Before the advent of Internet and digital entertainment, television was our only resort to get rid of boredom. Indian television has given us some memorable shows such as Nukkad, Karamchand, Malgudi Days and many more. However, over the last couple of decades, saas-bahu sagas have dominated the small screen. As much as we detest these never-ending, logic-defying plots, we are guilty of having watched them at some point.
What makes an Indian television soap opera?
We can all agree that most soap opera on Indian television have a few common traits. We are aware of how the episodic ruins of a family drama is conveyed through miraculous chants that go on in the heads of all the characters. On top of that you have the stereotypical characters. Be it the wonderful vamp, the bahu who becomes the enchantress, the widow who never steps back to curse others or the protagonist who keeps getting all the laments. Also, nothings seems to be going right in their lives, ever.
However, one characteristic that stands out in particular is the use of multiple-angle shots of the same character, every time he/she receives a shocking news. This technique has been applied and re-applied in daily soaps on Indian television to convey the emotions of shock and surprise. But do you know who was the mastermind behind this surprise element?
It was none other than the cult filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. It is hard to believe that a filmmaker of his stature has had even an iota of contribution in the scum of Indian television. What is even harder to believe is that it boiled down to a medium like television. But the technique of highlighting a momentary lapse through episodic runs of a singular reaction explored through various angles was popularized by Chopra’s short film ‘Murder at Monkey Hill’.
It was used as an exploration that was symbolic of a shock being delivered to a person and the director’s idea must have been to take it into the next level. What a next level of leap it was! I am sure he must be laughing at all this at the age and composure that he has reached. A truly bold maker to the core. The one who never relented but experimented.
Chopra made this film as his final project during his student days in FTII, Pune. Little did he know that his diploma film will give rise to all the cruelty that television would bear for all the years to follow. I wasn’t even aware of any such thing as well till I watched his well-crafted diploma film. Thank god I had a chance to do so.
Having said that, ‘Murder at Monkey Hill’ is a must watch. If you happen to catch it, you will realize how inconsiderate his tool and technique has been turned into. The next time anyone talks about sass-bahu saga or makes fun of it, you surely can surprise them with a trivia that will stay with them for long. Happy watching till then.