay)

Disclaimer: Non Tams, this blog post might be similar to watching a Tam movie with English subtitles! Kindly adjust!

Metti Oli... No, don't run. It is definitely off air now, even the rerun. Metti Oli, literally transliterates to 'toe ring sound' in English. Wow, right? How the hell in this world does one listen to that, you ask? Me too, same sentiment! I would like to describe this serial like this. My mom started watching this, got enough of it, stopped watching it, started missing it, started watching it again, got enough of it again, stopped watching it again, started missing it again, started watching it AGAIN and, trust me, Devayani (Abi) was still trying to figure out whom to marry! I was like, 'Andava...! Thanni adichitu flat ayitiya...!'. Even if this were telecast in heaven, I guess our lady gods would have been glued to it. Mudiyala da sami!

On a separate note, I saw a serial in which this Vadivukkarasi aunty was speaking a in male voice! I was... well... umm... errr... Speechless!

Well yeah, the screenplay. I wonder why they even write it. Not this blog, I am talking about the screenplay. This blog occupies a truly indispensable position in today's society. When I was trying to draw a parallel to our serials' screenplay, the best I could find was running on a treadmill. You start running, you warm up, you keep running, you sweat, you get tired, you keep running, you are exhausted, ippave kanna kattudhe, you fall down, the machine throws you out and what the hell, you are still exactly where you started! So much of time, energy and effort wasted and only slight, minute, frustratingly small movement forward. These days they are taking small serial breaks in between commercial advertisements. My Mom usually says, "rendadhu break la tea potu tharen!" (I will make tea during the second break!). Just imagine, you can make tea for a family of four during a commercial break! Then there is this idhu varai, recap! A bloody brilliant contrivance to eliminate the need to write screenplay. Here is how it works, you show nothing today, then you show the same nothing again tomorrow! Dude, how much am I going to forget in one day? You know how much my boss expects me to remember? Your honor, as seen by the arguments stated above, screenplay for a Tamil serial is unnecessary and practically tough to find! Hence proved!

Having already established that screenplay is practically non-existent in our serials, we proceed to explore some integral characters that form the cogs on which the screenplay moves. Note to self - The last sentence was so awesomely confusing. Don't write again while watching Tamil serials. Despite all these distractions, our Thai kulam (noun, literal meaning - Mother clan, the versatility of this noun being that you can even use it on girls who are yet to be mothers, even your neighborhood one year old huggies sporting female toddler) somehow manages to grasp what is happening in the little screen! Lady gods' gift, probably!

The center of the universe for any serial is the protaganist also known as problem magnet. Somehow all the problems in the world seem to find their way to the problem magnet and the problem stream never dries up. It helps enormously if this character is a lady. Next important character in our serial is the eternal villain. He is the source of all the troubles that our problem magnet faces. He is entirely responsible for getting the protaganist the sympathtic votes from the audience. Even Osama Bin Laden may one day start talking about peace but this character is not going to stop creating troubles for the problem magnet, even after the serial ends, they just stop showing it on TV. It helps enormously if the eternal villain is a relative of the problem magnet. That way it is easier to create troubles and sympathy! This is where I am tempted to define the law of conservation of problems as a limiting case to Tamil serials - Problems can neither be created nor be destroyed. They can only be transferred from the villain to the protaganist. The number of problems in a Tamil serial always remains a constant. There is a considerable loss that happens when the problems are getting transferred and this loss is recreated as sympathy on the part of the audience. Eppudi?

Other than these main characters, you have this aiyo pavam (noun, meaning poor, character wise, not monetary wise) character. More often that not, this hapens to be the problem attracting protaganist. But if need be, it can also be designed as an orphaned child, drunkard brother, studious sister from a poor family etc. These characters are made to face pain for no fault of theirs, true to their category. Finally you have the all-in-all-alaguraja (noun, meaning I-know-it-all) character. These characters generally poke their nose into unnecessary issues, usually get things wrong and end up giving not at all useful advice at completely uncalled for situations! Then if you really want to complicate things and if you have enough budget, you can add any number of items from your grand Indian family tree. A typical Tamil serial would have a family tree problem so huge that you won't be able to solve it in CAT even if given the entire 2.5 hours! This way you can inadverdently prolong the serial from ice age 4 to ice age 6, without any screenplay, that is the important point.

For those of you who still have some place left for me in your hearts, the Malaria virus is off me and I am back to business in Bombay. Although I am still recuperating. But even the fact that I am in no way vulnerable to Tamil serials now is not going to stop me from continuing this series. Naan oru tharava mudivu panniten... sari venam vudu... After spending the last two weeks at home, I am convinced that I will have to do a piece of the audience as well. What an involvement they exhibit! Oh yeah, enjoy the insanity as long as it lasts!

(to be continued)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kadhai (Story)

Chithiiiiii (with 6 'i's).... For those acquainted enough with the Tamil silver screen, this word is a legend (for few others its a terror!). It was one of THE Tamil serials that was aired during, well, most of my schooling. Quarterly ended, half yearly ended, annually ended, even school ended but Chithiiiiii did not! Half of TN did not believe it could end. Most housewives truly believed the world would end the day Chithiiiiii ended. Such was the legend. Alas, even Dumbledore had to die, you know. You ask me about life after Chithiiiiii? Pretty much the same. Chithi illana oru chithappa, namma pozhappu adhe dhan pa! Dear non-Tam audience reading my blog, kindly condone the overwhelming Tam influence in this particular series of posts. After all, we are dealing with Tamil serials here.

Now that I am home and I am grounded, I get to watch a lot of Tamil serials. Yeah, one for each flavor! No, it has not been easy at all. So I decided to take notes and do some analysis. Note to self: Six years of school and six years of college without so much as a page of notes and now you are taking notes on Tamil serials, gosh! Anyways, getting back to my analysis, I decided to carefully deconstruct each and every aspect and demystify the esoteric obscurity called Tamil serial. In a series of ensuing posts, I am going to handle one facet of Tamil serial that is true to itself. Therefore, ladies, skip the next sentence. Gents, buckle up, we are dealing with truck loads of crap here!

The first facet we are considering here is the most indispensable part of any serial - Kadhai aka story. If stories are what movies are based on, then, logically, I am bound to think that a serial must be based on a novel, volumes of it actually! But this is where we are distancing ourselves as far away from truth as possible. A Tamil serial is generally based on stories that are one sentence long. Or should I be saying one sentence short? There exists an unwritten relationship between the longevity of a serial and the story it is based on - the longer you want the darn thing to run, the shorter the story you must be attempting! You remember in school you used to do this - once a chewing gum had lost its chew-ability, you used your hand to pull it as long as possible and then chew it back and then pull it again? Chee... Ovak... Disgusting, right? That is exactly what they do with our Tamil serial stories!

These guys are smart in one respect though. If you restrict yourself so much as to a story, you are reducing the scope of creativity! You heard it right, creativity. So our people base the serials on broader themes which are easier to twist, turn, manipulate and even start all over again. These themes are generally poignantly peaceful and completely family oriented. One would want their kids to imbibe all the portrayal and emulate them in real life. That would way the kids would have really meaningful lives. Typical Tamil serial themes include rendu pondati karan (bigamous husband), odukali pondati (run away bride, no no, run away wife), mamiyar-marumagal prechanai (saas-bahu episodes), sakkalathi sandai (bahu-bahu episodes), varumai kottuku irandu mile keezhe vazhkai (abject wretched destitution), theerpu sollum nattamai (your friendly next door chief justice of India for the village) and other such jolly good items. Things get really really hazy when these themes mix, match, metamorph, mangle and finally mutate. Are you still worried about your audience? Never mind, they never seem to care!

So much to the story and we have just seen the tip of the iceberg. We will slowly uncover and thereby discover various breathtaking facts and mannerisms of the quintessential Tamil serial as we gather more and more courage. I will also reintroduce to you one legend of a Tamil serial that ought to be remembered in the beginning of every post. More insightful and not-at-all tongue-in-cheek articles about screenplay, star cast, music and other such truly exciting facets of Tamil serials in the making. Enjoy the insanity as long as it lasts...

(to be continued)