The most histrionic of the lot. Features a
permanently hypertensive EvilDAD, incessantly moping surrendered wifelets,
chronically moping sainted grans etc. After topping simpering daughters
WUNTROOLUV, has her married off to mute village hick as punishment and then
carted off to Mental Asylum in order to… oh I dunno, fulfil wank fantasy of
Wimmin In Peril TV producers, whilst helplessly bleating “Ishwar!!” to call out
to 2ndTROOLUV in a deeply annoying manner. Obligatory S/M ECT sesh results in
said helpless heroine gurning like a cunt and lolloping about like a toddler
(the standard criteria in Indian soap for actresses to prove they can Do Range,
see also: Hitler Didi) in order to fully realise the impact of debilitating
Trunchbull-dyke Asylum warder in the tradition of Vinegar Tits from Prisoner:
Cell Block H. You.Go.Grrrrrrrrrl.
In an age where working women are
considered "cool", Zee TV breaks this cliche by bringing to the
forefront the humble housewife and her selfless attitude towards her loved
Length30 minsEntertainment, Drama
Yes, you read that right. Note the spitting
contempt of those quotation marks and steel yourself for 30 minutes of
surrendered wife dogshit as a newlywed top investigative journalist decides to
find true happiness by masochistically proffering to spend ALL FUCKING DAY
lingering round the kitchen trying to source cooking gas in some self defeating
pass-agg attempt to rebel against her money-grubbing Saas (Mother in Law) who’d
prefer son’s wifey to work as it could bring them money or some shit for her
repulsive poundshop Dabanng* *(Gene Hunt with a Movember) shit of a bent cop
husband - which may or may not be an
attempt to connect with a (blatantly depressive) pet Bahu (daughter in law) who
spends all day silently doing chores. Key message: working women are LAZY
FAILURES who SPOIL their UPPITY DAUGHTERS.
Sky EPG: An adaptation of the classic novel "Subarnalata" by Ashapurna Devi. This serial is about the journey of a girl who is married at the tender age of 9 years. In Bengali.
Harridan: Muktokeshi (Sabitri Chatterjee)
Fuck. FUCK. Oh My GOD. At this point, Hunt-Sharples becomes Logarithmic. First, this makes justifiable claims to being a *mega-serial* rather than a standard soap, as it is attempting to stay true to the original source material of the novel it was based on and is a period drama.
Oh my. Where to begin… I watch a lot of soaps. I used to watch Santa Barbara for crissakes. And Sons and Daughters. I KNOW what a finely turned-out harridan looks like. The growling voice, the Medusa stare. But I am struggling to find a character anywhere else in UK/US/Australian /Indian soap who comes anywhere near close to the vindictive, self-pitying, spiteful, childish, maudlin, vile, violent, lazy, abusive, insanely dogmatic, wilfully stupid, wilfully neglectful, neurotic, narcissistic, foul-mouthed, callous Weapons-Grade Cunt portrayed here as the mother-in-law to unfathomably reasonable child-bride Subarnalata in early 20th C. Calcutta.
Take the Mother from Precious then multiply it by a thousand - you're still nowhere near it. Sabitri Chatterjee was a romantic heroine in the 50’s. She must have borne a passing resemblance to Suzanne Pleshette. In this her face curdles all dairy products in a 5 mile radius. The USP of this drama is its intricate depiction of the Tiny. Petty. Myriad. Ways in which it is possible to cause offence to someone determined to find fault with the uppity new bahu- ostracised for the dangerous ability to read and write (and these aren’t rural no-marks, the men in this family are middle class, upper caste professionals).
Like, for example, when your dim-witted sister-in-law is about to die in childbirth, and your other brother-in-law is in the room down the hall with his LAWYER SCUM mates pissing away the last of the household’s food on ANOTHER gambling session (and on viewing, I just remembered this - are enraged that they are not being served tea as promptly as a household of *status* would demand), and whilst the little wimmin are fretting away at the impending tragedy, through the walls you can hear the garrulous laughs of aforementioned LAWYER SCAB SCUM oblivious.
a) Storm into the gambling session, tell Lawyer scum to fuck off and demand your snide brother-in-law to fetch some sort of actual like *help* or go too
B) run amok with a kitchen knife. No jury would convict.
c) anxiously fret over what to do, but eventually appear in the room and make some veiled allusion which might perhaps be interpreted as a suggestion that there might be other events taking place which may disrupt their enjoyment
d) none of the above
I reckon most would pick a). Most right thinking British Soap women would b). Subarnalata picks c).
She is then subsequently admonished by the remainder of the household for not doing d) in another ‘tough love’ style family confrontation, not least because as A Married she entered a room with MEN in it thus marking herself out as a Harlot and Hooeer and has SHAMED the faaaaaamily.
It is this relentless detailing of the Myriad. Intricate. Every DAY tyrannies of her imprisonment (never has the term ‘housewife’ been more adeptly illustrated - once that front doorway is sealed, one is literally housebound) that made this so hideously compelling. And it illustrates the slow painful process of attempting to challenge bigotry and entrenched neuroses tarted up as custom that makes the progress of society possible on a personal level. It is therefore deeply political. Ashapurna Devi’s account means that even if you are a housewife who never heard of Orwell or Doesn’t Do That Political Stuff or can’t even read, approximately 10 minutes watching this and you know what Fascism looks like.
I was having difficulty placing the actual time period the events in this were occurring in. All that can be certain is its pre-Independence India. There is no electricity. There is no radio let alone TV. The household even forbids newspapers. There is the terrible sense that this could actually be set in the present or even the future, so strong is the force-field of orthodoxy permeating everything.
Hunt-Sharples rating: At this point, Hunt-Sharples becomes logarithmic. 50 Mega-Blanches.
All Extended Families Are Psychotic: Regional language delights
The aforementioned were Hindi-language Indian Soaps.
Owing to channel subs/language barriers this doesn’t cover Punjabi or Gujarati
soaps (though several of the above are meant to be set in these areas).
However, from July 2010 to December 2011,
Zee channel Zee Café showed a number of Bengali and Marathi language soaps with
Sky EPG: Tracing the arduous journey of
child bride Anandi from childhood to womanhood. Watch Anandi as she faces new
challenges as she tries to carve out her own identity.
Devi /Dadisa (Surekha Sikri)
Ostensibly the stern matriarch who controls
the life and conditions of hapless child bride Anandi (sweet monobrowed Child
actress Avika Gor), was more often stroppy, resorting to growling her lines and
sulking. Icky Damascene Conversion into nicer, slightly more empowering granny
in later episodes.
Hunt-Sharples rating: 40. Token points for
bearing an uncanny resemblance to a relative of mine.
Sky EPG: Following the story of Ammaji - a
powerful matriarch who believes that women are a bane to the society and her
two granddaughters - Dia and Jhanvi who believe in female emancipation.
Harridan: Ammaji (Meghna Malik)
Now. This. Is. More. Like. It. Ever since
the arrival of Colors TV, the harridan arms-race in Indian soaps has gone
Nuclear. The EPG blithers on about social worthiness. Ignore that. This is pure
schlock with the emphasis on inflicting as much sadism onto the remaining
female cast members as possible. Ammaji- essentially Violet Kray in a lengha
(very smart tailoring on those work shirts) - growls and terrorises assorted
simpering daughters-in-law to the point where they are so terrified they can
barely look her in the eye. More telling is the absolute compliance of her
violent honour-obsessed sons who do that classic Conflicted (= impotent) Man
Act by standing by mute whilst their wives are beaten senseless and punished for bearing GIRL CHILDREN by
Ammaji, save odd bouts of their own violence to prove how very very manly they
Sky EPG: The story revolves around the Thakur family. The head of the family is blinded by false pride, thus forcing his family bear the brunt of his uncompromising lifestyle.
Harridan: In an exception, the Harridan is not the mother in law but a stroppy daughter. Maybe she doesn’t count. Cindy Beale was never a Harridan was she? Then there the anti-harridan, the infernally forgiving Maaa. Insipid.
Sky EPG: Mrs Kaushik, a strict disciplinarian, is on the look out for a nice girl for her youngest son Kartik. Will she succeed in getting him a perfect match?
Harridan: Mrs Bindeshwari Kaushik (Vibha Chibber)
Oh now, how could you hate a poochie little face like that? Look at her! Isn’t she adorable? In flaccid conflict with irksomely wholesome doe-eyed daughter-in-law Lovely Karthik Kaushik. Mildly peeved rather than terrifying. Pathetic.
Breaking away from the cult of conventional soaps, Balaji Telefilms presents Bandini, an invigorating tale of a young girl, forced into a marriage of convenience with an elderly man twice her age.
Harridan: Moti Ben/Tarulata (Rasika Joshi).
It actually became physically exhausting to watch this one. I hadn’t seen so much Pug-faced rage tearing up the screen since Jade Goody in the Celeb Big Brother House. The sheer *vitriol* of the hatred unleashed by Joshi against lesser characters rapidly became the scene-stealer. Hindsight suggests that the battle character actress Joshi (early 40’s, so playing mid 50’s) was losing against terminal cancer might have informed the *fire* of her performance. She died in July 2011.
Hunt-Sharples rating: 50. She could have wrought absolute HAVOC in Eastenders as a Masood Sister-in-law.
All Extended Families Are Psychotic: Adapting the Hunt-Sharples Indices for Harridanry
I’m struggling here to fully convey the nature of the drudgery and pettiness of the domestic crises and the central protagonists. You really have to watch to fully appreciate the histrionics. Entire episodes can revolve around a family confrontation over a poorly cooked meal. For years I endured the unfailing wholesomeness of the ‘betis’ when faced with torment after torment at the hands of seething womenfolk. Each new soap would degenerate into more extreme harridanry that it became exasperating watching hooked relatives splutter with indignation at the new levels of persecution being unleashed on each new martyr. “They are all mistaken! She is plotting and has manipulated the situation!!!!!! Someone must SAVE her!!” It was only when the most vicious iterations started sprouting that it finally dawned on me: I was rooting for the wrong characters.
To fully convey this, then, I have adapted the SI Unit for Soaps, the Hunt-Sharples Index to illustrate the toxicity levels involved in each soap, or continuing drama as they like to delude themselves. IMDB barely covers these programmes so for most background info I have used Sky EPG, programme websites and Wiki.
Sky EPG: The story of Archana, a girl who is not highly educated but handles the whole house work impeccably. This is her journey to find a life partner.
Harridan: Savita Damodar Deshmukh () Hunt-Sharples rating: 10. Supposedly the most horrendous Mother-in-law in Zee’s pantheon. Must try harder. Just looks slightly mardy most the time. Probably The Change.
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